Gareth Bale

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Euro qualifying: Gundogan saves 10-man Germany, Bale earns Wales draw

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Germany played for much of its visit to Estonia with 10 men as Emre Can was sent off for a bad last-man tackle just 14 minutes in, but Ilkay Gundogan‘s second-half brace saw Germany slide through with all three points on a 3-0 win to jump back on top of Group C. The all-important first came on a deflected effort from just outside the box to the right of center, while his second came minutes later with a shot from nearly the same place but just inside the area. Timo Werner added the third with under 20 minutes to go.

Wales secured a 1-1 draw at home against Croatia, but both sides will have greivences with the refereeing. Daniel James was taken out by Dejan Lovren on the edge of the box eight minutes in and likely should have been a penalty kick as the Liverpool defender barged James over without playing the ball. After Nikola Vlasic put Croatia ahead moments later, Gareth Bale would equalize just before halftime one a silky play through the Croatian defense, but a foul in the buildup wasn’t called that would have stopped play before the goalscoring moment.

There were also a pair of scary moments that involved nasty-looking head injuries. James came together with a pair of Croatians in the first half, and while it looked initially like Borna Barisic and Domagoj Vida had taken the brunt of the clash, James appeared to lose consciousness thanks to a knee in the back of his head. Despite the appearance of a clear distressing head injury, James was allowed to continue. Just second after the halftime break, Ethan Ampadu settled under the ball for a header until Bruno Petkovic blasted through his torso from behind, sending the Welsh midfielder to the ground awkwardly, holding his head in agony. Petkovic came in so hard that he earned a yellow card and maybe could have even seen red on another day. Ampadu was not allowed to continue, replaced immediately by Joe Morrell. Also notable in the match, Mateo Kovacic was taken off at halftime after appearing to pick up a muscle problem.

Austria held on for a 1-0 victory over Slovenia to temporarily jump into the lead in Group G, ahead of Poland on goal differential. Hoffenheim defender Stefan Posch scored the game’s only goal, a 21st minute effort off a corner. The back line did the rest, holding the hosts to just two shots on target in Ljubljana.

Poland secured qualification to the finals with a 2-0 win over North Macedonia behind goals from Przemyslaw Frankowski and Arkadiusz Milik, both which came in the final 20 minutes. The first was a messy finish from Chicago Fire winger Frankowski, collecting a flubbed Robert Lewandowski shot and poking it through past goakeeper Stole Dimitrievski. The second goal was much prettier, with the referee playing advantage after Lewandowski was fouled, and Milik delivered a delicious looper into the far corner.

Click here to see a roundup of the action from the early slate of games, including wins by Belgium, the Netherlands, and Russia.

Full Sunday Euro 2020 qualification scoreboard:

Kazakhstan 0-2 Belgium
Belarus 1-2 Netherlands
Cyprus 0-5 Russia
Hungary 1-0 Azerbaijan
Scotland 6-0 San Marino
Estonia 0-3 Germany
Poland 2-0 North Macedonia
Slovenia 0-1 Austria
Wales 1-1 Croatia

Teams who have secured guaranteed Euro 2020 qualification:

Italy
Belgium
Russia
Poland

Bale admits to playing with “anger” at Real Madrid

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Gareth Bale is still a Real Madrid player and you would have got very long odds on that being the case this summer.

After a concerted effort from Real head coach Zinedine Zidane and president Florentino Perez to sell the Welsh winger, Bale ended up staying at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Speaking ahead of Wales’ crucial EURO 2020 qualifier against Slovakia on Thursday, Bale admitted he has been playing with a certain amount of anger about the situation.

“You play with a lot of emotion. Anger comes into it of course, but I haven’t got anything to clear my mind about,” Bale said. “I try and give my best whether here [with Wales] or in Madrid and I will continue to do that.”

Bale looked certain to leave for China in the summer but the move broke down and after Marco Asensio’s serious knee injury he was suddenly needed by Zidane.

His start to the season for Real has been modest, with Bale scoring twice in six La Liga appearances as the Spanish giants sit top of the table.

And Bale clearly isn’t best pleased about the way he was treated by Real’s hierarchy, which mirrors the disdain their famously demanding supporters show him.

At the age of 30, Bale still has plenty of good years ahead of him but you have to wonder if this will be his last in Madrid. The only stumbling block is a Premier League club, or a club anywhere else in the globe, being able to match his incredible salary of more than $370,000 per week.

Bale isn’t keen to leave Madrid in a hurry and has another three years left on his current contract, so unless someone gets close to those numbers, he will remain in Madrid and he will probably remain angry too.

La Liga roundup: Real Madrid remain atop of La Liga (video)

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Real Madrid’s near-perfect victory over Granada highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Madrid 4-2 Granada

Real Madrid’s 4-2 victory over a on-fire Granada had it all: a Karim Benzema goal, Eden Hazard‘s first La Liga goal, a Luka Modric rocket goal, a laudable response from the visitor’s, and a game-winning tap-in from James Rodriguez.

Surely, the result and now a clear lead in the league’s table is what Zinedine Zidane needs to continue carrying his campaign forward in the right direction. But that’s not only what the Frenchmen is getting.

As Saturday’s result showed, Real Madrid’s star-studded lineup, following an alarming start, is back on its two feet. Luka Modric – although it’s unlikely he’ll lift it again – is regaining the level that earned him the Ballon d’Or in 2018. Gareth Bale, who had his fair share of severe ups and downs with Zidane over the summer amid talks of a move to China, has regained his from – visible in his assist to Benzema two minutes into Saturday’s game.

Hazard, too, is showing signs of the assimilation process coming to an end. The Belgium scored his first La Liga goal, and offered a well-rounded performance to compliment such accomplishment. Off the bench, James continues to make the case that he won’t stop fighting for a starting spot anytime soon.

All in all, Real Madrid’s victory against a second-place Granda, who remain as the biggest surprise of the season, goes to show that the giant is awake and hungry.

Following international break, Zidane and company will travel to Mallorca, while Granada aims to get back into winning ways against Osasuna.

Valencia 2-1 Alaves 

Just days removed from being routed in at home in Champions League play, Valencia responded in valiant fashion.

 

Back at La Mestalla, Albert Celades and company put together their second consecutive win against a tough Alaves side.

Following an efficient counter-attack, Maxi Gomez broke deadlock with a calmly taken right-footed strike inside Alaves’ box 27 minutes in.

Nothing would separate either side for nearly 60 minutes, but then a foul on Daniel Parejo occurred inside the box. A penalty was award in favor of the home side. Of course, the captain capitalized from the spot, recording his fourth of the season.

Late in stoppage time, Alaves responded with one of their own. Former Arsenal man Lucas Perez pounced on a second chance  ball inside the box, but it was far from being enough to earn the visitors any points.

Unbeaten in their last four, Valencia move to the eighth spot ahead of their match against Atletico Madrid following international break. Alavaes, on the other hand, host Celta Vigo.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Osasuna 2-1 Villareal

Leganes 1-2 Levante

EURO 2020 qualifying: Netherlands rallies in Germany, Bale saves Wales

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Late heroics helped desperate Netherlands and Wales to big wins in their quests for a place at EURO 2020.

[ MORE: USMNT strengths and weaknesses ]


Germany 2-4 Netherlands

The Dutch sure can rally.

In a EURO qualifier which could almost be described as must-win, Ronald Koeman‘s Netherlands erased a 1-0 lead and overcame a late equalizer to beat Joachim Low’s Germany 4-2 in Hamburg on Friday.

Serge Gnabry‘s ninth minute goal gave Germany a lead it would take into the break, but Frenkie de Jong scored in the 59th before Ryan Babel helped force an own goal out of Jonathan Tah.

Donyell Malen blasted a close range shot home six minutes after Toni Kroos scored a penalty to restore the deadlock. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) put the match to bed in stoppage time.

The Netherlands entered the match with three points from two matches, but had already lost to Germany in its home fixture and was staring up at a Northern Ireland team which is 4-0 to start qualifying. Germany entered the day 3-0.

Wales 2-1 Azerbaijan

However tumultuous his past few seasons have been, Gareth Bale remains an absolute baller.

Bale scored in the 84th minute against stingy Azerbaijan to boost the Welsh to three points and a spot in crazy deep Group E. Croatia and Hungary have nine points, while Slovakia and Wales now have six. A draw would’ve been good for Azerbaijan’s first point of qualifying

Elsewhere

Estonia 1-2 Belarus
Cyprus 1-1 Kazakhstan
Slovakia 0-4 Croatia
Austria 6-0 Latvia
Scotland 1-2 Russia
Slovenia 2-0 Poland
San Marino 0-4 Belgium

Gareth Bale admits he’s not happy at Real Madrid

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After nearly being sold to Chinese club Jiangsu Suning this summer before Real Madrid blocked the move at the last minute, Gareth Bale is playing again at the Spanish giants.

But that doesn’t mean he’s happy again. Far from it.

The 30-year-old admitted he’s excited to be a regular contributor again, but his mental state is still struggling.

“I’m very surprised because I think everyone knows where things were at in terms of me going,” Bale said about the transfer possibilities this summer, speaking to reporters while on duty with the Welsh national team. “In football anything is possible. It’s a crazy sport and it’s one of those things that happens that not many people can explain but one or two can.

“I wouldn’t say I’m playing happy but I’m playing now. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more turbulence. Internally we have spoken and things are what they are. I’m professional, I keep my head down.”

Real Madrid struggled last season en route to a third-place finish in La Liga and an exit from the Champions League in the Round of 16, and after a calf injury sidelined Bale for most of January, he returned to just a bench role for the remainder of the season. He admitted that was what drove him to seek an exit this past summer.

“I understand that I’m made more of a scapegoat than most, I take it with a pinch of salt even though maybe it’s not all fully fair,” Bale said. “Towards the end of last season was difficult, there is no denying that, not just for me but for the team. The situation has now changed, U-turned.”

This season, Bale has started all three of Real Madrid’s league matches thus far, scoring a brace in the recent 2-2 draw with Villareal. It’s more difficult to blame Bale for the early struggles this season given the defensive woes, with the club unable to keep a clean sheet through three matches.

Still, Bale stopped short of revealing any details of what happened this summer or the conversations he had with manager Zinedine Zidane, wanting to keep a professional relationship. “The things that happened will stay private with the club. If you want answers, maybe you need to ask Real Madrid. It’s between me and them, and we will have to come to some sort of conclusion. I know there was a lot of talk with everybody saying good, bad, whatever they wanted. I don’t listen to anyone because they don’t really know what they are on about. Most people don’t know and understand the situation. It didn’t impact on me too much. I had a great summer holiday and didn’t really think about it too much.”