Euro round-up: Barca end winless streak, Juve lose again

Memphis Depay and Philippe Coutinho scored late on at Villarreal as Barcelona won 3-1 to finally end their winless streak away from home under new coach Xavi.

Prior to Saturday’s game, only three teams across the division had picked up fewer points on the road this season, after Barcelona were winless in their first five league matches away from the Nou Camp.

The long-awaited win came in Xavi’s third match in charge since replacing Ronald Koeman.

Frenkie de Jong broke through for the visitors minutes after half-time when he turned in a rebound.

But Villarreal equalised through substitute Samuel Chukwueze 15 minutes from time and were pressing for a winner themselves when Depay struck against the run of play two minutes from time.

Depay brought down a long goal kick from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, dribbled around Rulli and coolly put the ball between the legs of defender Pervis Estpuinan on the line.

Coutinho sealed the three points in stoppage time when he converted a penalty he had earned himself.

Barcelona remain in seventh place, but reduced the gap to early leaders Real Madrid to seven points.

Rayo Vallecano continued to impress as the promoted team fought back to draw 1-1 at Valencia.

Rayo, who have the league’s best home record, inched into fifth place after taking the point on the road.

Iago Aspas and Santi Mina scored as Celta Vigo won 2-1 at Alaves, while Mallorca and Getafe drew 0-0 on the Balearic Islands.

Serie A: Juventus’ misery compounded by Atalanta

Duvan Zapata has now scored nine goals in 12 Serie A games this season
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Duvan Zapata has now scored nine goals in 12 Serie A games this season

There was more misery for Juventus as they were jeered off following a 1-0 home defeat by Atalanta, four days after losing 4-0 at Chelsea in the Champions League.

Duvan Zapata scored the only goal in Turin, with a powerful effort in the 28th minute which went in off the underside of the crossbar.

Juventus almost levelled in the second half but Adrien Rabiot’s effort was denied by a fingertip save from Juan Musso.

Juventus players Federico Chiesa and Weston McKennie went off injured during the match, to cap a miserable night for the Bianconeri.

Inter Milan kept up the pressure on the top two in Serie A as the defending champions won 2-0 at Venezia.

Hakan Calhanoglu opened the scoring in the first half, before Lautaro Martinez sealed the result with a stoppage-time penalty. Third-placed Inter moved to within two points of AC Milan and Napoli. Napoli hoss Lazio on Sunday, while Milan welcomes Sassuolo to the San Siro.

Hakan Calhanoglu opened the scoring for Inter Milan at Venezia
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Hakan Calhanoglu opened the scoring for Inter Milan at Venezia

Both teams struggled to create chances in the early stages and Inter’s best opportunity came in the 30th minute when Venezia goalkeeper Sergio Romero did well to parry an Ivan Perisic header.

Inter took the lead six minutes later as Calhanoglu unleashed a powerful effort from outside the area which flew into the bottom-left corner.

Venezia almost levelled shortly after with a screamer from Mattia Aramu that Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic kept out.

Inter had several opportunities to double their lead before eventually doing so in stoppage time. Venezia left-back Ridgeciano Haps was penalised for a handball, and Martinez fired the resulting spot kick into the bottom-left corner.

Elsewhere, two late goals saw Empoli complete an extraordinary turnaround and beat Fiorentina 2-1.

Fiorentina seemed to be heading for the win after Dusan Vlahovic’s 57th-minute opener but substitute Filippo Bandinelli levelled three minutes from time, and Andrea Pinamonti netted the winner in the final minute of the game.

Sampdoria came from behind to beat Hellas Verona 3-1.

Bundesliga: Haaland scores on return from injury

Erling Haaland scored on his comeback with a second-half volley as Borussia Dortmund came from a goal down to beat VfL Wolfsburg 3-1 in the Bundesliga.

The Norwegian striker scored in the 81st minute after coming on as a second-half substitute following his recovery from a hip flexor muscle injury that had sidelined him since mid-October.

With their sixth win in the last seven league matches, Dortmund – having crashed out of the Champions League on Wednesday after a 3-1 loss to Sporting Lisbon – moved up to 30 points, one behind Bayern Munich, who beat Arminia Bielefeld later in the day.

The Bundesliga’s top two teams face each other next weekend.

Haaland was a second-half substitute for Dortmund
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Haaland was a second-half substitute for Dortmund

“A lot has happened in the past few days. But we played a good game and the result stands above everything else,” Dortmund’s Julian Brandt said.

“We are extremely happy. Now we have a good full week to prepare for Bayern and we will go into that game with a lot of confidence.”

The Wolves took a second-minute lead through Wout Weghorst, who headed in at the near post to complete a textbook break that had left the Dortmund back line exposed.

The Ruhr valley club levelled with an Emre Can penalty in the 35th minute after captain Marco Reus was brought down in the box by Wolfsburg’s Maxence Lacroix.

Donyell Malen put them in front by rifling in from a Reus pass to score for the third consecutive game in all competitions.

There was more good news for Dortmund, with Haaland making a second-half substitute appearance and looking as sharp as ever ahead of the big game against the Bavarians.

He needed only eight minutes on the pitch to bag his 10th league goal in seven appearances, volleying in from close range to become the youngest ever player to reach 50 Bundesliga goals at 21 years and 128 days.

Leroy Sane's winner was his fourth Bundesliga goal of the season
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Leroy Sane’s winner was his fourth Bundesliga goal of the season

Bayern laboured for long periods against a defensive-minded Bielefeld team, who had earned a 3-3 draw on their previous visit to Munich.

Substitute Jamal Musiala provided the key with a brilliant diagonal pass forward to Thomas Muller, who laid it off for Leroy Sane to fire in the winner from outside the penalty area in the 71st minute.

It ensured Bayern set a record of 102 Bundesliga goals in a calendar year, previously held by Cologne who plundered 101 in 1977.

Sebastian Andersson scored in injury time as Cologne beat Borussia Monchengladbach 4-1 in their Rhine derby in front of 50,000 fans.

Augsburg substitute Michael Gregoritsch scored in the seventh minute of injury time to salvage a 1-1 draw at Hertha Berlin, and extend the hosts’ winless run to four games.

Elsewhere, Hoffenheim routed bottom side Greuther Furth 6-3 away, while Bochum came from behind to beat visitors Freiburg 2-1. Milos Pantovic scored the winner from barely inside the Freiburg half.

Ligue 1: Bottom side Metz stun second-placed Nice

Bottom side Metz stunned second-placed Nice 1-0 in Ligue 1.

Nice’s second straight defeat at Allianz Riviera Stadium could see Rennes, who play on Sunday, jump above them into second place.

The hosts gave a listless performance in the first half and Metz capitalised on a lack of urgency to take the lead in the 31st minute when Fabien Centonze converted a low cross from Nicolas de Preville.

Goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja protected Metz’s lead by saving Andy Delort’s close-range header with his legs on the stroke of half-time, before pushing behind a cross-cum-shot from Pablo Rosario in the 63rd minute.

Champions Lille failed to convert a late penalty and remained in the bottom half of the Ligue 1 table when they were held to a 1-1 home draw by 10-man Nantes on Saturday.

The result left Lille stuck in 12th spot, with 18 points from 15 matches, one point behind their visitors who remained in 11th.

Jonathan David had his 80th-minute penalty saved by Alban Lafont after Fabio had given away the spot kick, and been sent off, for tugging on the shirt of Mehmet Celik.

It was an unconvincing effort from the Canadian international and proved a comfortable stop for the Nantes goalkeeper.

Lille, whose domestic form has contrasted with their Champions League exploits where they top their group with one game to play, went ahead early when veteran Burak Yilmaz crashed home a right-footed shot.

The ninth-minute goal was set up by Jonathan Bamba and suggested Lille could break a spiral of disappointing Ligue 1 form.

But, as had happened six times previously this season, they failed to hold on to their lead as Nantes equalised in the 24th minute.

Ludovic Blas shrugged off the defensive attention of both Tiago Djalo and captain Jose Fonte to squeeze his shot inside the post and make it 1-1.

Nantes might have taken the lead six minutes later but the effort of former Manchester United full-back Fabio cannoned back off the upright.

Nantes’s Pedro Chirivella missed a good chance with some 30 minutes left before Lille came back strongly to dominate the closing stages but squandered their chance to take all three points.

CL round-up: Barca with work to do to qualify

Xavi Hernandez’s first Champions League match as a coach ended in frustration as third-placed Benfica stayed two points behind Barcelona after a 0-0 draw.

Barca have advanced from their group into the knockout stages every season for almost two decades but a goalless draw at home means the Spanish club might need to beat Bayern Munich in the final round of games to advance.

If Barca fail to beat Bayern away, Benfica could overtake the Spanish club with a win at home to already-eliminated Dynamo Kyiv. If they finish tied on points, Benfica would advance courtesy of their head-to-head record.

Helping Barca is the fact that Bayern have little to play for except, maybe, the chance to knock out a historic rival, albeit one that has lost their aura following the departure of Lionel Messi and other big-name players amid financial problems.

Bayern had already qualified for the last 16 before their 2-1 win at Dynamo Kyiv and the result secured the German champions first place in the group.

Robert Lewandowski with an overhead kick and Kingsley Coman scored the goals for a threadbare Bayern squad missing nine players, with seven unavailable because either they tested positive for coronavirus or were unvaccinated and had contact with a positive case.

Meanwhile, all four teams in Group G are separated by three points and could still qualify heading into their last games after wins for Lille and Sevilla over Salzburg and Wolfsburg, respectively.

Lille moved top of their group after Canada striker Jonathan David scored his 12th goal of the season to seal a 1-0 win over Salzburg.

Sevilla jumped into third place, above Wolfsburg, with a 2-0 victory over the German team thanks to goals by Joan Jordan and Rafa Mir.

In the final round of games, Wolfsburg host Lille and Salzburg are at home to Sevilla.

Energized by a change of manager and another opportunistic finish by Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League with a game to spare on Tuesday with a 2-0 win over Villarreal.

United was led for the first time by Michael Carrick following the weekend firing of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and, just like his predecessor, the interim manager was left to be thankful for a goal by the Champions League’s record scorer.

More joy was to follow as Atalanta’s wild 3-3 draw at Young Boys meant United cannot be displaced as group leader courtesy of their superior head-to-head record against Villarreal.

Atalanta, who are a point further back, grabbed a point thanks to Luis Muriel’s 87th-minute free-kick with his first touch after coming on as a substitute.

Defending champions Chelsea, also advanced on the back of a 4-0 win over already-qualified Juventus, who slumped to their heaviest-ever loss in the Champions League. With Liverpool also qualified and Manchester City likely to join them, the Premier League will again be well represented in the knockout stage.

Pedri beats Bellingham to 2021 European Golden Boy award

Barcelona midfielder Pedri has won the 2021 European Golden Boy award, beating Borussia Dortmund and England’s Jude Bellingham into second place.

The 18-year-old claimed the prize, which is presented annually by Italian publication Tuttosport to a European-based player aged 21 or under.

Bellingham’s inclusion as part of the England squad that made the final of Euro 2020, as well as his strong performances in the Bundesliga, were not enough to see him win top spot in the vote.

AP - Jude Bellingham
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Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham came second in the vote

Pedri secured 24 of the 40 first-place votes and 318 total points, with Bellingham finishing on 119 points, following a vote by a panel of football journalists.

He joins other former high-profile winners of the award, such as Wayne Rooney (2004), Lionel Messi (2005), Sergio Aguero (2007), Paul Pogba (2013), Raheem Sterling (2014) and Kylian Mbappe (2018).

The accolade caps a whirlwind year for Pedri, who joined Barcelona from Las Palmas in 2020, before going on to be named in the Euro 2020 team of the tournament and then win a silver medal with Spain at the Tokyo Olympics.

Last month, the midfielder agreed a new long-term contract extension at the Nou Camp, with his new deal running until the summer of 2026.

Xavi: Aguero situation ‘uncertain’ amid retirement reports

Xavi has spoken out over speculation Sergio Aguero is set to retire because of heart problems, indicating the Barcelona forward’s situation remains uncertain.

Reports in Catalan media on Saturday stated Aguero, 33, is expected to call time on his playing career due to recent heart trouble.

He was taken to hospital after Barcelona’s 1-1 draw with Alaves at the end of October when he experienced chest pains and breathing difficulties during the game.

The Argentine was subsequently ruled out of action for three months following a cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) diagnosis.

Sergio Aguero
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Aguero joined Barca on a free transfer in the summer

After overseeing his first game as Barca manager, a 1-0 win over Espanyol, Xavi said: “About Kun Aguero I don’t know anything. I spoke to him the other day and what came out is not certain.

FC Barcelona's new coach Xavi Hernandez gestures during his official presentation at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona
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Xavi was recently named as Barca’s new head coach following the sacking of Ronald Koeman

“We don’t have this information. We are in touch with him and we will follow the evolution of what he had and hopefully he can keep playing football.

“This is the information I have. I don’t know where it came from [the news about Aguero’s retirement].”

Xavi’s comments came shortly after Aguero’s former Manchester City team-mate Samir Nasri claimed the striker is set to hang up his boots as a result of his ongoing health issue.

Aguero and Nasri played together for six years at Man City
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Aguero and Nasri played together for six years at Man City

Speaking to Canal+, Nasri said: “He just sent me a message and unfortunately it’s confirmed. I have a lot of trouble because besides having been the player that everyone knows, he is a very good guy. I have great pain because it is not a choice, it is forced.”

Responding to rumours earlier this month he was considering retirement, Aguero took to social media to say he was feeling “positive” and making “progress” with his health.

Sergio Aguero
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Aguero scored 260 goals in 390 games for former club Man City

He tweeted: “Amid the rumours, I’m telling you that I’m following the indications of the club’s doctors, undergoing tests and treatment and seeing my progress within 90 days. Always positive!”

Aguero, Manchester City’s record goalscorer, left the Etihad Stadium to move to the Nou Camp in the summer on a free transfer and has scored once in five appearances for the club.

A number of his former colleagues including Pep Guardiola and Raheem Sterling wished him a speedy recovery after news of his heart issue was confirmed by Barca.

Guardiola said: “We wish him well from all the people here at Manchester City, we wish him a safe recovery. The time doesn’t matter. Health and life are much more important than anything else.

“We wish him as speedy and safe recovery as possible and he comes back, if possible, to play again, otherwise to enjoy his life and what he has done, and to be careful and be safe for the rest of his life.”

On Tuesday, Argentina’s players unfurled a banner that read “We are all with you Kun” before their 0-0 draw with Brazil in World Cup Qualifying.