Seydou Doumbia

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Former Arsenal players Djourou, Song cut by club

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The shutdown of soccer in Switzerland has cost two former Arsenal players their jobs.

After reportedly refusing to take a paycut, FC Sion in the Swiss Super League announced that it had fired nine players, including defender Johan Djourou and Alexandre Song. Also included is Swiss National Team midfielder Pajtim Kasami, Ivory Coast forward Seydou Doumbia, and club captain, Xavier Kouassi. Kouassi also formerly played for the New England Revolution.

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According to a report in Switzerland newspaper Blick with quotes from Djourou, the players were asked to sign new contracts, with less than 24 hours notice, that would have significantly cut their wages. The report states the players were asked to sign a contract that would have provided them a maximum of 12,350 francs, or around $12,521 in salary. It’s unclear whether that’s a yearly salary or monthly, though it’s the same as the maximum available in unemployment insurance.

According to Djourou, the players as a whole rejected the request from upper management, but it ended with nine players losing their jobs. Internally, Djourou said, the players had discussed donating some wages to the staff, as the whole club struggles in this crisis. Djourou only joined Sion in January and played just once before suffering another injury.

The Swiss Super League has been suspended since March 1, when the Swiss government banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people in response to the spread of the new Coronavirus.

Song and Djourou were teammates at Arsenal between 2005 and 2012.

La Liga: Barcelona restores lead, Betis grabs late winner

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Barcelona restored its five-point lead at the top of the La Liga table thanks to a 3-1 victory over Leganes on Sunday.

Ousmane Dembele opened the scoring, poking a right-footed effort off the inside of the post and in just beyond the half-hour mark. Leganes, meanwhile, owned just one shot through the first half. They visitors at the Camp Nou managed to draw level through Martin Braithwaite in the 57th minute as Allan Nyom delivered a brilliant long-ball down the right to Youssef En-Nesyri who crossed for Braithwaite on the doorstep.

Luis Suarez restored Barcelona’s lead 14 minutes later, but it was all thanks to some Lionel Messi magic. The four-time Ballon d’Or winner ripped a brilliant curler from outside the top of the box that forced a spectacular save from Ivan Cuellar, but he only barely got to the shot, popping it up into the air and falling right at the feet of Suarez who tapped in. Messi would get his own in stoppage time to kill off the game, working a back-and-forth with Jordi Alba before finding space near the penalty spot for an easy finish.

Overall, Barcelona held 72% possession and out-shot Leganes 15-5. The win put Barcelona at 46 points at the top of the table, five above Atletico Madrid and 10 clear of Real Madrid.

Elsewhere, Real Betis earned a big three points, keeping them alive in the crowded Champions League race. Sergio Canales scored a penalty in the 94th minute to win 3-2 over Girona. Both teams held leads at one point in the match, as Cristian Tello put Betis in front just 12 minutes in before Girona took control on goals by 21-year-old Aleix Garcia and 31-year-old Seydou Doumbia before halftime. After the break, Lorenzo Morón brought the game back level, a scoreline which held until stoppage time as Canales powerfully deposited the penalty into the lower left-hand corner after Douglas Luiz had fouled Giovani lo Celso.

The win for Betis pushes them up to 7th in the table on 29 points, with fourth placed Sevilla just four points ahead at 33, and Real Madrid in third on 36 points.

Athletic Bilbao and Villareal both settled for a disappointing point in a 1-1 draw. Karl Toko Ekambi rescued the draw for Villareal after Jaume Costa put one in his own net early in the first half. Still, either side would have preferred the win in the crowded relegation battle. Athletic moved to 13th on 23 points with the draw, while Villareal is stuck in 19th on 18 points.

Levante earned a big 2-0 home win over Real Valladolid thanks to goals by Coke and Roger Marti, each coming at the end of a half. The victory pushed them to 26 points, sliding them into 10th place.

Rayo Vallecano was minutes away from a big win that would have brought them out of the relegation zone, but Brazilian striker Willian Jose scored in the 82nd minute to rescue a point for Real Sociedad and leave Rayo in 18th on 20 points.

Girona shocks Atletico Madrid behind stunning goals

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Co-owned by Pep Guardiola and the City Football Group, Girona isn’t your average minnow. However, what Girona did on Wednesday is worthy of a closer look.

Girona came back from a goal down on two occasions, eventually scoring on a breath-taking counter attack in the 88th minute to advance past Atletico Madrid, 4-4 on away goals at the Wanda Metropolitano. With the draw, Girona advances to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey, the farthest it has ever gone so far in the competition.

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Nikola Kalinic put the hosts up 1-0 early, but that was before Valery Fernandez, who made his first-team debut in La Liga just last month, became a household name around Spain and the talk of the internet. Fernandez touch a touch on a cross into the box with his chest and then on the volley, rifled a goal past Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Antonio Adan.

Cristhian Stuani and Angel Correa traded goals, before Antoine Griezmann put Atleti back in front with a goal in the 84th minute.

But four minutes later, a turnover in midfield led to a break for Girona, where veteran forward Seydou Doumbia re-directed a shot from Borja Garcia in to give Girona the result it needed.

La Liga: Sevilla moves top, Girona tops Espanyol in Barcelona

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Barcelona and Atletico Madrid drew on Saturday, and now see a new league leader as a result.

Andre Silva scored the game’s lone goal as Sevilla beat Real Valladolid 1-0 to move back into the lead in the Spanish top flight. Silva headed home from close range on the half-hour mark for his eighth league goal of the season in 12 matches, including his first since late September. Sevilla goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik preserved the win in added time with an acrobatic save to tip the ball over the bar as Enas Unal ripped a scissor kick on net.

Girona earned a big win thanks to a double from Cristhian Stuani inside the first six minutes, topping Espanyol on the road 3-1. His first came on a corner four minutes in, rising high near the penalty area and powering a header into the ground and inside the far post. Just two minutes later, he powered home another header on another corner as Girona went 2-0 up immediately. Borja Iglesias brought Espanyol back within one with 16 minutes to go, but Seydou Doumbia put the game away at the end of regulation.

Stuani’s brace moved him into the La Liga goalscoring lead, with 10 goals in 11 matches. That puts him one ahead of Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The win also moves Girona into the top half, into seventh on 20 points as they jump Eibar, Valencia, and Levante.

Athletic Bilbao couldn’t hold a lead and slumped to a 1-1 draw as Jaime Mata scored in the 77th minute to share the points and leave Athletic in the relegation zone. Peru Nolaskoain flicked in a set-piece header on 67 minutes, but Mata was there to equalize 10 minutes later and earn the point.

Villareal, meanwhile, pulled off the relegation zone by beating Real Betis 2-1 at home, as the three points pushed them to 16th, three points above Athletic. Gerard Moreno and Samuel Chukwueze scored for the home side despite less than 40% possession for Villareal.

Champions League wrap: Messi, Neymar shine for Barca, PSG (video)

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Neymar had his new trident flying, while Lionel Messi didn’t need much more than his own boots.

The UEFA Champions League group stage got off to a goal-heavy start on Tuesday, with its stars on show.

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Premier League sides Manchester United and Chelsea cruised to wins, while Barca flattened visiting Juventus and PSG made Celtic Park a house of horrors for their Scottish hosts.

All that and more below…

Barcelona 3-0 Juventus

Lionel Messi scored twice and helped set up a third as the Blaugranas got off to a flying start in the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League.

A solid save from Gianluigi Buffon on Luis Suarez kept the hosts off the scoreboard, but Lionel Messi was sure to have Barca in front when the halftime whistle blew at the Camp Nou.

Messi nearly struck again in the second half, but Ivan Rakitic deposited the Argentine’s blocked effort in the goal to double Barca’s advantage. He added his third soon after as Barca cruised to a win.

Here’s the opener:

Chelsea 6-0 QarabagRECAP

Five different Blues helped bury the Azerbaijan visitors, as Pedro, Davide Zappacosta, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Michy Batshuayi, and Cesar Azpilicueta all scored in the blowout.

Batshuayi finished with a brace.

It did not take long for the Blues to take an expected lead on their visitors from Azerbaijan, with Willian playing a corner kick that Pedro blasted into the roof of the goal.

Then Davide Zappacosta, making his first Chelsea start, dribbled down the right flank before scoring a sensational curling effort from outside the far right corner of the 18.

Manchester United 3-0 Basel — RECAP

Paul Pogba pulled up with a leg injury and had to leave the rainy contest before the 20 minute mark. Marouane Fellaini replaced the Frenchman, and connected with the cross of fellow longtime Premier League veteran Ashley Young to make it 1-0 in the 35th minute. Romelu Lukaku headed a Daley Blind cross home for the second, and Fellaini teed up Marcus Rashford for the final marker.

Roma 0-0 Atletico Madrid

Alisson made nine saves as Atletico’s 20-11 edge in shots on goal could not translate to an away win.

Benfica 1-2 CSKA Moscow

Haris Seferovic’s 50th minute opener did not hold up long, with Vitinho converting a 63rd minute penalty and Timur Zhamaletdinov breaking the deadlock eight minutes later in Portugal.

Olympiacos 2-3 Sporting Lisbon

Seydou Doumbia put the Portuguese visitors ahead in the second minute. Cape Verde attacker Gelson Martins made it 2-0 just over 10 minutes later, and Bruno Fernandes has also scored for Sporting. Felipe Pardo scored two late concession goals for the hosts.

Bayern Munich 3-0 Anderlecht

As if Bayern needed help from its Belgian visitors, a 11th minute red card to Anderlecht was met by a 12th minute penalty kick goal from Robert Lewandowski. Thiago Alcantara scored in the 65th minute, and Joshua Kimmich scored late in the match.

Celtic 0-5 Paris Saint-Germain

Neymar scored, and set up Kylian Mbappe for another, and Edinson Cavani won and converted a penalty as each member of PSG’s trident (KEN?) have scored at Celtic Park. A Mikael Lustig own goal and second marker from Cavani completed the scoring.