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Sunday, February 18, 2024

European soccer information: Felix the difference-maker for Barcelona

Ah, one other weekend of soccer throughout Europe’s high leagues is upon us, which suggests jubilation, heartbreak and a little bit of schadenfreude — relying on who you help, in fact.

The weekend began within the Premier League with Arsenal getting a win that was a little bit of a blended bag, whereas Manchester United had been leapfrogged by a superior Newcastle United. In LaLiga, Toni Kroos placed on a splendid turn-back-the-clock efficiency for Actual Madrid whereas Girona — the shock No. 2 on the league desk — staged an exhilarating comeback win. The Bundesliga obtained partially snowed in and, in Serie A, Christian Pulisic scored as AC Milan tallied a cushty win.

On Sunday, Barcelona went three factors forward of Atletico Madrid in third place after profitable 1-0, Fulham suffered a dramatic 4-3 loss to Liverpool, and Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen performed out a 1-1 draw.

There’s a lot to get to, so how about we cease dilly-dallying and get to it then?

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, extra (U.S.)


The Sunday lead: Félix makes the distinction for Barça in opposition to mum or dad membership

João Félix stood on the promoting hoardings, arms stretch out. It needed to be him. The Portuguese ahead scored the one aim of the sport as Barcelona secured an important three factors in opposition to Atlético Madrid — the crew he’s on mortgage from — on the Olympic Stadium.

Something however a win would have seen Barça lose floor on joint leaders Actual Madrid and Girona, who each gained on Saturday. As an alternative, it was Atlético who fell seven factors behind the highest two, though they might transfer degree with Barça, 4 factors again, in the event that they win their sport in hand.

The buildup to Sunday’s sport had been dominated by Félix. The week had been filled with mudslinging between him and his ex-teammates following his summer season transfer to Barça. He says they’d be mendacity in the event that they did not admit they’d relatively play extra attacking soccer. They are saying he by no means discovered any consistency in Madrid. It stays to be seen what occurs on the finish of the season, when in principle he is due again at Atlético.

All that issues for now, although, is the current. He scored the one aim of the sport within the twenty eighth minute, dinking brilliantly over previous sparring companion Jan Oblak within the customer’s aim after being fed by Raphinha. There was by no means any doubt about him celebrating in opposition to his mum or dad membership. In Atlético colors, he failed to attain in 17 video games in opposition to Barça or Madrid; it took only one to internet in opposition to the Rojiblancos.

Félix’s aim was simply reward for an excellent first half from Barça. Probabilities got here and went for Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Félix earlier than the opener. There was a penalty shout for a foul on Félix as nicely, a type of maybe given elsewhere on the pitch however not right here as a result of he had obtained his shot away, Oblak making the save.

Frenkie de Jong and Ilkay Gündoğan ran sport from base of midfield, Pedri confirmed glimpses of his finest type forward of them and Jules Koundé seemed good at right-back. However with the second aim eluding them, Atlético remained within the sport. Raphinha hit the publish after the break earlier than a late push from the Diego Simeone’s aspect.

Memphis Depay, returning to his former membership, noticed his free kick beautifully tipped on to the bar by Iñaki Peña, as soon as once more changing the injured Marc-André ter Stegen. Ángel Correa then shot straight at Peña on the loss of life. In between, Lewandowski missed an opportunity to clinch the factors after an excellent solo run.

Per week in the past, Xavi Hernández was beneath stress. A win in opposition to FC Porto, reserving Barça’s place within the Champions League knockout levels, and this victory over Atlético will maintain the critics at bay. Just for per week, thoughts, as leaders Girona go to subsequent week and as Xavi says: “Every win solely buys me some peace till the following match.” — Sam Marsden

Sunday speaking factors across the leagues

Alexander-Arnold rescues Liverpool in fashion

Not many individuals would have predicted a troublesome and laborious afternoon for Liverpool at house in opposition to Fulham on Sunday. The Reds had gained their six Premier League video games at Anfield to this point this season, scoring 17 targets and conceding solely two.

Certainly, the west London aspect wouldn’t be completely different from another guests this marketing campaign. But, this proved to be Liverpool’s hardest opponent at house and it is solely by way of the sheer brilliance of Trent Alexander-Arnold that Jurgen Klopp’s males managed to make it an ideal seven with one other win. The England right-back scored the profitable aim within the 4-3 win within the 88th minute with a stunning half-volley in a midfielder function he occupied for the final 25 minutes of the sport.

In his regular right-back place earlier than that, he was a key half in every little thing good and unhealthy his crew did: he was very inventive and decisive with the ball and sloppy and poor defensively with out the ball like the remainder of the crew. Liverpool may and will have scored extra however, extra importantly, they must minimize these defensive errors in the event that they wish to problem for the title this season. They had been far too open once more and lacked management, particularly in midfield.

For now, they’ve overtaken Manchester Metropolis within the desk and that is sufficient to please their supervisor and supporters. — Julien Laurens



Michallik: Liverpool did the job, however there’s regarding points

Janusz Michallik analyses Liverpool’s efficiency of their breathtaking 4-3 comeback win vs. Fulham.

Borussia Dortmund finish Bayer Leverkusen’s profitable streak as Bundesliga conflict ends in draw

With Bayern Munich‘s sport in opposition to Union Berlin being postponed as a result of dramatic climate circumstances in southern Germany, all eyes had been on Sunday’s conflict between Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund. The hole between the 2 was 10 factors going into matchday 13 of the Bundesliga, as Leverkusen had solely dropped factors as soon as this season, once they drew with Bayern in mid-September. Since then, the Xabi Alonso-led aspect had gained eight league video games in a row.

Dortmund, regardless of some underwhelming performances this 12 months, proved to be a tricky take a look at for Leverkusen. The roles grew to become fairly clear from the opening whistle. Dortmund had been attempting to hit Leverkusen with transition assaults whereas the hosts had been decided to have management over the ball and suffocate BVB that method. Dortmund struck with their first attacking play, as Niclas Füllkrug defended the ball very nicely in opposition to Edmond Tapsoba earlier than taking part in it to Julian Ryerson who broke by way of coming from the left wing. Whereas Füllkrug has not scored many targets since his transfer from Werder Bremen in August, he typically finds himself within the Olivier Giroud function, in that he’s a helpful contributor to Dortmund’s assault by way of his capability to safe the ball and help the fast-paced gamers round him.

Following Dortmund’s aim within the fifth minute, the sport at BayArena grew to become an nearly one-sided affair, as Leverkusen made try after try and progress with the ball downfield and discover gaps in Dortmund’s defence. Whereas Alonso’s gamers as soon as once more confirmed an incredible understanding of positional play and find out how to use ball possession successfully, that they had a tough time taking part in that good remaining cross. Dortmund’s again line led by Mats Hummels, who has been in stellar type just lately, is changing into extra steady by the week. Nonetheless, in some unspecified time in the future Leverkusen needed to get by way of the bulwark and get their likelihood to attain.

The equaliser got here seconds after Alonso had introduced on Patrik Schick within the 79th minute, as Schick acquired the ball from Odilon Kossounou after which used the free house he needed to discover Victor Boniface with a phenomenal cross within the 6-yard field. Schick was type of forgotten about due to a number of accidents sidelining him for nearly a 12 months, whereas Boniface arrived throughout the summer season and took the Czech’s spot. However Alonso might bear in mind his days at Liverpool when Rafa Benítez used ahead pairings like Harry Kewell and Milan Baroš efficiently, and the present Leverkusen boss may think about using each Schick, a technical striker, and Boniface, a dynamic centre-forward, collectively.

Leverkusen at the moment are main the Bundesliga by three factors forward of Bayern, who may overtake Alonso’s crew by profitable the postponed sport in opposition to Union Berlin. In any case, what Sunday’s sport has proven is that the highest groups of the league have distinct types and might provide entertaining video games. — Constantin Eckner

Individuals Overseas: Robust loss for Robinson, Ream whereas Reyna omitted once more

Regardless of a stable efficiency from defenders Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson (the latter notched an help), Fulham suffered a dramatic 4-3 loss to Liverpool. Robinson was glorious, making 14 interceptions and profitable eight duels in addition to offering the cross for his aspect’s first aim. That is now aim contributions in 5 straight video games for membership and nation for the left-back. In the meantime, Ream captained his aspect and had a aim disallowed for offside. Fulham now sit 14th within the desk.

Elsewhere, Chris Richards obtained his first begin since September for Crystal Palace in a 1-1 draw vs. West Ham United. The 23-year-old is a defender by commerce, however was deployed in midfield for the Eagles, the place he impressed and held his personal after profitable 11 of his 13 duels. Richards will hope his efficiency earns him extra minutes and a beginning spot as Palace gear up for a jam-packed December schedule.

Within the Bundesliga, Gio Reyna was left on the bench in Dortmund’s 1-1 draw in opposition to Bayer Leverkusen. We will guess on the causes, nevertheless it’s clear that the 21-year-old may use a transfer elsewhere this January switch window because the U.S. males’s nationwide crew prepares for the 2024 Copa America.

Lastly, in Ligue 1, Folarin Balogun was taken off within the 74th minute for Monaco after registering just one shot on course. The 22-year-old has registered one aim previously eight video games and 4 in complete within the league this marketing campaign. On this run of type, he is a far shout from his glorious numbers final season when he netted 21 targets.

Sunday’s information

  • Man Metropolis’s Erling Haaland may very well be charged by the English Soccer Affiliation after criticising a controversial late determination by referee Simon Hooper throughout Manchester Metropolis’s 3-3 draw with Tottenham with a publish on X saying, “Wtf.” Metropolis had been denied a match-winning likelihood 5 minutes into stoppage time when Hooper stopped play when Jack Grealish raced onto a by way of ball by Haaland. Requested about Haaland’s response, Metropolis supervisor Pep Guardiola stated, “It is regular. His response was the identical for 10 gamers. The foundations are you can not speak with the referees or fourth officers, so we should always have had 10 gamers despatched off at present. He is a little bit bit dissatisfied.”

  • Cordoba defender Dragisa Gudelj was in good situation after collapsing within the first half of a Spanish third-division sport in opposition to Melilla on Sunday, eight months after struggling a cardiac arrest throughout one other match. Cordoba stated the 26-year-old Gudelj was doing nicely and present process exams in a hospital in Melilla. In March, the sport between Cordoba and Racing Ferrol was deserted early within the first half after Gudelj collapsed and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

  • Inter Milan thrashed defending Serie A champions Napoli 3-0 to go high of the desk, with Juventus two factors behind. Napoli now sit in fifth place after an underwhelming begin to their title protection.

And eventually …

Followers had been handled to a heartwarming picture of Bayer Leverkusen striker Boniface’s grandmother and Granit Xhaka assembly after the draw in opposition to Dortmund. Boniface scored within the 79th minute to equalize and prolonged his crew’s 20-game unbeaten streak in all competitions. Grandma Boniface was additionally seen celebrating with the followers after her grandson’s aim.

Boniface has eight targets and 5 assists in 13 league matches this season, and we’ll hope for a lot of extra if it means healthful moments like these.


The Saturday lead: Arsenal begin quick lastly, however nonetheless permit nerves in win over Wolves

There was plenty of speak round Arsenal this week about “sport states” — and that may proceed regardless of Arsenal‘s 2-1 win over Wolves on Saturday at Emirates Stadium.

Supervisor Mikel Arteta has defined an absence of fluency in among the Gunners’ play this season by a failure to attain early and to alter the state of a match of their favour, creating pressure they might in any other case keep away from. After thrashing Lens 6-0 in midweek, it appeared Arsenal had been making additional headway in bettering on their quick begins on Saturday by racing right into a 2-0 lead over Wolves after simply 13 minutes.

To underline the purpose Arteta has been making, Saturday was the primary time this season that they had scored within the opening quarter-hour of a Premier League match — and among the soccer Arsenal performed was chic. Bukayo Saka continued his influential type by forcing his method by way of the Wolves defence to attain on six minutes. An exquisite crew aim featured Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus combining for a pullback, which Martin Odegaard transformed with aplomb.

But, regardless of Wolves providing little risk, Arsenal managed to inject some jeopardy right into a sport that was lengthy there for the taking. Zinchenko misplaced the ball cheaply in his personal field, permitting Matheus Cunha to fireplace in 4 minutes from time to arrange a needlessly nervy finale. Substitute Eddie Nketiah wasted a wonderful likelihood to complete Wolves off two minutes later, hitting the publish when clear by way of.

Though no injury was performed, Arteta will know there’s nonetheless work to be performed to show Arsenal into the identical ruthless machine Manchester Metropolis have lengthy been in matches like this. That stated, the Gunners spent Saturday night time having fun with a four-point lead on the high of the desk with Luton to return in midweek. — James Olley



Olley: A transparent hole in high quality between Arsenal and Man Metropolis

ESPN’s James Olley believes the standard of squads would be the distinction between Arsenal and Manchester Metropolis this season.

Saturday speaking factors across the leagues

Kroos turns again the clock, leads injury-ridden Actual Madrid to a different win

Accidents imply that Actual Madrid are presently with out Aurélien Tchouaméni, Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modric in midfield — however so long as Toni Kroos is on the coronary heart of the crew, they do not have an excessive amount of to fret about.

Sure, the German’s legs do not get any faster at 33 — coach Carlo Ancelotti compensates for Kroos’ lack of tempo by taking part in perpetual movement machine Fede Valverde alongside him — however his pace of thought stays unmatched.

On the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, Kroos offered the second of excellent high quality in Madrid’s 2-0 LaLiga win over Granada with a contribution that showcased his capability to execute faster, and extra precisely, than simply about anyone else. Within the twenty sixth minute, Kroos met Brahim Díaz‘s cross infield with a cushioned, first-time by way of ball which cut up the Granada defence and put Diaz one-on-one with substitute goalkeeper André Ferreira.

Diaz’s end was composed and exact, however the truth that so many teammates — David Alaba, Antonio Rüdiger and Jude Bellingham amongst them — ran to congratulate Kroos first earlier than turning to have a good time with Diaz spoke volumes. This was as a lot Kroos’ aim as Diaz’s. And it was an indication of why, at any time when he can, Ancelotti nonetheless finds a spot for Kroos within the midfield.

It wasn’t simply the help. Kroos had extra touches (148) and accomplished extra passes (124 of 132 tried) than another participant on the Bernabeu pitch.

There have been notable roles too for Bellingham — who may have been dissatisfied to not rating — and Rodrygo Goes, too, who adopted up when the Englishman’s second-half shot was saved to seize his seventh aim in 5 video games.

However the star was Kroos. Let’s get pleasure from him whereas we nonetheless can. — Alex Kirkland

Manchester United’s loss to Newcastle raises a query: The place’s Varane?

Of all the problems at Manchester United in the mean time (and there are a lot) Raphaël Varane‘s disappearance from supervisor Erik ten Hag’s plans is a major one.

In opposition to Newcastle on Saturday, Varane was once more left on the bench as Ten Hag picked Harry Maguire and left-back Luke Shaw as his centre-back pairing. In midweek in opposition to Galatasaray, Victor Lindelöf was chosen forward of him and, for the reason that 3-2 defeat to the Turkish champions at Outdated Trafford on Oct. 3, Varane has began simply one in every of United’s final 11 video games.

United have leaked 34 targets in 21 matches in all competitions — together with 14 in 5 video games within the Champions League — and nonetheless the French World Cup-winner cannot get a sport.

It is doable that by January, Ten Hag may also have Lisandro Martínez and Jonny Evans match and accessible — and it would not be a shock if there was vital curiosity in Varane within the subsequent switch window. The 30-year-old has been linked with strikes to Bayern Munich and the Saudi Professional League and if different golf equipment come calling, you possibly can perceive the temptation to discover a recent begin someplace else.

Nonetheless, Maguire’s resurgence has proven that, even in essentially the most unlikely circumstances, there’s a method again for gamers beneath Ten Hag — however Varane would have each proper to be rising stressed on the bench. — Rob Dawson

Girona’s thrilling comeback the newest clue the joint LaLiga leaders are in for a particular season

One thing particular is cooking at Girona — and never simply the ginormous paella served as much as followers exterior the stadium earlier than Saturday’s thrilling late comeback win in opposition to Valencia at Montilivi.

Michel’s aspect play on the entrance foot and after going a aim right down to Valencia they didn’t abandon their ideas. They pressed and harried till the tip and obtained their reward within the remaining 10 minutes, substitute Yan Couto organising Cristhian Stuani for each of the targets.

“They transfer you round they usually play with you,” stated Valencia scorer Hugo Duro at full time. “They’re a powerful aspect. There is a cause they’re up the highest.”

The profitable aim despatched Michel racing down the touchline to have a good time along with his gamers in entrance of a 13,343 sell-out crowd. As Girona sit degree on factors with Actual Madrid on the LaLiga desk, the assumption that they will obtain one thing historic this season is rising. With 38 factors from a doable 45, it is not onerous to see why.

They as soon as once more finish the weekend as joint leaders with Actual Madrid. Subsequent Sunday? The small matter of a visit to Catalan neighbours Barcelona. — Sam Marsden

Individuals Overseas: Koleosho scores first Premier League aim; Pulisic reaches Serie A targets report for USMNT

U.S. males’s nationwide crew followers might not have heard of Luca Koleosho, however after this weekend that might change. The American-born winger scored his first Premier League aim on Saturday for Burnley‘s win over Sheffield United. It was the fourth aim in a five-goal rout, however nonetheless an enormous milestone for Koleosho.

The 19-year-old was born in Connecticut, however moved to Spain at a younger age to pursue his soccer profession, the place he ended up in Espanyol’s youth system and joined the senior crew final 12 months. He joined Burnley in the newest summer season switch window on a four-year deal.

Koleosho is eligible to signify the U.S., Canada, Nigeria and Italy. He made just a few appearances for the USMNT on the youth degree, however since then has been representing Italy, debuting for the Below-21 crew final month.

In the meantime, Christian Pulisic scored his fifth league aim for AC Milan since becoming a member of the membership this summer season, scoring the game-winner in Milan’s 3-1 over Frosinone 3-1 on Saturday in Serie A.

Pulisic stands at 5 Serie A targets in 12 appearances, matching Weston McKennie‘s 2020-21 season-haul for Juventus, which stays essentially the most any American has scored within the league in a single season. — Caitlin Murray

Information of the day

  • The draw for the 2024 version of the European Championship came about Saturday, and Spain and France have each been positioned into robust teams. All of the Euro teams, plus evaluation, are right here.

  • The format of UEFA Ladies’s Champions League will bear a significant overhaul for the group stage from the 2025-26 season whereas a second-tier competitors can be launched, UEFA introduced on Saturday. The brand new UWCL format will consist “of an 18-team league part with three house and three away matches adopted by knock-out rounds,” UEFA stated, with additional particulars concerning the new competitors forthcoming.

  • A pissed off Luis Enrique stated on Saturday that his Paris Saint-Germain crew doesn’t merely depend on striker Kylian Mbappé for targets. The supervisor was requested concerning the giant hole in aim manufacturing on the crew, however dismissed that he had any considerations: “There are plenty of gamers who’ve scored. We do not simply depend upon Kylian,” he stated, partially.



EURO 2024 draw response: You wish to be the perfect, you have to beat the perfect

ESPN’s Mark Ogden provides his rapid response to the Euro 2024 draw, with England in Group C with Denmark, Slovenia and Serbia.

And eventually …

Bayern Munich’s match in opposition to Union Berlin, scheduled for Saturday at Allianz Enviornment, needed to be postponed resulting from heavy snowfall, which additionally brought on a whole lot of flights to be canceled in Germany.

Have a look at the pictures and it is simple to see why, although a Snow Klassiker may’ve been enjoyable.

Squint carefully and you’ll see the employees on the roof of Allianz Enviornment eradicating snow. Security first! — Murray

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