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La Liga: Leaders Barcleona held, Sevilla rescues late draw

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Barcelona’s lead at the top of the La Liga table shrunk after they were held off the scoresheet in a 0-0 draw with Athletic Bilbao at San Mamés Stadium. Lionel Messi rattled the post in the 26th minute on what would have been a wild strike, but otherwise managed just two shots on target.

The visitors held two thirds of the possession, but they were unable to find a breakthrough. Messi sailed a free-kick over the bar in the 57th minute in another of Barcelona’s few good chances, but otherwise there was little for them to savor. Ousmane Dembele thought he had a penalty won with the last kick of the game, but referee Carlos del Cerro waved it off after a chat with his VAR team.

Athletic nearly gave Barcelona something bigger to think about in the 17th minute, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen was on hand to produce a wonderful save, denying a curling effort from Markel Susaeta that was destined for the top corner. The hosts also saw defender Oscar de Marcos sent off in the 91st minute for a second yellow after a handball prevented a Barcelona break.

The draw moves Barcelona to 51 points, six clear of Real Madrid on 45 points, with Atletico Madrid one back of their cross-town rivals in third.

Elsewhere, Sevilla saw the gap between third and fourth increase after a 2-2 draw against Eibar at home. Sevilla only rescued the point on a 92nd minute goal from Pablo Sarabia with the team down to 10 men. With Ever Banega sent off in the 84th minute for a second yellow card, Sarabia slotted home a cross from Dutch winger Quincy Promes. With Sevilla now on 37 points, they sit seven behind Atletico Madrid.

Valencia drew 0-0 with Real Sociedad in a game that featured just five shots on target, including just one by visitors Sociedad despite holding nearly 60% possession. Despite the possessional disadvantage, Valencia was unlucky not to come away with the win, with Kevin Gamiero missing right in front of goal in the 65th minute.

Finally, Leganes hammered Real Betis 3-0 on a hat-trick from 21-year-old Moroccan Youssef En-Nesyri who scored his sixth goal in the last three league matches. En-Nesyri’s hot streak has been critical for Leganes, with the team garnering seven points in that three-match stretch to jump out of the relegation scrap and into 11th, six points clear of the drop.

Americans Adams, McKennie have big Bundesliga days

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USMNT youngsters Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie put in elite but very different performances for their Bundesliga clubs on Saturday.

Adams continues to take RB Leipzig by storm, the Major League Soccer export easily adjusting to an upgrade in league through the Red Bull system.

[ MORE: Brighton beats Derby County ]

The New York Red Bulls Academy product, 20, has started four matches for his new Bundesliga side, and RBL has won all four by a combined score of 11-1.

Adams picked up his first Bundesliga assist on Saturday in creating Youssef Poulsen’s 12th goal of the season in RBL’s 3-1 win at Stuttgart.

He covered the third-most ground in the game, at 12.65 kilometers, registering a game-high 39 sprints. His 109 runs were 19 more than anyone else, and he won 13 tackles. And while some of those big numbers are typical for that position on the pitch, there’s no denying his impact on a Champions League side.

Meanwhile, fellow American midfielder McKennie had a different task on Saturday, going 90 minutes and starting at right back as 10-man Schalke gutted out a 0-0 draw with Freiburg.

McKennie, 20, covered the fourth-most ground of anyone in the game at 11.56 km, winning a game-high 13 tackles and putting a pair of shots on goal.

Notably, he completed 34 of 35 passes.

McKennie is a half-year younger than Adams, but the similarities are there.

FIFA transfer reforms target $400M for lower-tier clubs

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ZURICH (AP) — FIFA believes it can direct up to $400 million each year toward clubs worldwide entitled to a share of transfer fees paid for their former players.

FIFA says a key part of intended transfer market reforms will “ensure clubs are adequately rewarded for training players.”

[ MORE: Lingard, Martial injured ]

Since current transfer rules were updated in 2001, clubs have been due training compensation and solidarity payments from transfers paid in the careers of players they helped nurture.

FIFA acknowledges the “overly complicated and burdensome” system of calculating payments is understood by too few clubs.

A clearing house will aim to process transfer payments more efficiently.

FIFA research suggests tens of millions of dollars were paid to clubs last year instead of their entitlement of at least $350 million.

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

Brighton outlasts Derby despite Ashley Cole goal (video)

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Despite a late scare, dominant Brighton and Hove Albion put an end to Frank Lampard‘s run in the FA Cup with a 2-1 defeat of Derby County at the Amex Stadium on Saturday.

Anthony Knockaert and Jurgen Locadia scored in the final dozen minutes of the first half for the Seagulls, who will learn their quarterfinal foe on Monday.

[ MORE: Lingard, Martial injured ]

Substitute Ashley Cole scored in the 80th minute for the Rams, who were heavily outshot in the match.

It was Cole’s first goal in England since 2012, when he bagged a Premier League marker for Chelsea against Stoke City.

Locadia was injured just before the Seagulls conceded, and looked to be in considerable pain with an ankle injury.

American attacker Duane Holmes started up top for Derby but was subbed after 45 minutes. The 24-year-old Columbus-born man has become a regular starter under Lampard.

Sir Alex Ferguson to manage Man Utd in anniversary match

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The 20th Anniversary of Manchester United’s treble, to the day, will see Sir Alex Ferguson managing the club.

This, of course, is for a single night only, as the Red Devils celebrate their 1999 treble with a testimonial of sorts against Bayern Munich, who it beat 2-1 to win the Champions League on May 26, 1999.

[ MORE: Lingard, Martial injured ]

“I’m really looking forward to what will be a special day at Old Trafford. It will be great to catch up with some familiar faces and a great opportunity to support the work of Manchester United Foundation,” Ferguson said.

Players for the game are not confirmed but imagine the possibilities: Peter Schmeichel was across the field from Oliver Kahn. Lothar Matthaus had to deal with Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole. David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, and the Neville brothers started or were in the 18.

Keep in mind that Solskjaer scored the winner for Ferguson’s United that day at the Camp Nou, as the Red Devils scored twice in stoppage time for a remarkable comeback win.