Enes Unal

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EURO qualifying wrap: France, Iceland, Turkey earn wins

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With their tickets already booked to next summer’s big tournament, France and Turkey picked up wins in Sunday’s Euro qualifying action, which saw defending champions Portugal clinch qualification.

[ READ: Defending champions Portugal qualify to EURO 2020 ]


Albania 0-2 France

Albania opened their new, 22,500-seat stadium with a hard-fought loss against France.

Early on, Bayern Munich’s Corentin Tolisso gave the impression that the home fans were in for a long night at the inaugurating Air Albania Stadium, opening the score just eight minutes in with a well-placed header. In the 31st minute, an unfamiliar face, Leo Dubois, connected with Antoine Griezmann, who slotted the ball into the bottom-right corner. France finish the qualifiers leaders of Group H with 25 points. Throughout the 10 matches, the world champions lost only once, a 2-0 loss against Turkey.

Andorra 0-2 Turkey

Real Valladolid’s Enes Unal scored a first-half brace as Turkey coasted past Andorra 2-0. Turkey, who clinched a spot next summer after finishing Group H two points behind France, controlled possession and chances at goal.

Moldova 1-2 Iceland

Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson scored the visitor’s second and winning goal in the second half, as Iceland walked away from Zimbru Stadium with a 2-1 win on Sunday.

With 19 points throughout 10 games, Rúnar Kristinsson and company felt five points short of qualifying directly for next year’s competition. That said, they’ll partake in the Euro 2020 playoffs, looking to squeeze their way in.

Elsewhere

Luxembourg 0-2 Portugal

Serbia 2-2 Ukraine

Kosovo 0-4 England

Bulgaria 1-0 Czech Republic

La Liga: Valencia strengthens European position, Valladolid takes massive late blow

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Valencia earned a massive three points in the race for a European place as they topped Levante 3-1 thanks to a brace from Santi Mina. The 23-year-old directed a pinpoint header inside the far post on just two minutes in to give Valencia the lead at home, and while the rest of the first half was uneventful, the second half began with excitement, especially for Valencia winger Carlos Soler.

The 22-year-old saw a Levante corner deflect off his foot and into the back of his own net to level the score 56 minutes in, then just a minute later he assisted Goncalo Guedes with a fabulous back-heel as the hosts went back in front.  Six minutes later, Soler was also involved in Valencia’s third as his shot from a tight angle was saved and fell right to Mina on the doorstep for a simple tap-in.

Real Valladolid was in position to pull themselves out of the relegation zone, leading Getafe 2-1 and up a man, but the visitors snatched a last-gasp draw as an Oscar Plano foul in the penalty area sent Jorge Molina to the spot in the 96th minute, and he buried the penalty to level the score at the death. The loss of two points is massive for the hosts as they now remain in 18th place, failing to climb out of the drop. All three points would have sent them above Celta Vigo into 17th in the table.

The game started with a bang, as Getafe’s Mauro Arambarri scored a wonderful strike from well outside the penalty area, a howitzer that found the top-left corner. The hosts came from behind to eventually take the lead, finding goals from Sergi Guardiola a half-hour in, followed by Enes Unal who put Valladolid in front on 64 minutes.

Athletic Club remained in the hunt for a European position as they topped 10-man Rayo Vallecano 3-2 behind a brace from Inaki Williams. The 24-year-old scored his 11th goal of the season just two minutes in to put the hosts up, followed by his second just five minutes after the halftime break to put Athletic back in front. Raul Garcia scored the eventual winner in the 72nd minute, able to hold off Rayo who pulled back within one as Raul de Tomas scored with five minutes to go.

Real Sociedad and Eibar played to a 1-1 draw on goals in the 1st minute and 85th minute bookending a weird one that featured total domination by Eibar, and yet they failed to do much of anything. Real Sociedad went in front right from the jump as Juanmi scored 11 seconds in, the fastest La Liga goal since 2014. That was essentially it for the hosts, who were peppered by 17 Eibar shots, but just two of those found the target. Marc Cardona should have scored in the 34th minute in the best chance for the visitors, but Joan Jordan was on hand with five minutes remaining to finally break the deadlock with an exquisite free-kick.

Villareal kept pace two points above the drop with a monumental 1-0 road win at Girona behind a seventh-minute strike from Samuel Chukwueze. The 19-year-old blistered down the field on a breakaway and finished calmly for the game’s only goal.

La Liga: Barcelona unbeaten after 29 games; Ronaldo scores 4

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Man United vs. Spurs in FA Cup semis; Chelsea-Southampton]

Barcelona 2-0 Athletic Bilbao

Updated numbers for Barcelona’s current unbeaten run in La Liga: 29 games this season; 36 dating back to last season. The quest for the unbeaten league season is now just nine games from reality.

Perhaps even more impressive than the W-D-L record is their defensive record: 13 goals conceded in 29 games (they’ve also scored 74 and have a +61 goal differential).

Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Bilbao saw Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Co., go 11 points clear in the title race and all but secure their third title in four seasons, thanks to results elsewhere (see below).

Paco Alcacer opened the scoring after just eight minutes, and Messi made it 2-0 right on the half-hour mark (his league-leading 25th goal of the season; 34 in all competitions).

Real Madrid 6-3 Girona

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged four goals of his own to bring his season total to 22 (32 in all competitions), now second ahead of Suarez and three behind Messi for the Golden Boot, and in the process push Real Madrid (60 points) to within four points of Atletico Madrid in the race for second.

Ronaldo scored goals no. 1, 2, 4 and 6 for Madrid, with tallies from Lucas Vazquez and Gareth Bale sprinkled in between.

Villarreal 2-1 Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid were the last side within touching distance of Barca — “just” eight points back coming into the weekend — but that’s no longer the case following a late collapse and a 2-1 defeat away to fourth-place Valencia.

Antoine Griezmann put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot in the 20th minute, but Enes Unal bagged an equalizer in the 82nd and the game-winner in the 91st. Atleti finished the game with 10 men after Vitolo was sent off in the 92nd minute.

Real host Atleti in the Madrid derby on April 8, a game which will go a long way towards crowning this season’s runners-up.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Valencia 3-1 Alaves (Saturday)
Leganes 2-1 Sevilla
Real Betis 3-0 Espanyol (Saturday)
Celta Vigo 0-0 Malaga
Real Sociedad 1-2 Getafe (Saturday)
Levante 2-1 Eibar (Friday)
Deportivo La Coruña 1-1 Las Palmas (Saturday)

La Liga: Real Madrid restore order with 3-0 win

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid restored order after two straight losses with a comfortable 3-0 win over Las Palmas in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Goals by Casemiro in the first half, and Marco Asensio and Isco in the second, secured Madrid victory at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, keeping it eight points behind leader Barcelona after 11 games.

Barcelona defeated Sevilla 2-1 Saturday to maintain a four-point lead over second-place Valencia, which routed Leganes 3-0 for its seventh straight league win.

Madrid was under pressure after losses at Girona in La Liga and at Tottenham in the Champions League. The team endured a wave of criticism this week, and a convincing home win was needed to ease tensions for the defending champions.

“This win is important to help the team regain its confidence,” Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. “Little by little we are getting back on the right track.”

Madrid was in control from the start, and Casemiro opened the scoring with a header following a corner just before halftime.

Asensio added to the lead with a booming, long-range shot into the top corner early in the second half, and Isco sealed the victory from inside the area after a well-placed low cross by Cristiano Ronaldo toward the end of the match.

Asensio and Isco are Madrid’s leading scorers in the league with four goals each. Ronaldo remains with only one league goal, although his tally with the club in all competitions is eight. He also scored four goals with Portugal.

Las Palmas is second-to-last in the standings with six points.

“We were playing well but that second goal put an end to our hopes,” Las Palmas striker Vitolo said.


Girona followed its stunning win over Real Madrid with a 2-1 victory at Levante, moving further away from the relegation zone.

It was the third straight league win for the Catalan club, which is playing in the first division for the first time this season.

Girona was coming off consecutive victories at Deportivo La Coruna and against Madrid at home in what had been a tense meeting at the height of a political crisis involving Catalonia and the Spanish government over the region’s push for independence.

“The team is showing maturity,” Girona coach Pablo Machin said. “We played a very complete match. We’ve been very consistent.”

Midfielder Borja Garcia put Girona ahead at the Ciutat de Valencia Stadium with a long-range shot into the top corner in the 58th, and former Levante striker Christian Stuani added to the lead from inside the area in the 83rd.

The lone goal for the hosts was scored with a header by Enes Unal in injury time.

Levante hasn’t won in six straight league games, but it had beaten Girona in the Round of 32 of the Copa del Rey last month.

“We need to improve and find a way to overcome this,” Levante coach Juan Ramon Lopez Muniz said. “We must lift our heads and move on.”

Girona moved to 10th place in the 20-team standings, while Levante dropped to 14th.

Pulisic nominated for 2017 Golden Boy

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U.S. national team teenager Christian Pulisic has been nominated for the prestigious Golden Boy award.

The award, run by Italian outlet Tuttosport, goes to the top player in European soccer under the age of 21 over the past 12 months.

[ MORE: JPW speaks to USMNT’s Pulisic ]

Pulisic, who turned 19 yesterday, has been a star for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga over the past 12 months and has nine goals and 14 assists in 61 appearances for the German side. He also has seven goals in 18 appearances for the USMNT.

Marcus Rashford, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele are expected to challenge for the trophy but the Pennsylvania native being among the final nominees for the award proves how highly regarded he is on the global stage.

[ MORE: Breaking down Pulisic at 19 ]

Seven players from the Premier League have also been included in the shortlist of nominees with Rashford from Manchester United, Gabriel Jesus from Manchester City, Joe Gomez and Dominic Solanke from Liverpool, Dominic Calvert-Lewin from Everton, Reece Oxford from West Ham (on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach) and Kyle Walker-Peters from Tottenham all getting recognition.

The 25 nominees for the 2017 Golden Boy award are in full below.


Aaron Martin, Espanyol
Jean-Kevin Augustin, RB Leipzig
Rodrigo Bentacur, Juventus
Steven Bergwijn, PSV Eindhoven
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Everton
Federico Chiesa, Fiorentina
Ousmane Dembele, Barcelona
Amadou Diawara, Napoli
Kasper Dolberg, Ajax
Gianluigi Donnarumma, Milan
Gabriel Jesus, Manchester City
Joe Gomez, Liverpool
Benjamin Henrichs, Bayer Leverkusen
Borja Mayoral, Real Madrid
Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain
Emre Mor, Celta Vigo
Reece Oxford, Borussia Monchengladbach
Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund
Marcus Rashford, Manchester United
Allan Saint-Maximim, Nice
Dominic Solanke, Liverpool
Theo Hernandez, Real Madrid
Youri Tielemans, Monaco
Enes Unal, Villarreal
Kyle Walker-Peters, Tottenham