Rodrigo

Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

EURO qualifying wrap: Spain earns place in stoppage time

Leave a comment

Spain clinched a spot in EURO 2020 via a last-minute equalizer, but the rest of the picture only got murkier thanks to dramatics in Romania and Switzerland.)

[ MORE: How should USMNT line up? ]


Sweden 1-1 Spain

A Marcus Berg header had Sweden on the verge of a significant home win against nearly unbeatable David De Gea and Spain, but Valencia forward Rodrigo delivered a stoppage time goal to give Robert Moreno’s men a place in EURO 2020. But Sweden can breathe a little easier thanks to a stoppage time goal across the continent.

Bad news for Manchester United, though, as De Gea’s strong day ended early due to injury.

Romania 1-1 Norway

New York City FC’s Alexandru Mitrita added another beauty to his collection in scoring for the second successive qualifier, but it wouldn’t stand up thanks to former Crystal Palace striker Alexander Sorloth‘s stoppage time equalizer.

Switzerland 2-0 Republic of Ireland

Terrible from the Irish, who trailed after 16 minutes and then went down to 10 men when Seamus Coleman was shown a red card in the 76th minute. Former West Ham man Edimilson Fernandes put it to bed in stoppage time as the Swiss out-attempted Ireland 20-9.

The Irish are tied for the lead in the group with 12 points but that’s about where the good news ends. They do not have an automatic spot in the playoffs while Denmark does and has 12 points. Switzerland has 11 and has also played one fewer match.

Ireland will need to beat Denmark next month and hope for help on the out-of-town scoreboard when Switzerland meets Gibraltar and Georgia.

Finland 3-0 Armenia

Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki continued his fine year with a pair of goals after Fredrik Jensen staked the Finnish side to a lead in Turku. Group J second place side Finland has a five-point lead on chasing Armenia and BNH.

Elsewhere

Faroe Islands 1-0 Malta
Gibraltar 2-3 Georgia
Greece 2-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Liechtenstein 0-5 Italy
Israel 3-1 Latvia

Barkley sails late penalty, Chelsea falls

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
Leave a comment

Ross Barkley missed a late penalty as Chelsea lost its UEFA Champions League opener 1-0 to Valencia on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Rodrigo scored the lone goal, and Valencia will be thrilled to collect all three points in London.

Christian Pulisic was an unused sub for Chelsea, who out-attempted Valencia 22-8 on the day.


Three things we learned

1. Pulisic down the pecking order: The American star didn’t start, and wasn’t the first name called when Mason Mount was injured. Granted Pedro played a little deeper, but not a good week for the Hershey-born Pulisic

2. Wide men the danger men: Willian was the likely Man of the Match for Chelsea despite the lack of goals, and full backs Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta were also key to the resutl.

3. Penalty drama: VAR gave Chelsea a chance to level from the spot, but Ross Barkley stepped ahead of Willian and missed the chance. The Brazilian looked aggrieved before and after the miss, and Barkley looked mighty confident right until the moment he missed his shot. Sort yourself out!

Man of the Match: Willian — No wonder he was angry to see Barkley demand the penalty, as a Willian goal would’ve been a fitting result for his clever and industrious day at the office.


Valencia keeper Jasper Cillesen made two stops early, denying Tammy Abraham to concede a corner before collecting a Marcos Alonso header on the ensuing set piece.

Would it be Christian Pulisic time when Mason Mount left the match with injury following a challenge from former Arsenal man Francis Coquelin? Nope. Pedro was called upon to fill the void.

It was a sleepy second half, with Pedro conceding a free kick to Valencia that didn’t amount to anything exciting.

Those who stuck around were rewarded with late drama, as Valencia took the lead through a Rodrigo flick off a free kick.

However, Valencia then had to watch through its fingers as Chelsea was gifted a chance at the spot through VAR when Fikayo Tomori headed a ball off the arm of Daniel Wass.

Willian was upset to see Ross Barkley take the penalty, and the English midfielder probably wishes he let someone else take it after missing over the bar.

EURO 2020 qualifying: Spain rout Faroe Islands, Italy hold off Finland

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The paths of Spain and France to victory were contrasting, however, both teams continued their winning ways in Sunday’s EURO 2020 qualifying.

[ MORE: EURO qualifying wrap ]


Spain 4-0 Faroe Islands

Who knows if it was planned, but Spain put on a lively celebration for Sergio Ramos, who equalled Iker Casillas’ international caps on Sunday night in Gijon, in their 4-0 drubbing of Faroe Islands.

Even then, the scoreline isn’t a clear reflection of Spain’s dominance over a vastly inferior visiting side, who registered less than 30 percent possession and took two shots throughout 90 minutes.

La Roja, comfortable as ever, had time to experiment and put together well-orchestrated attacks.

Rodrigo started the scoring frenzy in the 13th minute with a tap-in, before adding a second in the second half after his left-footed strike wad deflected into the back of the net.

Substituted in the 61st minute for Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal, Paco Alcacer added his own brace over the span of three minutes to seal the night for Spain, who stay unbeaten after six qualifying matches and atop of Group F.

Finland 1-2 Italy

Italy’s victory in Finland was controversial, to the say very the least.

Norwhich City’s man of the hour, Teemu Pukki, scored a penalty in the 72nd minute, only to be nulled by Chelsea’s Jorginho, who converted one of his own, which turned out to be the Italian’s match-winning goal.

The call that led to the penalty, however, was worthy of video review.

Finland’s Sauli Väisänen, with his arm attached to his torso as he turned away, made contact with Nicolò Barella’s shot. The official, who was on the opposite of the box, instantly deemed it a penalty and showed a yellow to the defender, despite the heavy petitioning from the Finish players.

With the victory, Italy, who like Spain have yet to lose, remains ahead of second-place Finland in Group H by six points.

VAR is not used in the qualifying process, but will be implemented in the 2020 European Championship, according to UEFA.

Elsewhere

Switzerland 4-0 Gibraltar
Georgia 0-0 Denmark
Sweden 1-1 Norway
Greece 1-1 Liechtenstein

Man City activates release clause of Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodrigo

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s been a busy day – and summer – at the Wanda Metripolitano.

After sealing the arrival of midfielder Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid confirmed on Wednesday that Manchester City activated the release clause of 23-year-old Rodrigo, leaving the club no choice but to ship the youngster to the Premier League side. The release clause totaled $79 million, setting a new transfer record at Man City.

Rodrigo joined the club just last summer from Villareal for $25 million, representing a significant return on investment for Atletico Madrid in just one season. He played a heavy role last campaign as Atleti finished second in the La Liga table, appearing 34 times in league play and scoring three goals. He racked up 3,675 minutes during the season across all competitions, fourth-most on the entire squad and more than fellow midfielders Koke and Thomas Partey.

A defensive midfielder, Rodrigo represents an important acquisition for Manchester City. The club’s biggest struggles over the last two title-winning seasons have come during spells without Fernandinho, who has been sidelined at times by knee and thigh problems. With the Brazilian now 34 years old, securing a young, starting-caliber defensive midfielder is a smart investment at a thin position.

Their previous transfer record was the $75 million acquisition of Riyad Mahrez last summer, which itself topped the $72 million purchase of Aymeric Laporte and the $68 million for Kevin De Bruyne.

It has been a summer of change at Atletico Madrid, with club fixtures Diego Godin, Antoine Griezmann, and Juanfran all leaving for various reasons plus the big-money departures of Rodrigo, Lucas Hernandez, and Gelson Martins. Marcos Llorente, Felipe, and Herrera have arrived with the hopes of filling the void, and there are likely more incoming transfers to be secured.

Atletico Madrid and Valencia draw in Spanish league debut

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid and Valencia couldn’t manage more than a 1-1 draw in the opening match of the season for potential contenders for the Spanish league title on Monday.

Both teams debuted new signings and came boosted by great seasons a year ago, but it was an even match from the start at Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium, with neither finding an edge to earn the victory.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-2 Liverpool ]

The hosts came closer to winning and squandered a few great chances in the final minutes.

Angel Correa gave Atletico the lead in the 25th minute with a shot from close range after a great set up by Antoine Griezmann, who cleared a few defenders before sending a perfect ball to the forward behind the defense. Correa had only goalkeeper Neto to beat and easily found the corner.

Atletico held on for the rest of the first half but Valencia equalized shortly after halftime with a great goal by striker Rodrigo, who controlled the ball with his chest after a cross into the area and fired a left-footed shot into the top of the net.

“We can’t say it was unfair, but if we had won the match it wouldn’t be a crazy result,” Rodrigo said. “We faced a great rival and showed that we are playing on a high level. That’s what we want to keep doing the whole season.”

Gabriel Paulista nearly scored again for Valencia less than 10 minutes after Rodrigo’s goal, but his header off a corner struck the post. Daniel Wass had a chance on a breakaway with a few minutes left, but his shot was saved by Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Kevin Gameiro also missed a clear opportunity just before the final whistle.

“We lacked organization in the end and I didn’t like that,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “But I’ll stick to what we did well. These teams are very similar and we had our chances to win the match.”

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Atletico finished runner-up to Barcelona in the league last season, while Valencia was fourth and secured a Champions League berth. Atletico was coming off a victory over city rival Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.

Simeone started Monday’s match with one of the team’s top signings in the offseason, France forward Thomas Lemar, playing up front with Griezmann and Diego Costa. Other recently arrived players began on the bench, including Gelson Martins, Nikola Kalinic and Rodri. Martins came in as a substitute in the second half, replacing Griezmann.

Wass, one of Valencia’s new signings, was in the starting lineup, while Gameiro, Denis Cheryshev and Michy Batshuayi began on the bench. Gameiro and Batshuayi entered in the second half.

Defending champion Barcelona made its league debut on Saturday with a 3-0 win against Alaves with a pair of goals by Lionel Messi at Camp Nou Stadium.

Real Madrid opened with a 2-0 win over Getafe with Gareth Bale scoring and setting up Dani Carvajal’s goal at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Athletic Bilbao hosts Leganes later Monday to close out the first round.

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

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni