Milan, Dec 10 (AP/UNB) — Even superstars have their off days.
Juventus beat Inter Milan 1-0 but Cristiano Ronaldo had a surprisingly quiet match.
Ronaldo has scored or set up at least one goal in all but one of his previous 13 matches for Juventus in all competitions — notching up nine goals in the process.
However, he had barely a sight of goal on Friday.
"Ronaldo nevertheless worked a lot," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said.
Despite Ronaldo's less-than-impressive performance, Juventus recorded its 14th win in 15 matches, equaling the best-ever start to a campaign in the top five European leagues in the three-point era.
Paris Saint-Germain set that record of 43 points in 15 rounds earlier this season.
Juventus is on a seemingly unstoppable march to a record-extending eighth successive Serie A title. It has eight points more than Napoli and 14 more than third-placed Inter.
"Since I arrived at Juventus, we have grown a lot," Juventus winger Douglas Costa said. "We are a special squad and are very strong, often even when we don't play well ... and we don't need many opportunities to score goals."
Still, Juventus will be hoping to have Ronaldo back to his best when it travels to Switzerland to face Young Boys in the Champions League on Wednesday with the group lead on the line.
Juventus has already qualified for the last 16 of Europe's elite club competition but has only a two-point lead over Manchester United in Group H.
The 33-year-old Ronaldo has been playing and scoring regularly this season as he shows little sign of being affected — on the field at least — by a rape allegation in the United States.
Kathryn Mayorga filed a civil lawsuit in September in Nevada claiming Ronaldo raped her in his Las Vegas hotel room in 2009. Police reopened an investigation into the allegation at her request. Ronaldo has denied any wrongdoing.
Friday's loss to Juventus in Turin was the first time in 11 matches that Inter failed to score.
It wasted a couple of golden opportunities including Roberto Gagliardini hitting the post after good work from Icardi.
If the roles had been reversed, it would be a good bet on Icardi hitting the back of the net.
However, the Inter captain didn't even have a shot on goal.
"I think Mauro did what he had to do," Inter coach Luciano Spalletti said. "In fact, if we really want to talk about everything, I think he was better than other times in playing with the team.
"We often played on the break thanks to his support, creating some big chances. We had the chances to go ahead, but it becomes hard if you don't take them."
Inter can't afford to miss chances in Tuesday's Champions League match against PSV Eindhoven, where it needs to do better than Tottenham does at Barcelona in order to qualify for the knockout stages.
Creative midfielder Radja Nainggolan is again likely to be out after missing the past two matches with an ankle injury.
While it only needs a draw to advance, don't expect Napoli to play it safe at Liverpool in the Champions League on Tuesday.
"It's key to have a positive approach and to try to take the initiative — also because we don't know how to play otherwise," Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "We can't think about going there and parking the bus in front of our goal."
Napoli leads a very tight Group C with nine points, one ahead of Paris Saint-Germain, two ahead of Liverpool and five ahead of Red Star Belgrade.
Napoli, which has never won in England in six previous visits, will reach the knockout round if it avoids defeat or if it loses and PSG also loses to Red Star in the other group match.
Liverpool needs to win to have any chance of advancing.
Madrid, Dec 10 (AP/UNB) — Madrid turned into Buenos Aires for a night Sunday, with tens of thousands of Argentine fans transforming Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu into a stadium of their own.
River Plate fans were the only ones celebrating in the end, both at home and in Spain, after the historic victory over fierce rival Boca Juniors in the twice-suspended final of the Copa Libertadores.
River came from behind to beat the rival 3-1 in the second leg after extra time to win South America's equivalent of the Champions League 5-3 on aggregate.
One of the most anticipated matches in South American soccer finally came to a conclusion, nearly a month after the first leg was played in Argentina.
The final capped one of the most embarrassing chapters in South American soccer, which saw its leaders unable to stage the historic match on the continent. The second leg had to be played in the Spanish capital after it was marred by fan violence in Buenos Aires two weeks ago, when Boca players were injured before the game after River fans attacked the team bus with rocks, bottles and wood.
Soccer great Lionel Messi and FIFA President Gianni Infantino were among those at the "superclasico" at the Bernabeu, which saw the Argentine fans chanting throughout the match in a unique scene at the traditional European stadium.
It was River's fourth Copa Libertadores title, and first since 2015. Boca Juniors remained on six titles and missed a chance to tie Argentina's Independiente as the competition's most successful club.
"River was the better team throughout the entire tournament," said Matias Biscay, River's assistant coach who replaced the suspended Marcelo Gallardo. "Our team played against the toughest opponents and knew how to overcome them. And in the final against our rival we were superior in both matches."
After reaching 1-1 after 90 minutes on Sunday, River went ahead when Juan Fernando Quintero scored four minutes into the second half of extra time, and Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez added a third goal in the final minutes of the high-profile match.
Dario Benedetto had opened the scoring in normal time just before halftime for Boca, and Lucas Pratto equalized for River in the 67th.
Boca had Wilmar Barrios sent off early in extra time and then had Fernando Gago leave the field near the end because of an injury.
The first leg at Boca's La Bombonera Stadium in Buenos Aires ended 2-2.
Rival fans were separated for security reasons with more than 25,000 from each club expected at the Bernabeu, and many making the expensive trip from Argentina. Only supporters of the home team were allowed in the matches in Argentina to avoid fan violence.
It wasn't a full house, though, with 62,000 attending the match at the around 80,000-capacity stadium. There were empty sections behind both goals.
"It's difficult to talk about the fans right now," Boca Juniors coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. "We couldn't win the Copa for them. They endured a lot to come here from all different parts of the world. It was incredibly sad in the changing room. It hurts a lot for me not to win the Copa, especially because of the fans."
Quintero scored with a shot from the edge of the area after a well-coordinated attack past the Boca defense. Martinez allowed the celebrations to begin when he scored into an open net in the final seconds as Boca goalkeeper Esteban Andrada had gone to the opposite area to try to equalize on a corner.
Just seconds earlier, Leonardo Jara had a chance to score for Boca and send the match into a penalty shootout, but his shot struck the post to the desperation of the team's fans.
Benedetto had opened the scoring with a beautiful goal on a counterattack in the 43rd. After receiving a superb throughball from midfielder Nahitan Nandez, Benedetto cleared a defender and entered the area with only goalkeeper Franco Armani to beat, then calmly finished with a shot into the corner. He appeared to taunt a River player as he ran to celebrate with his teammates.
River got the equalizer after a pass from Ignacio Fernandez to Pratto, who scored with a low shot from near the penalty spot.
The Nov. 24 second leg was initially postponed for one day after the Boca team bus was attacked outside River's Monumental Stadium. South American soccer governing body CONMEBOL eventually said the game couldn't be played in Argentina because of security concerns.
The match in Madrid was played amid strict security measures. Supporters from both clubs took over the city streets throughout the weekend and had been near the Bernabeu since early Sunday.
No major incidents between fans had been reported in the city, which was picked from several bidders in part because it has one of the largest Argentine populations outside of Argentina.
Spanish authorities said a 68-year-old fan had a heart attack while going to the match and was hospitalized in critical condition.
River fans celebrated the title at the Obelisk in downtown Buenos Aires, and the ones in Madrid were expected to take the team's red-and-white colors to an iconic plaza in the capital.
With the victory, River Plate will represent South America in FIFA's Club World Cup this month.
Milan, Dec 10 (AP/UNB) — AC Milan's problems in front of goal show no signs of abating and it has been forced to admit defeat in its attempts to bring back Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Milan was held at home to a 0-0 draw by Torino in Serie A on Sunday. The Rossoneri have scored just three goals in their past four league matches, and only three of the other sides in the top 10 in Serie A have scored fewer than Milan's tally of 24 in 15 rounds.
Milan had been trying to bring back the 37-year-old Ibrahimovic on loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy. The former Sweden international scored more than 50 goals for Milan in his two seasons at the club, 2010-12.
"He gave his word to Galaxy that he would stay if they satisfied his conditions and they did so," sporting director Leonardo said. "It would have been a really lovely story because it would have given a significant weight to the team.
"We can't deny that both parties thought of it but it will not be possible."
Patrick Cutrone should have snatched the win for Milan with four minutes remaining on Sunday but he fired wide of the right post when one-on-one with Torino goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.
The 20-year-old Cutrone put his head in his hands in dismay, while other Milan players were also visibly shocked at the miss.
Milan's teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma pulled off a stunning save in the fifth minute to keep out Iago Falque's header from close range.
"I've had a really difficult year but I'm much more calm now," said Donnraumma, who has faced criticism recently following several poor performances.
Milan remained fourth, three points behind Inter Milan, which lost at league leader Juventus on Friday. Milan is a point ahead of Lazio, which drew 2-2 at home to Sampdoria on Saturday.
Torino also remained in the fight for the final Champions League place, and is four points behind Milan.
In a weekend of late comebacks, Fiorentina winger Kevin Mirallas scored his debut Serie A goal in the 96th minute to help his side rescue a 3-3 draw at Sassuolo.
All goals came after the hour mark, with Alfred Duncan and former Fiorentina forward Khouma Babacar giving Sassuolo a 2-0 lead.
Giovanni Simeone pulled one back for the visitors but Stefano Sensi restored Sassuolo's two-goal advantage 10 minutes from time with a long-range shot.
Sassuolo substitute Filip Djuricic and Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic were both sent off for two yellow cards, with Marco Benassi making the most of Fiorentina's brief spell of numerical superiority.
Cagliara and Sampdoria had scored stoppage-time equalizers in their games on Saturday and Fiorentina followed suit, with Mirallas running onto German Pezzella's throughball and firing into the far bottom corner.
It was the Belgium international's first goal for Fiorentina since signing on loan from Everton in August.
Former Italy coach Cesare Prandelli had a nightmare start to his first match in charge of Genoa.
It got better for Prandelli as his team recovered from going a man and a goal down to draw 1-1 against Spal.
Genoa hired Prandelli and fired Ivan Juric on Friday, the day after the team was knocked out of the Italian Cup by third-division club Virtus Entella.
Genoa captain Domenico Criscito was shown a straight red card in the 11th minute for his very high tackle on Pasquale Schiattarella.
Andrea Petagna immediately made the most of the numerical advantage but Krzysztof Piatek leveled from the spot after Mohamed Fares' foul on Cristian Romero.
It was the Poland forward's 11th Serie A goal of the season, moving him one clear of Cristiano Ronaldo and Ciro Immobile at the top of the goalscoring charts.
Duvan Zapata scored a hat trick as Atalanta won 3-1 at Udinese.
Udinese remained two points off the relegation zone as 18th-placed Bologna lost 2-1 at Empoli, which is only five points above the bottom three itself.
Chievo Verona remained last in the standings but managed a 1-1 draw at Parma despite playing almost 20 minutes with 10 men after midfielder Fabio Depaoli was shown a second yellow card.
Dhaka, Dec 9 (UNB) – Chattogram Abahani Limited emerged unbeaten Group B champions to reach the quarterfinals of the 13-team Walton Independence Cup Football Tournament 2018 after playing a goalless draw with Dhaka Mohammedan SC in the last group affairs at the floodlit Bangabandhu National Stadium here Sunday evening.
Rahmatganj Muslim Friends Society also booked a seat for the last eight as the Group B runners–up outplaying newcomers NoFel Sporting Club by 3-0 goals in the other Group B match at the same venue in the afternoon.
Zunapio struck twice in the 63rd and 81st minute while Rakibul netted the remaining goal in the 36th minute for the sky-blue team from the port city of Chattogram.
On completion of Group B encounters, Chattogram Abahani top the list with unbeaten record securing seven points from three matches while Rahmatganj MFS finished group runners-up collecting four points from three outings.
Traditional Dhaka Mohammedan SC made early exist from the group stage as they finished bottom in the four-team group with two points from three encounters along with NoFel SC, who bagged three points from as many matches.
In the quarterfinals, Group A champions Arambagh KS will play Brother Union on Tuesday (Dec 11), Group B champions Chattogram Abahani will face Sheikh Russel on Wednesday (Dec 12), Group C champions Dhaka Abahani will play Saif SC on Thursday (Dec 13) while Group D champions Bashundhara Kings will meet Rahmatganj MFS on Friday (Dec 14), all at 4:30 pm.
Madrid, Dec 9 (AP/UNB) — Lionel Messi capped a brilliant performance by following up a superb free-kick goal in the first half with another stunning set-piece goal in the second half.
The perfectly struck free kicks led Barcelona to a 4-0 rout of Espanyol in the Spanish league on Saturday, and allowed Messi to reach yet another career milestone — he had never scored two direct free kicks in a league game before.
"What can I say about Leo?" Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "He can break open any game. We are so lucky to have him with us and to be able to watch him play."
Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez also scored in the Catalan derby for Barcelona, which opened a three-point lead over Sevilla and Atletico Madrid. Sevilla drew 1-1 at Valencia earlier Saturday, while Atletico defeated Alaves 3-0 at home.
Fifth-placed Real Madrid visits last-place Huesca on Sunday, only a few hours before River Plate and Boca Juniors meet in the Copa Libertadores final at Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Messi was at his best at RCDE Stadium in Barcelona, getting past defenders with ease and effortlessly putting his teammates in a position to score.
But he impressed the most on free kicks.
The first came in the 17th minute from about 25 meters (yards) away. Messi curled a left-footed shot into the top corner, with the ball turning away from the outstretched arm of Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez.
"I try to follow a ritual, to repeat what worked the first time," Messi said. "Luckily both shots went in. Sometimes I try several free kicks and don't score any goals."
The second came in the 65th, with the ball a bit further back and from a slightly different angle. Messi's shot was struck just as perfectly at the first one, curling over the wall and into the top corner. This time, Lopez didn't even get close to making a save.
"We all know what Messi is capable of," Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. "He is crucial for us, taking free kicks or just playing. That's why he is the best player in the world."
Messi had also set up Dembele's goal in the 26th, sending a well-placed throughball to the French forward. Dembele got rid of a defender with a nice cut-back move before sending a high shot into the far corner.
Dembele gave the assist for Suarez's goal just before halftime, with the Uruguayan's shot from a tough angle finding the net after going through the legs of Lopez.
Oscar Duarte appeared to have scored Espanyol's lone goal in the 73rd but it was judged offside after a lengthy video review.
It was the fourth straight league loss for Espanyol, which dropped to ninth in the standings.
Barcelona has won four in a row in all competitions.
Sevilla missed a chance to stay close to Barcelona by conceding in stoppage time against Valencia.
Pablo Sarabia had given Sevilla the lead from close range in the 55th, but French defender Mouctar Diakhaby equalized for the hosts with a header two minutes into added time.
"We had kept our focus until that last play," Sarabia said. "We had it under control until then."
Sevilla was coming off another 1-1 draw at Alaves.
Valencia moved to 13th, seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Atletico Keeps Pace
Nikola Kalinic, Antoine Griezmann and Rodrigo each scored a goal in Atletico Madrid's 3-0 win against fourth-placed Alaves.
The result ended the team's run of two consecutive draws in the league.
It was the third loss in five league matches for Alaves.
Kalinic opened the scoring from close range after a right-side cross by Santiago Arias in the 25th minute at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Griezmann added to the lead on a counterattack in the 82nd and Rodrigo sealed the victory in the 87th.
Atletico defender Lucas Hernandez had to be substituted in the 36th with a right knee injury. He was replaced by Jose Maria Gimenez, who returned after missing five matches because of injury.
Celta Vigo opened a three-goal lead and then held on to a 3-2 win over Villarreal after conceding twice in the final 10 minutes.
Villarreal, which was coming off an 8-0 rout of second-division team Almeria in the Copa del Rey, stayed 17th in the standings, just outside the relegation zone.