Stephane Mbia

Sevilla defeat Dnipro, 3-2, to win back-to-back Europa League titles, Champions League place

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Who says players don’t care about the UEFA Europa League (once they reach the quarterfinals or round of 16)? Who says that Cup final are always/have to be cagey, boring affairs?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

Sevilla, the 2013-14 Europa League winners, narrowly defeated a courageous Dnipro (Ukraine) side full of fight, 3-2, at the Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw, Poland, to win back-to-back Europa League titles, and this this, book a place in next year’s UEFA Champions League.

Dnipro, thought to be significant underdogs ahead of kickoff, opened the scoring before the clock read seven minutes. Matheus got down the right side of Sevilla’s penalty area and crossed to the back post, where Nikola Kalinic was waiting. Kalinic headed the ball downward and beat Sergio Rico to make the score 1-0.

The lead lasted barely 20 minutes, though, as Grzegorz Krychowiak equalized in the 28th minute. Carlos Bacca, Sevilla’s leading scorer this season, received a cross near the penalty spot, where he controlled and laid the ball off to the Polish midfielder, whose right-footed shot rolled past goalkeeper Denys Boyko and found the back of the net.

[ MORE: UEFA announces 2015-16 Champions League’s top seeds ]

Bacca got himself on the scoresheet three minutes later, when the Colombian was fed through by Reyes, rounded Boyko and slotted home from a tight, right angle. For Bacca, it was his 28th goal of the season in all competitions. 2-1, Sevilla.

The lead was relatively short-lived for Sevilla, though, as Dnipro hit back and equalized a minute before halftime. Ruslan Rotan curled a stunning free kick under Rico’s crossbar to equalize in the 44th minute, beating the wall and the ‘keeper.

With both sides realizing their European run was just 45 minutes from coming to a tearful end, and that one mistake could undo eight months of Europa League endeavors, the second half got off to a decidedly slower, less exciting start. For 28 minutes, Sevilla and Dnipro played to a stalemate.

[ TOP 5: Storylines ahead of Barcelona vs. Juventus Champions Legue final ]

Then came the 73rd minutes, Bacca’s time to shine once again. Vitolo played Bacca a splitting through ball into Dnipro’s box, Bacca raced to get on the end of it and delivered the pinpoint, left-footed, first-time strike from 10 yards out (above video). Boyko had no chance to get down and cover his far post, and Sevilla had the lead again, 3-2.

Bacca nearly doubled Sevilla’s lead in the 79th minute, when Stephane Mbia’s cross found Bacca at the top of the six-yard box. Bacca headed the ball downward, but the onrushing Boyko made the flailing save with the inside of his right arm from point-blank range.

With their latest Europa League triumph, Sevilla become the first side to win UEFA’s second-tier continental competition in consecutive seasons since…Sevilla themselves did it in 2006 and 2007.

Alex Song the latest Cameroon star to retire from international football; Youth movement is on

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Cameroon had one of the worst tournaments of any team at the World Cup, and life isn’t getting any easier for the Indomitable Lions.

After threatening to not go to the tournament in Brazil, Cameroon had to deal with the fact that they not only got beaten soundly at the World Cup, they were accused of match-fixing.

Samuel Eto’o and Pierre Webo had already retired from international competition before today’s news from West Ham United midfielder Alex Song via Instagram (at bottom). He’s retiring as well.

[ MORE: Moyes to bring Brits to Spain? ]

The 27-year-old Song’s absence will make the Cameroon team look even more bizarre at the Africa Cup of Nations this month. Longtime goalkeeper Charles Itandje also won’t be there. Neither will Jean Makoun nor Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

It’s a youth movement for Volker Finke’s side, captained by Sevilla’s Stephane Mbia, 28. The vice captains are 25 and 22 (Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting of Schalke and Vincent Aboubaker of Porto).

African Footballer of the Year shortlist: Yaya Toure goes for four in a row, MLS player makes it

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Yaya Toure is looking to become the first player to win four-straight African Footballer of the Year awards, as the Manchester City star has been named as one of 25 players on the CAF shortlist.

The Ivory Coast leader held off John Obi Mikel, Didier Drogba and Seydou Keita from 2011-13, and will have to beat a host of players from big name clubs if he wants to join Samuel Eto’o as the only players to have won the award four times.

FIFA reports that South Africa’s Senzo Meyiwa, murdered last month, is on the list of players who can win the award given to those who play solely on the continent.

Crystal Palace has the list, as it announced its Democratic Republic of Congo winger, Yannick Bolasie, is on the list along with AS Roma’s Gervinho, Swansea City’s Wilfried Bony and Tottenham Hotspur’s Emmanuel Adebayor.

[ RELATED: Both sides of Manchester in injury trouble ]

There’s an MLS player in the mix as well, as Philadelphia Union goalkeeper and Algerian World Cup hero Rais M’Bohli made the list.

Toure is the clear favorite to win the award, though Algeria’s strong World Cup could give a boost to one of its four members on the list: Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon), Yacine Brahimi (Porto), Keita (AS Roma) and M’Bohli.

The winner will be announced on Jan. 8, 2015. Here’s the list in full:

2014 African Footballer of the Year shortlist
Ahmed Musa – (Nigeria, CSKA Moscow)
Asamoah Gyan – (Ghana, Al Ain)
Dame N’doye – (Senegal, Lokomotiv Moscow)
Emmanuel Adebayor – (Togo, Tottenham)
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting – (Cameroon, Schalke 04)
Fakhreddine Ben Youssef – (Tunisia, CS Sfaxien)
Ferdjani Sassi – (Tunisia, CS Sfaxien)
Gervinho – (Cote d’Ivoire, AS Roma)
Islam Slimani – (Algeria, Sporting Lisbon)
Kwadwo Asamoah – (Ghana, Juventus)
source: Getty Images
M’Bohli

Mehdi Benatia – (Morocco, Bayern Munich)

Mohamed El Neny – (Egypt, Basel)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – (Gabon, Borussia Dortmund)
Raïs M’Bolhi – (Algeria, Philadelphia Union)
Sadio Mané – (Senegal, Southampton)
Seydou Kieta –  (Mali, As Roma)
Sofiane Feghouli – (Algeria, Valencia)
Stephane Mbia – (Cameroon,  Sevilla)
Thulani Serero – (South Africa, Ajax)
Vincent Aboubakar – (Cameroon, Porto)
Vincent Enyeama – (Nigeria, Lille)
Wilfried Bony –  (Cote d’Ivoire, Swansea)
Yacine Brahimi – (Algeria, Porto)

Yannick Bolasie – (DR Congo, Crystal Palace)
Yaya Toure – (Cote d’Ivoire, Man City)

La Liga and Serie A Roundup: Real roll, Juve stays perfect

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Catch up on all of this weekend’s action from Spain and Italy’s top flights.

La Liga

Real Madrid 5-0 Athletic Bilbao

The Cristiano Ronaldo show continued as Real Madrid dominated Athletic Bilbao in a 5-0 thrashing this weekend. Ronaldo recorded his 22nd La Liga hat trick, which now gives him 13 goals in his last six league games. Karim Benzema added a brace to help lead the dominant Real attack.

Sevilla 4-1 Deportivo

Stephane Mbia was the man once again for Sevilla as Deportivo continues to search for points in La Liga. After scoring a stoppage-time equalizer for Sevilla in the UEFA Europe League midweek, Mbia scored twice to help Sevilla return to their winning ways.

[ RELATED: La Liga Saturday Roundup ]

Celta Vigo 1-3 Villareal

Celta Vigo suffered their first defeat of the season after Moi Gomez scored twice in two minutes to help lead Villareal. Mario tallied the third goal in stoppage time after Celta Vigo was forced to play a man down after Andreu Fontas was sent off for a second bookable offense late in the second half.

Around La Liga:
Getafe 1-1 Cordoba
Valencia 3-1 Atletico Madrid
Rayo 0-2 Barcelona
Eibar 3-3 Levante
Malaga 2-1 Granada
Almeria 2-2 Elche
Espanyol 2-0 Real Sociedad

Serie A

Juventus 3-2 Roma

In a battle for the top spot in Serie A, Juventus stole three points in a fiery matchup between unbeatens. Carlos Teves scored twice from the spot for Juventus before Leonardo Bonucci struck a brilliant volley late in the second half to stay perfect. The referee awarded three penalties in the match and also sent off Roma’s Kostas Manolos and Juve’s Alvaro Morata after a skirmish between the players.

[ MORE: Leonardo Bonnucci volley leads Juventus over Roma ]

Fiorentina 3-0 Inter Milan

Inter Milan’s Serie A woes continue as they were shutout by Fiorentina, leaving Inter with eight points in six matches. I Nerazzurri were outplayed by Fiorentina throughout the match, going down 2-0 before the twenty-minute mark. This is the second straight three-goal loss for Inter in Serie A play.

AC Milan 2-0 Chievo

After a slow first half that saw just one shot on target between both sides, Milan tallied two second half goals to take three points at home. Sulley Muntari scored off the volley while Keisuke Honda displayed his talents as a free-kick specialist, bending his shot around the wall and into the corner of the net for Milan.

Around Serie A:
Verona 1-0 Cagliari
Empoli 3-0 Palermo
Udinese 1-1 Cesena
Sampdoria 1-0 Atalanta
Lazio 3-2 Sassuolo
Parma 1-2 Genoa
Napoli 2-1 Torino

Europa League roundup: Spurs concede late PK, Serie A sides strong

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Before we go any further, about the headline: Besiktas is a very good side, so to say drawing them at home is a stumble is more based on the lofty goals set by Spurs administration than anything about the Turkish side.

And when the manager of that Turkish side says he’s disappointed not to have pulled all three points from a game at White Hart Lane, you can honestly say Tottenham did not have the performance they wanted from their second group game of Europa League play.

Harry Kane scored in the 27th minute, but a Vlad Chiriches handball in the final minutes allowed Demba Ba to draw Besiktas level and share the points with an 89th minute penalty kick.

[ MORE: UEFA Champions League roundup ]

Besiktas took 15 more shots than the hosts and had a 53-47 edge in possession. Spurs had plenty of talent on the bench, with regulars Younes Kaboul, Erik Lamela and Aaron Lennon not starting the contest.

The draw brings Spurs out of Group C’s basement and level with Besiktas for the second spot. Asteras Tripolis is first with four points through two matches.

Elsewhere…

Celtic got an early goal from Kris Commons then held on despite extreme duress provided by visiting Dinamo Zagreb. The 1-0 win moves moves them level FC Red Bull Salzburg, who beat Astra Giurgiu 2-1.

Late thrills were on display in the game’s highest-profile match, as Bundesliga powers Wolfsburg came back to draw Lille 1-1. Divock Origi, on loan from Liverpool, netted in the 77th minute before Kevin De Bruyne canceled it out five minutes later.

[ MORE: Everton draws Krasnodar ]

The scoreline doesn’t indicate the great resolve showed by Sevilla after a 52nd minute red card helped turn the 1-0 lead provided by Iago Aspas into a 2-1 deficit at HNK Rijeka. Stephane Mbia scored a dramatic stoppage time winner to lift Los Nervionenses.

Borussia Monchengladbach took 30 shots to FC Zurich’s nine, only to see themselves splitting the points with their Swiss hosts 1-1.

It was a good day for Italy, as Inter, Torino and Napoli all won, with Fiorentina unloading a 3-0 decision on Dinamo Minsk.

Other scores

source: AP
Torino’s Kamil Glik, left, jumps for the ball with Copenhagen’s Andreas Cornelius (AP)

Villarreal 4-0 Apollon Limassol
Aalborg BK 1-0 Rio Ave
Dynamo Kiev 3-1 Steaua Bucharest
Dinamo Minsk 0-3 Fiorentina
Guingamp 2-0 PAOK Salonika
KSC Lokeren 1-0 Metalist Kharkiv
Trabzonspor 0-1 Legia Warsaw
HJK Helsinki 0-3 Club Brugge
Dinamo Moscow 1-0 PSV Eindhoven
Krasnodar 1-1 Everton
Torino 1-0 FC Copenhagen
Estroil Praia 2-0 Panathinaikos
Inter Milan 2-0 FK Qarabag
St Etienne 0-0 Dnipro Dnipropretrovsk
Feyenoord 2-1 Standard Liege
Wolfsburg 1-1 Lille
Slovan Bratislava 0-2 Napoli
Sparta Prague 3-1 BSC Young Boys