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La Liga: Real tops Atleti as VAR takes center stage

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Real Madrid scored three times and referee Estrada Fernandez went to the video assistant referee thrice as well in a thrilling, controversial Madrid derby.

Los Blancos emerged after 90 minutes the winners by a 3-1 scoreline over Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano, though Atleti could feel aggrieved after a pair of VAR decisions went against them. With the win, Real Madrid moved above Atleti into second place, sitting just five points behind Barcelona, though the Catalan club has a game in hand.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

“It was a team victory, there’s no other way to get anything from this stadium against a strong and competitive rival,” Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari said after the match, via Marca. “Playing as a team is the only way to win at the Wanda, we were strong in every aspect of play. It’s the best we’ve played since December.”

Casemiro opened the scoring with a delightful scissor-kick in just the 16th minute off a corner kick that re-directed off both teams before floating perfectly for Casemiro to fire past Atleti goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Less than 10 minutes later, Atletico Madrid struck back as Angel Correa played Antoine Griezmann through on goal, finishing easily past former Atleti and Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. However, the play was reviewed by VAR as Correa had shouldered Vinicius Jr. off the ball in a way that could have been called a foul in other circumstances. VAR confirmed the call on the field and the goal stood.

VAR was used again in the 41st minute as Jose Maria Gimenez took down Vinicius as he darted into the box. Atleti argued the foul was outside of the box but the foul’s continuation took both players into the box, and VAR confirmed it was a penalty kick. Sergio Ramos stepped up to the spot and smashed a shot home to put Real Madrid in the lead.

In the second half, it appeared former Blanco Alvaro Morata had tied the score at 2-2, only for VAR to disallow the goal to Morata being offside. Gareth Bale then hit the dagger in the 74th minute, firing low and to the far corner to put the game to rest at 3-1.

After the match, Atleti manager Diego Simeone surprisingly gave Real Madrid credit for the victory, not blaming VAR or other refereeing decisions.

“Atletico Madrid lost because of a convincing opponent,” Simeone told reporters, via Marca. “I don’t usually speak about VAR and I believe it’s something that will surely get better and make things more efficient for all. I can’t see the replays like those working with VAR do, so I hope they were correct with the decisions. I definitely don’t think we lost because of VAR. The opposition were better than us and more convincing. They had a very good game.”

Elsewhere in La Liga, Getafe beat Celta Vigo 3-1 and Espanyol beat Rayo Vallecano 2-1.

Video shows Lazio fans’ racist chants aimed at Chelsea loanee Bakayoko

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ROME (AP) A video has emerged of Lazio fans directing a racist chant at AC Milan midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko.

The video posted on the Gazzetta dello Sport website shows fans singing, “This banana is for Bakayoko,” during Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Udinese at the Stadio Olimpico.

[ MORE: Pochettino “not optimistic” on Kane ]

It was an apparent response to Bakayoko and Milan teammate Franck Kessie waving the shirt of Lazio defender Francesco Acerbi in front of their supporters like a trophy after a 1-0 win on Saturday.

Bakayoko, who is black, is on loan from Chelsea.

Lazio fans have a long history of racist and anti-Semitic episodes.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Chelsea, Pulisic may tour U.S. in 2020

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Chelsea has announced intent to visit the United States in the Summer of 2020.

Blues chairman Bruce Buck says the club “has work to do in Middle America” as it’s built up what he believes to be significant support on the coasts of the United States.

[ MORE: Pochettino “not optimistic” on Kane ]

Chelsea will be in Boston next month to play MLS side New England Revolution in a friendly billed “The Final Whistle on Hate.”

But Buck knows that Americans have plenty of interest in new signing Christian Pulisic, who will still be with Borussia Dortmund when Chelsea visits the U.S. in May.

“He’s a personable boy. He’s well-liked in this country,” Buck told the Associated Press. “So of course I would expect him when we come here and play some friendly matches, which is what our objective is in the summer of 2020. Then, yes, I think he will be helpful.”

American fans have been skeptical about how much of Chelsea’s interest in Pulisic was based on potential for stardom versus potential for marketing appeal in the States, but it’s important to note that this article could’ve been written about signing a top Mexican player and touring Mexico, or a Japanese star and heading to Asia.

The morning after: Pochettino on returning home, Kane recovery

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Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspur flew back to North London after Wednesday’s memorable triumph in the UEFA Champions League, a few days before the club will make the same trip to visit Manchester City in the Premier League.

“We are tired after an amazing and crazy and unbelievable night,” Pochettino said, via the BBC. “We flew late and didn’t sleep too much, but the happiness made us feel strong and with energy. We need to forget the Champions League now and be ready for Saturday, for a battle.”

[ MORE: Klopp on 1st time facing Messi ]

Good luck on the forgetting part, Poch. The advancement past Man City over two legs came after VAR correctly ripped a stoppage time City goal off the board and plunged Spurs from despair into euphoria.

And now they go again.

Pochettino said he elected to bring the team back to London to sleep in their own beds and recover at their own facilities.

It also allows Spurs to keep a close eye on Harry Kane, who missed the second leg and has been expected to miss most if not all of the season with an ankle injury.

“We are not optimistic but you know Harry Kane and with Harry Kane all is possible,” Pochettino said. “We are not going to say he is not going to play again or not. We will assess him day by day.”

We have to imagine that Spurs going from, “Can we beat City and stay in the Top Four without Harry?” to “We are three wins from a Champions League title” might help Kane heal a bit faster (and he’s already a bit of a specimen when it comes to that.

Barton “emphatically denies” attacking fellow League One manager

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It seems like there is much more to the incident reportedly involving Joey Barton and a fellow League One manager.

Barnsley launched a complaint after Fleetwood Town manager Barton allegedly attacked his counterpart Daniel Stendel after a match on Saturday.

[ MORE: Klopp on 1st time facing Messi ]

Police stopped Barton from leaving the stadium after the match, and Barnsley player Cauley Woodrow has now taken down a Tweet saying that Stendel was left with “blood pouring down his face.”

Now Barton is denying allegations that he attacked Stendel, and is expected to be in the dugout for the Fishermen, who sit 11th in League One.

From FleetwoodTownFC.com:

“With regards to the alleged incident on Saturday following our game against Barnsley, I emphatically deny the allegations made. Given this matter has not been formally closed, it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment.”

Barton’s checkered past is well-documented, but this tale continues to develop in fascinating ways.