Special Juan relishes Rooney partnership

Juan MataJuan Mata was today officially unveiled as a Manchester United player, following his first press conference as a Red during which, alongside David Moyes, United’s most expensive ever player revealed that he was excited by the opportunity of joining the champions, despite their dismal season so far.

Mata, who will wear the number 8 shirt following the path of illustrious predecessors such as Paul Ince, Nicky Butt and, ehm, Anderson, admitted he was eager to get going at Manchester United and that the move was “really important” as far as his chances of making Spain’s World Cup squad were concerned.

“I think no.8 is a great number,” said Mata as he spoke to the press for the first time since joining United from Chelsea on Saturday.

“I like the number. I know 7 is iconic here. I was speaking with David [Moyes] about it and we decided 8 is a good number for me. Hopefully it will bring me luck.”

Speaking of the pressure that will face him, now that he’s become United’s most expensive signing ever, as the club shelled out £37.1m for his services, the Spaniard was confident that he’ll meet the expectations and deliver for his new team.

“I love the pressure,” said the 25-year-old.

“When people are suspecting big things from you then it’s a challenge but I am looking forward to being successful.

“This is a massive club. I’ve realised that since I came here and I’m really glad to be here. This is the club that has won the most trophies and it’s down to me to show people the football I have inside of me.”

The former Chelsea player, who was named player of the season in both campaign he spent in South West London, revealed that he relishes playing alongside Wayne Rooney, now that the United striker looks destined to stay at Old Trafford, rather than replace Mata at Stamford Bridge.

“I will play anywhere the manager wants me to. I just want to help the team win as many games as they can,” said Mata, who then praised his new team-mate.

“For me he [Rooney] is one of the best players in the history of this country. He is unbelievable, he can score and he can assist.

“I will try to connect with him as much as I can. I will try to find the gaps in defences, try to be in the positions I have to be in to assist the strikers.”

The Spaniard admitted that United’s reputation for not overcoming difficult situations and facing challenges was as much of a lure as the size of the club and Mata believes United can still win the league this season.

“It’s a new challenge for me,” Mata said. “This one was a massive challenge for me.

“What I like the most about this club is the character. I think if another club were in this position in the league, I think it would be very difficult to come back and take first position, but this club can do it.

“This is the real image I have from Man United, always fighting to win titles, always coming back from difficult moments.

“The team is really good, the squad is really good. This season they have had some unlucky moments they didn’t deserve. Hopefully from now until the end of the season we will win as many games as we can.”

Meanwhile, David Moyes cut a relieved figure standing by his record signing, but the United manager revealed that Mata was the start of a major overhaul, rather than the end of United’s business in the transfer window.

“I am thrilled, I got wind a month or two ago it could be possible but I never thought we would pull it off,” said the United manager.

“When we got the sniff there was a chance Juan could be available we went after it right away. Congratulations to the club and [executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward for getting the deal done. There will be more players like Juan in the future, I’ve no doubt about that.”

Dan

Liga MX Round 4: A Look Back

MartinBravoPumasUNAM1-TigresUANL2014 (Mexsport)

By DANIEL PRICE

The crisis at Tigres UANL deepened as Pumas UNAM overturned a one goal deficit to emerge as 2-1 victors in the Clasico Universitario in Monterrey.

Tigres started much the brighter, and after 11 minutes their constant pressure paid dividends when a corner from Lucas Lobos found a completely unmarked Guido Pizzaro at the back post, who nodded home to give the home side their first goal of the Clausura. Tigres continued to push forward, and in the 18th minute Carlos Salcido played in Lucas Lobos who saw his audacious 25 yard shot clatter the crossbar.

The game changed in the 37th minute with the dismissal of Jose Rivas. Pumas were defending a corner when the Tigres veteran swung an elbow at the face of Marco Palacios, prompting the referee to justifiably produce a straight red.

Tigres continued to look dangerous even with 10 men, but in the 64th minute the referee again took a central role, opting to award a soft-looking penalty for a foul on Velarde by Jesús Dueñas. Martin Bravo made no mistake from the spot, sending the keeper the wrong way and finding the bottom corner. It looked as through the game was heading for a draw when in the 85th minute Martin Bravo doubled his tally for the evening, taking advantage of a poor offside trap to slide home from the corner of the 6-yard box.

It was only Pumas second win in 23 games, a result which will have eased some pressure on under-fire manager Jose Luis Trejo. Tigres, meanwhile, are still winless in 2014 and face Monterrey in the Clasico Regiomontano next weekend.

Here’s a closer look at the best of Liga MX from Clausura Round 4:

CLUB TIJUANA WIN TO EXTEND UNBEATEN HOME RECORD

Club Tijuana recorded their first ever victory against Morelia on Friday evening, with a second half header being enough to earn Xolos the three points.

The first half was slow to get going, but the second half was played at a higher tempo, and in the 61st minute an inch-perfect free kick from Fidel Martínez allowed Javier Gandolfi to head into the Morelia goal from close range.

The win puts Xolos fifth in the standings and extends their undefeated streak at home to an impressive 19 games. It is less happy news for Morelia, as news broke on Sunday afternoon that the defeat had cost Carlos Bustos his position as manager. With the start of their Copa Libertadores campaign in midweek followed by the visit of Leon on Friday, they will be hopeful of quickly finding a replacement.

PUEBLA LEFT STUNNED BY CHIAPAS FIGHT-BACK

DaMarcus Beasley’s Puebla side looked sure of recording their first victory of the year after springing into a two goal lead by halftime, but were ultimately undone by a stubborn Chiapas.

It took just four minutes for Saul Villalobos to opening the scoring, firing home a fine strike from outside the area that left the keeper well beaten. If the first goal oozed class, Puebla’s second just before half time oozed comedy. A terrible mix up between Chiapas’ goalkeeper and centre back saw Robles knock a looping header past the helpless Mendoza, which to Jaguares’ despair ended nestled in the corner of the goal.

Chiapas refused to lie-down, however, and just before the hour mark struck twice in a minute to bring the scores level. Firstly, Lucas Viatri played a fine header into the path of Mauricio Romero who promptly smashed the ball into the roof of the net from eight yards out, before Viatri was again involved, slipping in Luis Alfonso Rodriguez to slot the ball under the keeper from a tight angle.

Both sides had chances to win the game, but in the 93rd minute Jaguares completed an incredible turn around when late substitute Martin Zuniga got the better of his marker, rising highest to meet Pablo Gabas’ cross and head into the corner of the net.

BEST OF THE REST

Club America came from behind to beat Atlas 2-1 in Guadalajara, Cruz Azul scored four in a comprehensive rout of Veracruz, Leon suffered a surprising 3-1 home defeat to Pachuca, and Atlante continued their unlikely quest to avoid relegation with a commendable 1-1 draw at home to Chivas de Guadalajara.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Martin Bravo – Pumas: Pumas have only scored four goals this year, but Martin Bravo is responsible for all of them. His determination and passion for Pumas to succeed was evident throughout the match against Tigres, and without his two goals Pumas would almost certainly have been defeated, and Jose Luis Trejo may have been looking for a new job.

Here’s a look at the entire list of matches from Clausura Round 4 in Liga MX:

FRIDAY

Queretaro 0, Santos Laguna 0

Club Tijuana 1, Morelia 0

SATURDAY

Cruz Azul 4, Veracruz 0

Tigres UANL 1, Pumas UNAM 2

Leon 1, Pachuca 3

Atlas 1, Club America 2

SUNDAY

Puebla 2, Chiapas 3

Toluca 2, Monterrey 0

Atlante 1, Chivas de Guadalajara 1

Six Premier League Clubs Chasing Loan Signing of Tom Ince Including Liverpool: Daily Soccer Report

paul ince Six Premier League Clubs Chasing Loan Signing of Tom Ince Including Liverpool: Daily Soccer Report

Highly-rated Blackpool winger Tom Ince looks likely to choose between Liverpool, Swansea City and Crystal Palace as his next club after the Championship side has given him permission to leave on loan for the remainder of the season.

Ince, whose father is former Blackpool manager Paul Ince, has met with representatives at Swansea City and is now headed to London for talks with Crystal Palace. Meanwhile, Liverpool has emerged again as an interested party according to Sky Sports. In addition to those three clubs, Hull City, Stoke City and Sunderland are also very interested in signing the player on loan. A permanent signing is also being discussed.

In addition to the Tom Ince transfer story, there’s been a ton of transfer gossip from this past weekend, which we did our best job to sum up below. Not surprisingly, Manchester United are stealing many of the headlines.

Here are today’s world soccer news headlines:

Premier League

Serie A

International soccer

MLS

The Daily Soccer Report is your morning guide to the latest world soccer news headlines, so you don’t have to spend an hour or more scanning the Internet. We do all the work for you. Read The Daily Soccer Report on World Soccer Talk every morning to stay on top of all the news that matters. 

Six Premier League Clubs Chasing Loan Signing of Tom Ince Including Liverpool: Daily Soccer Report is a post from World Soccer Talk.

West Ham debts rise to £77m as owners make club further loan of £10.5m

• Despite record revenue the club lost £3.5m
• Hammers' wage bill rose to £56.2m from £41.6m

West Ham United's net debt has increased to £77m and the owners, David Sullivan and David Gold, have loaned the club another £10.5m to try to secure their Premier League status.

The club's annual accounts for the year ending 31 May 2013, when they finished 10th in the Premier League, reveal that West Ham enjoyed record revenue of £89.8m and had more commercial income than ever before but the club still made a loss of £3.5m. It was a significant improvement on the £24m loss of the season before, when they were in the Championship, and the club believe the move to the Olympic Stadium in 2016 will herald a new era of financial success.

The co-owners have loaned West Ham a total of £45.7m and in the summer refinanced the club's bank loans – these now total £26.7m, payable in January 2016, plus a further £15m the club took out on a short-term basis secured on broadcast income. The riches from the new Premier League TV deal, which became available last summer, are worth an extra £20m a year, say the club.

West Ham's vice-chairman, Karren Brady, said in the report: "The board is determined to maximise the prospects of retaining Premier League status by making a significant investment in the playing squad. The group benefited from excellent support from the major shareholders David Sullivan and David Gold who invested loans totalling £10.5m during the year. The three-year TV contract from the summer of 2013 is likely to be worth at least an estimated £20m annually."

Brady added that new Premier League spending controls would "limit the ability of clubs to over-extend themselves on player costs" and will help West Ham increase profitability.

The accounts show West Ham's wage bill increased to £56.2m from £41.6m. The highest-paid director, believed to be Brady, received £1.6m up from £427,000 no doubt in recognition of record figures of turnover, attendance, commercial income and the securing of the Olympic Stadium from the start of the 2016-17 season.

Sam Allardyce said the loan signings of the Italian pair Antonio Nocerino, a midfielder from Milan, and the striker Marco Borriello, from Roma, should breathe new confidence into a side who have been in or close to the relegation zone all season. He does not expect to bring in any more new players this transfer window.

Allardyce said: "At long last, after a gruelling eight weeks or so, we've finally managed to secure two new faces. Milan have taken Michael Essien from Chelsea, which left the door open for Antonio to come and try to play in the Premier League, which he's very excited about. He wants to play and wants to achieve as much as he did in Italy, as well as wanting to get in the Italian squad for the World Cup.

"Marco wants to come and chance his arm, like most players will, in the most exciting league in the world. He has got a good track record for being a lively frontman scoring a few goals, even though recently that's not been the case due to a few niggly injuries.

"With the reintroduction of Andy [Carroll] now as well as Marco, it should bring a bit more optimism to everyone at West Ham, with the fact that these players are coming back, new players have signed and obviously some big games coming up for us."

Nocerino should be available to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. "José [Mourinho] seems to have made Chelsea very difficult to break down again and that frees up their quality players to make an impact," Allardyce said. "West Brom should have beaten Chelsea earlier in the season. So if we play to our best we can get a good result."


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Three players Manchester United should target before deadline day

Juan Mata's £37m arrival may not be the last new face at Old Trafford in the winter transfer window

Juan Mata's £37.1m move to Old Trafford may not be the last arrival during this winter's transfer window. Here we look at the three players at the top of David Moyes' shopping list.

Luke Shaw

David Moyes is an admirer of the young left-back but faces stiff competition from Chelsea. The summer would seem a more realistic time to sign the 18-year-old but an early move would represent a coup if Moyes and Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, could persuade Southampton to sell now. Shaw would provide pace, rawness, and fresh vigour to the left of the champions where Patrice Evra is a fading force. Shaw's age also means a £25m-plus spend would be a wise investment. With Juan Mata able to play wide as well as through the middle, Shaw's speed and desire to attack would allow him to link up with the Spaniard and pose a problem for opponents that is absent owing to the manager's chopping and changing over who should play on the wing.

Yohan Cabaye

For Moyes this looks a no-brainer. Now that Mata is through the Old Trafford door if the manager also added the Frenchman to his midfield suddenly United would be transformed, a far different proposition to the side of a few days ago when only Michael Carrick was of the quality required. Newcastle United want £25m for Cabaye who is a proven Premier League operator and France international with hopes of making the squad for the World Cup. With Arsenal also interested, alongside Paris Saint-Germain who have just had a £14m bid rejected, Moyes faces a battle. The manager's ideal is to sign the highest quality, the bracket Cabaye is just short of, but with Champions League qualification in the balance, the chance to add the 28-year-old in the notoriously difficult winter window should hardly be passed over. If Cabaye was landed Moyes could send out a front six of Robin van Persie, Adnan Januzaj, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Michael Carrick and Cabaye.

Toni Kroos

The 24-year-old is a German international who was in the Bayern Munich side who took apart Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season in a 3-1 Champions League win. An attacking midfielder, Kroos is a hardened campaigner who played in the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 . His man-marking of Italy's Andrea Pirlo in the semi-final of the latter tournament is an illustration of the versatility he would offer Moyes. Kroos's contract expires at the end of next season and a serious bid in the £25m-plus range may test Bayern's resolve to keep him. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the president admits negotiations over fresh terms are not going well. "It is always about money in every agreement, and talks have so far failed to lead to a new contract for Toni. We are interested in prolonging his stay with us."


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Sweet FA (World Soccer Talk Review Podcast)

Cup competitions are a good time to judge a side, the balance, the anti-environment that they find themselves in. But at this point in the season: focus is on balance and finding that balance. Perhaps some managers have dined out on their imbalance for too long, in the league and now they are paying the price? Or perhaps the EPL sides just had too much for many of the lower-league challengers. With such aggressive football being played in the top league, there are many worried about the openness of so many of the games.

What did you make of the weekend’s games?

With United out and City through, there is nothing but excitement on the pod for Sunderland who find themselves in a final. Another cup upset for City or are they a new animal now? World, let’s Talk Soccer:

World Soccer Talk: @epltalk

Kartik: @kkfla737

Nipun Chopra: @NipunChopra7

Matt J: @MattJFootball

Kristan: @kheneage

Matt D: @mattcrduncan

Morgan: @Morgan_Green

Laurence: @lozcast

Here are the different ways you can listen to the EPL Talk Podcast:

Sweet FA (World Soccer Talk Review Podcast) is a post from World Soccer Talk.

Monday Kickoff: Totti talks up Roma title chances; Riquelme resumes training; and more

FrancescoTottiASRoma1-Genoa2014 (Getty)

By DAN KARELL

AS Roma may be five points behind Juventus, but that’s not letting club legend Francesco Totti dream of winning the Scudetto.

While Juventus slipped up last Saturday with a 1-1 draw at Lazio, Roma secured a crucial road win against top-six side Hellas Verona, winning 3-1. Totti, who scored a penalty kick in the 82nd minute to ensure victory, believes that the performance proves Roma’s title credentials.

“We have proven to be worthy of Juve,” the Roma captain told Sky Italia. “After the half slip Juventus last night, today we showed we can fight on par with the Italian champions by winning the league.”

Juventus goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon played down Totti’s comments, saying that his club aren’t worried despite Roma moving “a little closer” in the standings.

Next up for Roma is a home match against Parma while Juventus host Inter Milan next Sunday.

Here are some more stories to start your Monday:

RIQUELME BACK IN BOCA FULL TRAINING

There was a familiar face among the Boca Juniors squad on Sunday.

For the first time since suffering a hamstring injury last November, Boca captain Juan Roman Riquelme joined the first team in training as they continue their preseason training. The 35-year-old had recently been training individually as he healed the hamstring.

Boca head coach Carlos Bianchi, the man who brought Riquelme back to the club 12 months ago, said that he will assess Riquelme’s fitness levels this week before deciding whether he’ll play in the final SuperClasico friendly installment of the Argentine summer break. That game is set to take place on Saturday in Mendoza, Argentina.

Unfortunately for Boca and Riquelme, the club won’t be taking part in the Copa Libertadores this spring.

DORTMUND LOSE SECOND STARTER TO TORN ACL

Borussia Dortmund’s injury-ravaged campaign took another hit on Saturday.

In the club’s first game back from the winter break, Dortmund could only draw with FC Augsburg and also lost Jakub “Kuba” Blaszczykowski for the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The Polish right winger joins centerback Neven Subotic as two Dortmund starters out of the season.

“We’ve only got bad news,” Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp told reporters following the match. “For us this is a disaster, but more importantly it’s terrible for Kuba.”

Blaszczykowski is expected to miss the next six to nine months while he rehabs from the injury. Klopp is considering changing his transfer policy and signing a new player in January as cover for the injury.

QUICK KICKS

Manchester United completed the signing of Juan Mata on Saturday for a club record fee of £37.1 million ($61.4 million). (REPORT)

Just before selling Mata to Man United, Chelsea agreed personal terms and signed Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah from FC Basel for a reported £11 million ($18.2 million) to a five and a half year contract. (REPORT)

Leighton Baines has turned down any interest from outside of Everton by signing a new three and a half year contract. (REPORT)

Chelsea have also allowed midfielder Michael Essien to leave the club again, signing a year and a half deal with AC Milan. (REPORT)

Newcastle have turned down a bid from Paris Saint-Germain for midfielder Yohan Cabaye. (REPORT)

——–

What do you think of this news? Like Roma’s title chances? Glad to see Riquelme back in full training? Do you see Dortmund signing a new player this month?

Share your thoughts below.

adidas Release Limited Edition Copa Mundial Soccer Cleats [PHOTOS]

adidas copa mundial cleats group adidas Release Limited Edition Copa Mundial Soccer Cleats [PHOTOS]

Inspired by this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, adidas has released five new sets of colorful Copa Mundial soccer cleats, to reinvent the best-selling soccer cleats of all time that were originally released in 1982.

The adidas Copa Mundial soccer cleats have been worn by some of the greatest soccer players ever including Zico, Franz Beckenbauer, Michel Platini and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. And now adidas has given the popular soccer boot a new face lift that reinvents the boots.

If you’re feeling Samba inspired by these new releases, scoop them up quickly as limited quantities are available worldwide.

Samba Copa Mundial KV pairs blue adidas Release Limited Edition Copa Mundial Soccer Cleats [PHOTOS]

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Samba Copa Mundial detail green a adidas Release Limited Edition Copa Mundial Soccer Cleats [PHOTOS]

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Samba Copa Mundial detail purple a adidas Release Limited Edition Copa Mundial Soccer Cleats [PHOTOS]

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Samba Copa Mundial detail red a adidas Release Limited Edition Copa Mundial Soccer Cleats [PHOTOS]

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Samba Copa Mundial detail red adidas Release Limited Edition Copa Mundial Soccer Cleats [PHOTOS]

adidas Release Limited Edition Copa Mundial Soccer Cleats [PHOTOS] is a post from World Soccer Talk.

European Weekend Rewind: Bayern shutout Mönchengladbach; Man City rally after early scare; and more

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-MOENCHENGLADBACH-BAYERN-MUNICH

By JUSTIN FERGUSON

Bayern Munich’s dominating march toward the Bundesliga title has picked up right where it left off last month.

After a month-long winter break from Bundesliga action, the defending champions of Europe and Germany traveled to third-place Borussia Mönchengladbach. Bayern handed Monchengladbach their first loss of the season at Borussia Park, prevailing by a score of 2-0 to open up a 10-point lead in the league table.

Mario Gotze got things going for Bayern in the seventh minute of the match when he drilled a pass from Thomas Muller into the corner of fellow German international Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s net. Although Mönchengladbach came close to an equalizer several times with shots that troubled Manuel Neuer and others that hit the woodwork, Bayern had a tight grip on possession while firing 13 shots on goal. Muller doubled the visitors’ lead in the 53rd minute with a penalty conversion, which was enough to send Bayern back to Munich with another shutout victory.

In England, Manchester City’s dominant run of form at Ethiad Stadium continued in FA Cup action, but their 4-2 victory against Watford was not always a sure thing on Saturday. Watford’s Fernando Forestieri and Troy Deeney combined to give the underdogs a shocking 2-0 lead, one that they maintained into halftime. But some key substitutions by manager Manuel Pellegrini helped turn the tide in favor of the Citizens, and Sergio Aguero came off the bench to net a hat trick in the final half-hour as Man City’s unbeaten home streak continued.

Here is a closer look at all the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:

ENGLAND

Arsenal kept up their good run of form by opening up the FA Cup weekend with an easy 4-0 victory against Coventry City at Emirates Stadium. The Gunners got a double in the first half-hour from Lukas Podolski, and Olivier Giroud teamed up with Santi Cazorla to double their lead just before the final whistle. Arsenal, who debuted 16-year-old Gedion Zedelem late in the second half, will have a much tougher test in the next round of the FA Cup when they face Liverpool, who defeated AFC Bournemouth 2-0 in Saturday’s early match.

Chelsea defended Stamford Bridge from Stoke City on Sunday, getting a little revenge on the Potters with a 1-0 victory to wrap up the weekend’s action. Oscar led the way for the Blues in the tight victory, curling a free kick past Asmir Begovic in the 27th minute and coming close to another goal with a shot that struck the frame of Begovic’s goal. Stoke City’s defense kept the match close all the way to the final whistle, but they only were able to get one shot on goal as the Blues advanced to the next round, where they will face fellow title contender Manchester City.

Here are the results from this weekend’s FA Cup Fourth Round action:

Arsenal 4, Coventry City 0
Nottingham Forest 0, Preston North End 0
Liverpool 2, AFC Bournemouth 0
Swansea City 2, Birmingham City 1
Cardiff City 1, Bolton Wanderers 0
Charlton Athletic 1, Huddersfield Town 0
Manchester City 4, Watford 2
Brighton & Hove Albion 3, Port Vale 1
Sheffield Wednesday 2, Rochdale 1
Southampton 2, Yeovil Town 0
Hull City 2, Southend United 0
Sunderland 1, Kidderminster Harriers 0
Wigan Athletic 2, Crystal Palace 1
Everton 4, Stevenage 0
Sheffield United 1, Fulham 1
Chelsea 1, Stoke City 0

———————–

SPAIN

Real Madrid took the La Liga lead for a few hours following their 2-0 Saturday win against Granada, but Los Blancos were knocked back down to third place Sunday after Barcelona and Atletico Madrid took care of business. After a week of off-the-field drama, Barcelona defeated Malaga 3-0 in a match that could have been by a larger margin if not for a few good saves from Willy Caballero. Gerard Pique scored just before halftime to give the defending champions a narrow lead, and Pedro and Alexis Sanchez each scored early in the second half to reinstate Barcelona’s reign atop the La Liga table.

Second-place Atletico Madrid stayed level on points with Barcelona with a 4-2 road victory at struggling Rayo Vallecano. Arda Turan doubled the lead from David Villa’s 8th-minute opener at the half-hour mark, and the Turkish international scored once more before halftime after Jonathan Viera pulled one back for the hosts. Saul Nignuez Esclapez accidentally tapped a shot from Diego Costa past his own goalkeeper in the 74th minute, making Joaquin Larrivey’s effort two minutes later nothing more than a consolation goal for Rayo.

Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:

Celta Vigo 4, Real Betis 2
Real Madrid 2, Granada 0
Real Valladolid 1, Villarreal 0
Valencia 2, Espanyol 2
Levante 3, Sevilla 2
Almeria 1, Getafe 0
Athletic Bilbao 5, Osasuna 1
Atletico Madrid 4, Rayo Vallecano 2
Barcelona 3, Malaga 0

———————–

GERMANY

After beating Monchengladbach 2-0 Friday, Bayern Munich’s good weekend continued when Freiburg stunned second-place Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 at the Mage Solar Stadion. Lars Bender and Simon Rolfes each scored in the opening 35 minutes to give Leverkusen a 2-1 lead, but Jonathan Schmid equalized for the hosts in the 53rd minute when his free kick clipped off Stefan Kiessling and past Bernd Leno. The match seemed to be destined for a hard-fought draw until the final minute of regular time, when Felix Klaus scored to move Freiburg out of the bottom three and keep Leverkusen 10 points behind Bayern.

Borussia Dortmund picked up where they left off in Bundesliga play, which was exactly what they were hoping to avoid. Dortmund blew a pair of one-goal leads in a 2-2 draw with ninth-place Augsburg at the Signal Iduna Park. Nuri Sahin put the hosts up 2-1 in the 66th minute with a fantastic free kick, but Ji Dong-Won, who will join Dortmund this summer, gave his future club a disappointing result with a header six minutes after Sahin’s strike.

Here are the results from this weekend’s Bundesliga action:

Bayern Munich 2, Borussia Monchengladbach 0
Borussia Dortmund 2, Augsburg 2
Nurnberg 4, Hoffenheim 0
Freiburg 3, Bayer Leverkusen 2
Mainz 2, Stuttgart 1
Hannover 3, Wolfsburg 1
Eintracht Frankfurt 1, Hertha Berlin 0
Werder Bremen 0, Eintracht Braunschweig 0
Schalke 3, Hamburg 0

———————–

ITALY

First-place Juventus’ long winning streak in Serie A play came to a bitter end at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday when hosts Lazio drew 1-1 with the defending champions. Antonio Candreva gave Lazio the lead in the 27th minute with a penalty conversion, and it took Juve all the way to the hour mark before they could find an equalizer from the head of Fernando Llorente. Both sides traded solid chances at a winner during the final half-hour, but the match would finish level as Juventus were denied a 13th consecutive win in their hunt for a third consecutive title.

AC Milan rebounded from a midweek loss to Udinese in Coppa Italia with a thriling 2-1 comeback victory at Cagliari on Sunday. Marco Sau put the hosts ahead just before the half-hour mark, and Milan seemed unable to break through the Cagliari defense for the longest time. But Mario Balotelli equalized for Milan in the 87th minute, setting up an 89th-minute winner for substitute striker Giampaolo Pazzini, who notched his first goal of the Serie A season off a corner from January signing Keisuke Honda.

Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:

Napoli 1, Chievo Verona 1
Lazio 1, Juventus 1
AS Roma 3, Hellas Verona 1
AC Milan 2, Cagliari 1
Inter Milan 0, Catania 0
Livorno 3, Sassuolo 1
Parma 1, Udinese 0
Sampdoria 1, Bologna 1
Torino 1, Atalanta 0
Fiorentina 3, Genoa 3

———————–

FRANCE

First-place Paris Saint-Germain avoided a second consecutive defeat in domestic play Saturday with a late 1-1 draw with Guingamp at Du Roudourou. Although PSG dominated the match with 76 percent possession, the match’s first goal did not come until the 84th minute — and it wasn’t from the Parisians. Mustapha Yatabare scored for Guingamp to give them hope of a shocking upset, but Alex saved PSG with a clutch equalizer three minutes later.

Second-place AS Monaco took advantage of PSG’s draw Sunday with a 2-0 home victory against Marseille. Even without star striker Radamel Falcao, Monaco were on the front foot from the opening whistle and grabbed a goal from Valere Germain right before halftime. Emmanuel Riviere doubled the hosts’ lead in the 57th minute, and Danijel Subasic made a few key saves to keep Marseille off the score board and move Monaco to just three points behind PSG in the Ligue 1 race.

Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:

Lille 1, Stade Rennes 1
Guingamp 1, Paris Saint-Germain 1
Ajaccio 1, Sochaux 1
Montpellier 3, Nice 1
Nantes 0, Stade de Reims 0
Toulouse vs. Bastia (POSTPONED)
Valenciennes 1, Lorient 1
Lyon 3, Evian Thonon Gaillard 0
Bordeaux 2, Saint Etienne 0
AS Monaco 2, Marseille 0

———————–

What did you think of this weekend’s European league action? Think Bayern can go through the entire Bundesliga season without a loss? Surprised with Manchester City’s comeback against Watford? Excited for the next round of the FA Cup? Which other results caught your eye?

Share your thoughts below.

Goole manager leaves club after defender is sacked for attacking fan

• David Holdsworth leaves non-league side
• Curtis Woodhouse put in charge as caretaker
Defender sacked after aiming punch at away fan

David Holdsworth has left his managerial post at Goole just days after sacked defender Karl Colley's altercation with a visiting fan.

Curtis Woodhouse, the assistant manager, has been put in caretaker charge, but the club insists Holdsworth's departure is an "unrelated subject" to the Colley incident.

Colley stormed into the supporters' section after being sent off in Saturday's Evo-Stik South game with Coalville at the Victoria Pleasure Grounds.

A video of the incident that came 19 years to the day since Eric Cantona's infamous assault on a Crystal Palace fan appears to show the defender make three attempts to fight with a visiting supporter, throwing a punch on the second charge.

Colley was sacked immediately after the match and the Football Association is looking into the incident. Coalville went on to win 3-0.

Goole reaffirmed their position to "assist in full and await the outcome of any FA and Evo-Stik League enquiry" on Monday morning in a statement which primarily announced the departure of Holdsworth.

A statement on the club's website, www.gooleafc.com, read: "Goole AFC can confirm this morning that with immediate effect manager David Holdsworth has left the club, after agreeing to stand down. The club would like to thank David for his efforts and wish him all the very best."


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Baines signs four-year Everton deal

• Left-back wanted by Manchester United signs extension
• 'It is such a specialised position it is a great boost internally'

Everton have received a significant boost before Tuesday's Merseyside derby at Anfield with Leighton Baines having signed a four-year contract.

The England left-back had been a target for Manchester United and former manager David Moyes, who had two bids rejected in the summer.

Everton have been working for the past couple of months to tie down the 29-year-old to a new deal and Roberto Martínez said: "I can give you good news, Leighton Baines has signed a new contract. It is for the next four years. To be able to secure Leighton's best years at Everton means a lot, especially in this January window where we are talking about having a strong squad going into the second half of the season."

The manager added: "We are all excited that Leighton will be able to have a long-term future with the club and we are all looking forward to the second half of the season having his experience. It is such a specialised position it is a great boost internally but I know fans will be delighted because Leighton is more than a footballer at the club.

"You look how important he is with the daily standards, the influence he has with the younger players. I am just looking what Leighton can do in the next four years in the dressing room and it is going to be as good as it gets."

Martínez said the fact they had managed to stave off interest from United and persuade Baines to stay spoke volumes. "It represents a strong intent of trying to progress and get stronger and Leighton will bring that on the football pitch. He has been performing as one of the best left-backs in European football and the best is yet to come. To have Leighton with the focus and tranquillity to be at Everton for the long term is an incredible boost."

While Everton celebrate the news over one left-back their other option in that position, Bryan Oviedo, was to have surgery on Monday after suffering a double fracture of his left leg in the FA Cup win at Stevenage.

Martínez said the Costa Rica international's World Cup remained "up in the air" but he had not ruled out the player from making an appearance in Brazil.

"Bryan is in great spirits as it has been two difficult days," Martínez said. "He has been inundated with messages of support and affection and he is a really positive guy. Today is an important day as he will go for surgery and we hope he quickly recovers.

"You are usually talking about a broad timescale of five to six months but I think Bryan will be a little less than that and if he can make it to the World Cup that will be an incredible boost. We can't say he will miss the World Cup or not, it is still up in the air."

Martínez expects the future of the defender John Heitinga to be finalised in the next 48 hours. The Holland international is keen to have more playing time in a World Cup year with Roma and Galatasaray reportedly interested in signing him.

"We will find out in the next 48 hours if he is going to stay for the rest of the season or whether we agree a deal for him to try to play minutes and try to get into the World Cup squad," Martínez said.


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