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USMNT’s Sargent makes 1st Bundesliga start in Bremen’s 1-1 draw

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BREMEN, Germany (AP) Werder Bremen’s European hopes were damaged by a 1-1 home draw with Stuttgart in the Bundesliga Friday.

Bremen had been hoping to get closer to Wolfsburg, which occupies the last Europa League qualifying position in sixth spot, but had to be content with a move up to ninth.

Steven Zuber fired Stuttgart ahead after 61 seconds. The former Hoffenheim striker stayed cool after he was sent through by Mario Gomez to shoot beyond Bremen keeper Jiri Pavlenka and inside the far post.

Despite more possession for the hosts, it was Stuttgart which had the better chances – Gomez spurning two good opportunities – and the visitors were left to rue the misses when Max Kruse set up Dutch midfielder Davy Klaassen to equalize with a powerful strike before the break.

“I’m sorry for the team,” Gomez said.

Bremen brought on Claudio Pizarro, who became the oldest ever goalscorer when he grabbed a late equalizer against Hertha Berlin last weekend, for the last half-hour but the 40-year-old Peruvian could not find the winner.

American forward Josh Sargent made his first league start for Bremen.

Stuttgart remained in the relegation zone with 16 points from 23 games.

On Saturday, second-place Bayern Munich hosts Hertha. Leader Borussia Dortmund takes on Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday.

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Ronaldo pleads guilty to tax fraud at Madrid court

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MADRID (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo has pleaded guilty to tax fraud and received a two-year suspended sentence.

The Juventus forward, who was facing charges stemming from his days at Real Madrid, was in court for about 45 minutes and signed an agreement which will cost him nearly 19 million euros ($21.6 million) in fines.

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Ronaldo arrived at court in a black van and was wearing a black sports coat and black pants. He walked up some stairs leading to the court house and even stopped to sign an autograph.

Ronaldo made the deal to plead guilty with Spain’s state prosecutor and tax authorities last year.

In Spain, a judge can suspend sentences for two years or less for first-time offenders.

In 2017, a state prosecutor accused Ronaldo of four counts of tax fraud from 2011-14 worth 14.7 million euros ($16.7 million). Ronaldo was accused of having used shell companies outside Spain to hide income made from image rights.

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Eibar defeats Espanyol 3-0 to end winless streak in La Liga

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MADRID (AP) Eibar routed Espanyol 3-0 to end a seven-match winless streak and move further away from the relegation zone in the Spanish league on Monday.

Sergi Enrich scored in the first half, and Pablo De Blasis and Charles added a goal each in the second to give the hosts their first win since November when they defeated Real Madrid 3-0 at home.

The victory moved Eibar from 16th to 11th in the league, five points clear from the relegation zone after 20 matches.

Espanyol, which has won only one of its last nine league matches, dropped to 13th ahead of its home game against third-place Real Madrid on Sunday.

Eibar visits Leganes on Saturday.

Barcelona has a five-point lead over second-placed Atletico Madrid.

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

US investors take over Spanish 2nd-division club Reus

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MADRID (AP) American investors are taking over Spanish second-division club Reus, keeping it from being dissolved and dropped from the league.

The club says real estate investment bankers Russell Platt and Clifton Onolfo have purchased 99.7 percent of Reus’ shares.

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Financial details were not immediately released, but local media say the club’s debt has reached 5 million euros ($5.7 million).

The statement by Reus on Monday says the new group plans to build an 18,000-capacity stadium and an entertainment complex.

The club says Platt was a founder of Morgan Stanley Real Estate, while Onolfo was a former owner of the Connecticut Wolves, a team which used to play in the United Soccer League.

The takeover will allow Reus to keep playing in the second division and avoid the immediate risk of extinction. Last month, players demanded out of their contracts because they hadn’t been paid in months.

The new owners will have to show the club from near Barcelona is in compliance with rules by the Spanish league and other stakeholders.

Reus’ match against Las Palmas on Saturday was suspended because of the team’s situation.

The Catalan club is 20th in the 22-team second-division standings.

Among the players affected by Reus’ situation was young United States defender Shaq Moore, who was playing on a loan from Levante. He returned to Levante this month.

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

Ronaldo may be tiring as Juve go on record march

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Cristiano Ronaldo is helping Juventus break records but it could be taking a toll on the Portugal star.

Ronaldo has started all but one of Juve’s 23 games this season, having missed only the first Champions League match against Young Boys through suspension following his first-ever red card in the competition.

The 33-year-old forward has scored 12 goals since leaving Real Madrid in the offseason, despite being the subject of a rape allegation in the United States.

Kathryn Mayorga filed a civil lawsuit in Nevada in September claiming Ronaldo raped her in his Las Vegas hotel room in 2009. Police reopened an investigation into the allegation at her request. The Juve player has denied any wrongdoing.

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Ronaldo’s form in front of goal has dipped in recent games, failing to score in open play in four matches although he did convert a penalty in the Turin derby on Dec. 15.

He went close on several occasions in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Roma and was denied by goalkeeper Robin Olsen. Ronaldo also produced some trademark fancy footwork to set up a goal for Douglas Costa that was ruled out following a video review.

However, the Portugal great looked tired at times and Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri has said he will give the five-time World Player of the Year a rest by sitting out one of the upcoming matches before the winter break, against Atalanta or Sampdoria.

Juve can afford to sideline him after the victory over Roma clinched the unofficial winter title with two matches to go before the halfway point of the season is reached.

Allegri’s side, seemingly unstoppable as it seeks an eighth successive Serie A title, has an eight-point lead over second-placed Napoli and a 16-point advantage over Inter Milan in third.

Juve has won 16 of 17 league matches, dropping points only in a surprise draw against Genoa.

The club’s haul of 49 points has broken its own Italian record and set a record for the top five leagues in Europe.

Still, Juve appears not to have hit top gear. It is traditionally stronger in the second half of the season and appeared to be conserving energy in its past three matches, winning each 1-0.

MISFIRING FORWARDS

Napoli’s top strikers have been misfiring.

Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens have seven Serie A goals apiece this season but neither has scored in five league matches since a 5-1 win over Empoli on Nov. 2.

Both hit the woodwork in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Spal when defender Raul Albiol was on target.

Another Napoli forward, Jose Callejon, has failed to score this season in 20 matches in all competitions.

Mertens was the club’s top marksman last term with 18 league goals.

PIATEK POWER

Genoa forward Krzysztof Piatek has regained his scoring touch.

He netted nine goals in his opening seven league matches, plus four in his first game for the club in the Italian Cup, but the Poland international then failed to hit the target in five games before breaking his drought last month.

Piatek struck again in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Atalanta to take his tally to six in as many matches in all competitions. However, he was dismayed that another effort was given as a Rafael Toloi own goal.

“I am very happy with the great Genoa victory,” he wrote on Instagram. “But I celebrated less because as soon I got to the locker room I heard the news that my first goal was an own goal. I feel that it is in every respect a double and that Serie A should go back on its decision.”

Piatek tops the scoring charts with 13 league goals, two more than Ronaldo. No player in Europe’s top leagues has netted more domestically.

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