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Ben Yedder makes it 5 goals in 3 days with 1st half hat trick

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wissam Ben Yedder hit a first-half hat trick to lead Sevilla to a 6-2 rout at Levante in the Spanish league on Sunday.

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It was the second big win for Sevilla in three days. Ben Yedder scored twice in a 5-1 home win over Standard Liege in the Europa League on Thursday.

Sevilla goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik saved a penalty kick by Jose Morales that would have allowed Levante to pull level at 2-2 midway through the first half.

Pablo Sarabia also scored for Sevilla and set up three more goals. Daniel Carrico and Andre Silva also got on the scoresheet for the visitors.

Sevilla had gone three rounds without a win in La Liga since its victory in the opening round at Rayo Vallecano.

Roger Marti scored for Levante, which also got a late own goal from Simon Kjaer.

Later, Barcelona hosts Girona seeking a fifth win in as many rounds.

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La Liga: Real Madrid edge past Espanyol; Atleti snap winless skid

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

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Real Madrid 1-0 Espanyol

Julen Lopetegui’s Real Madrid remained unbeaten with a narrow home victory over Espanyol, courtesy of Marco Asensio’s 41st-minute goal. Luka Modric had his shot blocked from outside the penalty area, but the ball trickled wide to Asensio in all kinds of space. Asensio needed just one touch to collect it and set up his left-footed strike from a tough angle.

He tucked it just inside the far post for the game’s opening — and only — goal. It was initially ruled out for offside, but video review reversed the call and the goal was awarded. That’s four victories in five games for Madrid, and an unbeaten start to the season. The problem, of course, is that Barcelona are yet to drop a single point, thus Los Blancos find themselves chasing the defending champions already.

Getafe 0-2 Atletico Madrid

Things have been far worse on the other side of the capital city, as Atletico Madrid entered Saturday’s clash away to Getafe with just five points from their first four games, and winless in their last two.

A 14th-minute own goal was just the remedy required, to go with Thomas Lemar’s 60th-minute goal — his first for the club — after rounding the goalkeeper and slotting the ball into an empty net, plus a 67th-minute red card to Getafe’s Iván Alejo four minutes after entering the game as a substitute. Somehow, despite the slow start, Los Rojiblancos sit fifth in the table and only trail fourth-place Celta Vigo on goal differential.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Celta Vigo 3-3 Real Valladolid
Rayo Vallecano 1-5 Alaves
Eibar 1-0 Leganes

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Levante vs. Sevilla — 6 a.m. ET
Villarreal vs. Valencia — 10:15 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2 p.m. ET
Barcelona vs. Girona — 2:45 p.m. ET

Spanish federation withholds approval of match in U.S.

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BARCELONA, Spain — The Spanish league’s plan to play a regular-season match in the United States was put in serious doubt Friday after the national soccer federation refused to give its approval, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.

The person told The Associated Press that the federation sent a letter to league officials withholding its authorization of playing of a competitive match between Barcelona and Girona on Jan. 26 in suburban Miami unless certain conditions are met. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the person is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

According to the person, the federation told the league it has failed to show that the overseas match would comply with Spanish and international regulations and TV broadcast contracts, and that it would not harm the other 18 league clubs and the fans of Girona and Barcelona.

The federation requested more documentation from the league on the proposal, but the person with knowledge of the situation told the AP that it believed the “holes” in the league’s proposal are “insurmountable.”

Shortly after receiving the letter, Spanish league president Javier Tebas said he still hopes to hold the match in Miami.

“The game is still on,” Tebas said. “We believe we are right, and we will try to show that to the relevant authorities. We are going to respond to everything they say and we will keep working.”

Tebas said that the match was critical to increasing the league’s global reach and rivaling the richer Premier League in England.

“This match is very important in our strategic plan in the United States,” Tebas said. “I can assure you that we are not going to just accept that they tell us no.”

Tebas did not explain what possible options the league could have of circumventing the federation’s refusal, other than convincing federation president Luis Rubiales to change his mind.

Besides the Spanish federation, the match would also need to be approved by the U.S. soccer federation, plus continental bodies UEFA and CONCACAF.

The league asked the federation for authorization to play the match last week.

The refusal by the federation was first reported by Spanish radio station COPE.

While the Spanish league manages the country’s two top divisions of men’s teams and the women’s league, the federation is the official governing body that sets the rules and regulations for all soccer played in the country.

The Spanish players’ union and some fans have been critical of the plan to play competitive matches abroad.

Even though FIFA’s permission is not mandatory, president Gianni Infantino also expressed his doubts about the game earlier this week when he said that he would “prefer to see a great MLS game in the U.S. rather than La Liga being in the U.S.”

The Spanish league has never played a match in another country, but the Spanish federation held its season-opening Super Cup abroad for the first time in August. Barcelona beat Sevilla in Tangier, Morocco.

The league’s plan to play games in the United States is part of a new 15-year partnership with sports and entertainment group Relevent, which operates the International Champions Cup, a tournament played during the European offseason in July and August around the world.

Spain FA to oppose La Liga match in US

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The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) is the  latest organization to put the kabosh on La Liga’s plan to take their game abroad.

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Joining with FIFA, the RFEF will reportedly not approve Barcelona’s match at Girona being moved to Miami on January 27 of next year. The RFEF are expected to make their view public on Friday, per Cadena Cope. Its the latest blow to the previously announced 15-year deal between Relevant Sports and La Liga, which on its face claims to be a marketing rights deal but in practice would include taking league matches outside of Spain. The decision to move games abroad has been panned by fans and media across the globe, with players in Spain’s top two divisions also making their frustrations known.

In order for a match to take place abroad, it needs approval from all the associations governing the sport in the countries involved, a process that makes it seem very unlikely it will happen any time soon. Ultimately, it appears it will take a serious political effort on the part of Relevant Sports to get FIFA, the RFEF and U.S. Soccer to all agree to something that may not pay immediate dividends to those associations.

For Soccer fans in Miami, they’ll likely have to wait until Barcelona’s next preseason tour of the U.S. to see the Blaugrana, or take a trip to Spain themselves.

Messi reclaims hat trick record, Dembele scores marvel in Barca rout

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Lionel Messi scored 75 percent of Barcelona’s goals on Tuesday against PSV Eindhoven, but Ousmane Dembele scored the best one in a 4-1 win at the Camp Nou.

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Messi’s eighth UEFA Champions League hat trick moved him ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo for the most in the history of the competition.

He’s now scored UCL hat tricks against Arsenal (2010), Viktoria Plzen (2011), Bayer Leverkusen (2012), Ajax (2013), APOEL Nicosia (2014), Celtic (2016), and Manchester City (2016).

He also became just the second player to score in 14-straight UCL campaigns (Raul).

But Dembele’s darting dribble and fantastic curling effort is the one that will have eyebrows raised around the world (nothing against Messi’s marvelous goals, which were not low quality at all).

Samuel Umtiti collected his second yellow in the second half and was sent off prior to Messi’s third goal.