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Extra-time golazo lifts River over Boca in Copa Libertadores final

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For all of the negativity surrounding the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final between River Plate and Boca Juniors — from the bus attack, to postponing the game, to moving it to Madrid — the 90 120 minutes of actual soccer delivered on the pre-final hype of a first-ever Superclasico to crown a South American champion.

[ MORE: Robbie Earle addresses Raheem Sterling incident: Racism “is a cancer” ]

Tied 2-2 after the first leg nearly a month ago now, Sunday’s second leg — played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu — saw River Plate top their bitter Buenos Aires rivals 3-1 (5-3 on aggregate) in extra time.

Dario Benedetto put Boca ahead with the game’s opening goal just before halftime. While the finish was certainly clinical, it’s the through ball from Nahitan Nandez that stole the show, and rightly so. Nandez split two defenders with his inch-perfect pass into space, sending Benedetto in for a straightforward one-on-one chance which he slotted away with ease.

But River fought back with an exceptionally worked equalizer in the 68th minute. Ignacio Fernandez cut the ball back for Lucas Pratto who swept it home from near the penalty spot.

Juan Quintero hammered home the winning goal from outside the penalty area after 109 minutes. Quintero’s left-footed strike departed his foot like a missile and crashed off the underside of the crossbar.

River put the exclamation point on, and added insult to heartbreak, with a stoppage-time, empty-netter to make it 3-1. Gonzalo Martinez raced toward the end of the stadium full of blue and yellow-clad supporters and rolled the ball home with the last meaningful kick of the game.

 

Neymar limps off in tears during PSG’s French Cup victory

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PARIS (AP) Neymar limped off with an apparent right foot injury after one hour of Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-0 French Cup win against Strasbourg on Wednesday.

The Brazil forward had just received the ball on the left when he raised his hand to seemingly signal to his coach Thomas Tuchel he was in pain, and looked to be in tears as he left the field at Parc des Princes.

Neymar limped heavily as he walked to the dressing room, consoled by a PSG staff member, and looked upset as he wiped his face with his right arm.

PSG confirmed that Neymar re-injured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. The club said said that the method of treatment will depend on how the problem evolves over the next few days. “All therapeutic options will be considered,” read a statement.

It was unclear how Neymar sustained his latest injury but he had been on the receiving end of a heavy tackle from midfielder Anthony Goncalves earlier in the match.

Television images then later showed Neymar rolling off his sock and pointing to the side of his right foot, which he also fractured nearly exactly one year ago while playing in the French league against Marseille.

“Neymar is worried, because it’s the same foot, the right foot, in the same area,” Tuchel said. “There’s no news for the moment, he’s gone to hospital. I need to wait for the doctor to give me news about Ney.”

Last February, Neymar cracked the fifth metatarsal in his right foot, and he underwent surgery back home in Brazil. Although he recovered in time for the World Cup last summer, he was not at his best in Russia.

Tuchel said Neymar was not protected enough on the pitch.

“The referee didn’t whistle on one occasion, then two, then three and after that he ended up twisting his foot,” Tuchel said.

But interviewed after the match by broadcaster Eurosport, Goncalves expressed no sympathy for Neymar and even suggested the injury is a direct result of how he plays.

“It’s his style. But if you play like that don’t complain if you take some knocks after,” Goncalves said. “He’s a great player, and I respect the player he is, but we’re not here so he has fun at our expense. We’re not here to make him look good.”

Goncalves suggested Neymar, who has a tendency to showboat and even toy with opposing players with his skillful trickery, lacks humility.

“If he wants to have fun, we’ll respond with the weapons we have. We have a jersey to defend. We’re not here for a laugh,” Goncalves said. “He can amuse himself, that’s his style and I think people come to watch that. But he shouldn’t come and moan about it afterward (and) he likes to do that. It’s part of his arsenal and we respond in our way.”

Strasbourg coach Thierry Laurey also said Neymar’s attitude is all wrong.

“Sometimes when you’ve gone too far, you have to face up to it,” Laurey said. “I can understand my players having enough of players who are looking to tease them, mock them. It’s right that after a while it also catches up with him. I’m all for protecting players, but there are limits. When you make a pass that comes off your back, you’re mocking a bit.”

Strasbourg defender Pablo Martinez added: “Of course he’s a marvelous player, but because of his attitude he’s not someone I like on the pitch. Apart from teasing you, he talks to you badly.”

Tuchel now faces an anxious wait as the extent of Neymar’s injury is determined.

PSG travels to play Manchester United in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 match on Feb. 12 and is already sweating on the fitness of key midfielder Marco Verratti after he sprained his ankle last weekend.

Two months ago, Neymar was substituted with a groin injury during the first half of Brazil’s friendly against Cameroon on Nov. 20.

That’s A Dive podcast: Sarri’s Risky Move & Mourinho’s Punditry

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The latest edition of Kyle Martino’s “That’s A Dive” podcast has arrived.

[ MORE: Download “That’s A Dive” Apple Podcast ]

Kyle dives in on the controversial comments made by Maurizio Sarri after Chelsea lost 2-0 to Arsenal and what it means for the Blues moving forward (5:15). Plus, assessment of the current state of the Gunners after head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, leaves (21:00) and analysis on Jose Mourinho’s comments over the weekend as he put on his pundit hat (31:55).

Click play to listen to the pod below.

Man City complete Burton battering, reach League Cup final

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As far as formalities go, Manchester City’s task of seeing a nine-goal advantage over the line against Burton Albion in Wednesday’s League Cup semifinal second leg might be best describe as overkill.

[ MORE: Gonzalo Higuain completes loan move to Chelsea ]

The defending Premier League champions completed their rout of the League One side, 1-0 on the day and 10-0 on aggregate, to reach what will be the club’s fourth League Cup final in six seasons on Feb. 24. They have lifted the Cup on each of their previous three trips to the final.

Man City will face the winner of the other semifinal, set to be decided on Thursday. Tottenham Hotspur’s slim 1-0 lead will be put to the test by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Despite his side’s 9-0 lead following an overwhelming demolition job in the first leg, Pep Guardiola named a handful of first-team regulars and fringe players in Wednesday’s team. Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Fabian Delph were picked for the starting lineup.

[ Transfer rumor roundup: James to Spurs, Martins to Newcastle ]

For 25 minutes, City enjoyed a three-quarters majority of the ball and did little more than roll it around Pirelli Stadium. While it took the PL giants longer to open the scoring on Wednesday than in the first leg (five minutes), it didn’t take too terribly long for Aguero to break the deadlock and threatened to reopen the floodgates in the 26th minute.

Burton came closest to a consolation goals in the 70th minute, when they won possession in the middle third of the field and quickly countered. Goalkeeper Arijanet Muric had been beaten, but 18-year-old defender Eric Garcia was perfectly positioned to clear the ball off the line.

Higuain completes loan move to Chelsea, with option to buy

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Gonzalo Higuain is officially a Chelsea player after completing his loan move from seven-time defending Serie A champions Juventus — via loan to AC Milan since August — to the Premier League side on Wednesday.

[ Transfer rumor roundup: James to Spurs, Martins to Newcastle ]

The six-month loan agreement reportedly contains a clause that would allow Chelsea to sign the 31-year-old Argentine forward for a fee reported to be more than $40 million. Chelsea can also extend the loan an additional year for $20 million, according to reports.

With Alvaro Morata — who’s now expected to embark a move of his own, to Atletico Madrid — and Olivier Giroud misfiring for the fourth-place Blues, Maurizio Sarri re-emphasized this month his desire to once again work with Higuain. The two spent the 2015-16 season together at Napoli, when Higuain famously scored more goals (36) than he made appearances (35).

[ MORE: Barcelona seals capture of Frenkie De Jong for $85 million ]

Morata and Giroud have between them scored just six league goals (five from Morata) this season, and have been particularly nonexistent over the last two months as Chelsea faded from title-contending hopefuls, to only just holding on in the top-four race with Arsenal and Manchester United now just three points behind them.

Higuain will be unavailable for selection in Thursday’s League Cup semifinal second leg against Tottenham Hotspur due to his transfer being completed after midday on Wednesday. Tottenham have a slim 1-0 advantage heading to Stamford Bridge.

Higuain’s first chance at a Chelsea debut will come in Sunday’s FA Cup fourth-round clash with Championship side Sheffield Wednesday. Chelsea return to PL action next Wednesday, when they’ll visit 12th-place Bournemouth.