Atletico Madrid 3 Eibar 0: Routine win earns quarter-final lead

19 January 2017 21:13

Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Kevin Gameiro were all on target as Atletico Madrid took control of their Copa del Rey quarter-final by beating Eibar 3-0 in the first leg at the Vicente Calderon on Thursday.

Clinical Atletico dominated the match, winning their fourth home game in five to leave Eibar facing an uphill battle to qualify for the semi-finals.

After a slow start and a goal disallowed for offside, Griezmann – clearly unaffected by increasing speculation linking him with a move to Manchester United – put Atletico ahead by taking advantage of poor goalkeeping from Yoel Rodriguez to guide home a simple header.

Eibar should have prevented the second goal too, when Correa reacted first to a scramble in the box and poked home Atleti’s 500th goal in all competitions under Diego Simeone.

More slack defending enabled substitute Gameiro to head home the third goal just five minutes after replacing Correa, ensuring Atletico have one foot in the semi-finals.

Eibar look to have very little chance of progressing after the second leg at Ipurua on Wednesday having now only beaten the club from the capital once in 10 meetings.

The first shot of the game took 20 cagey minutes to arrive, with Bebe leading a break down the right to test Miguel Angel Moya with an audacious drive that may have crept inside the near post.

Atletico thought they had opened the scoring after 24 minutes, only for the offside flag to deny them after Stefan Savic flicked Koke’s free-kick in off the post.

But Simeone’s men took the lead four minutes later, with Yoel clearly at fault.

Jose Maria Gimenez beat the out-of-position Eibar goalkeeper to another Koke set-piece and Griezmann diverted a header from the second ball into the unguarded net for his fourth goal of 2017.

Moya saved another speculative Bebe strike after 51 minutes as both sides struggled to create clear chances in a tight match, but Atletico then took control of the tie with another goal.

Yannick Carrasco raced clear through the left channel and cut inside before having a shot saved by Yoel. Eibar missed multiple chances to clear the rebound and Correa punished them by tucking the ball away.

Poor marking from the visitors then allowed Atletico to score an easy third with just their third shot on target after 68 minutes, Griezmann heading across goal for Gameiro to nod in at the back post.

Eibar were unable to grab a goal to improve their hopes of qualifying in the closing minutes. Imanol Sarriegui wasted their best chance by shooting wide with six minutes to go, with Atletico near-certain to book their place in the last four next week.

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Replacing Robben and Ribery not easy

19 January 2017 15:15

Former Bayern Munich coach Ottmar Hitzfeld believes the Bundesliga champions face a tough task to replace Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

Robben and Ribery this season agreed new deals to keep them at the club until June 2018, but Bayern are slowly preparing for life after the illustrious duo, both now in their thirties.

Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman are expected to become Bayern’s first choice wingers in the long term, but Hitzfeld feels the more experienced pair remain in a league of their own.

“Bayern are already preparing for the future, but Robben and Ribery are guaranteed starters when they are fit,” Hitzfeld told TZ.

“You cannot replace players like them from one day to the other. They are not only top players, but are also on another level.

“So the strategy should be to slowly build up the players behind them. Players like Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman are already playing regularly. They will have to step it up a notch.

“They were brought in to grow at Bayern. But you cannot expect them to just be at the same level as Robben and Ribery right away.

“Both are world-class attackers. They always have a solution on the pitch and their desire to keep going is impressive.

“Talent alone is not enough to become a world-class player. Bayern should be proud to have them on their books.”

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No danger of Messi leaving Barcelona, says father

19 January 2017 09:30

Lionel Messi’s father and agent says there is “no danger” of him leaving Barcelona despite continued speculation over his future.

The Argentina star’s contract expires at the end of next season and conflicting reports over a lack of talks with the club about a renewal have cast doubt over whether he will stay at Camp Nou.

Messi was quoted as telling Coach magazine that he would stay at Barca for “as long as they want me”, only for the publication to remove the interview after the 29-year-old’s management team claimed that it had never taken place.

The incident took place only a week after Pere Gratacos was removed from his position as director of institutional relations at Barca, following comments in which he suggested that Messi would not be as effective without certain team-mates.

But despite the persistent uncertainty, Jorge Messi has made it clear that a transfer is not on the cards.

“There is no danger that Messi will leave Barcelona,” he told Cadena SER.

Messi has registered 27 goals and nine assists in just 24 games in an impressive season with the Spanish champions.

Barca travel to Eibar on Sunday in their next LaLiga match, looking to put pressure on leaders Real Madrid.

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Cafu: Resurgent Brazil can challenge world´s best

19 January 2017 02:45

Brazil great Cafu believes the South American giants have shown they are again capable of competing with the world’s best.

Tite’s team are flying high in World Cup qualifying, topping the CONMEBOL standings by four points after winning eight of 12 matches.

It comes after a difficult period under Dunga, with Brazil knocked out in the Copa America Centenario group stage after reaching the quarter-finals a year earlier.

Cafu, a two-time World Cup winner, said Brazil’s recovery under Tite had been strong.

“The Brazilian team is totally able to fight, in an equal base, for a place, with any other national squad,” he told Omnisport.

“We’ve come from difficult times with Dunga.

“After that, we managed to bring the real soccer, through Tite, with great achievements.”

Brazil resume their qualifying campaign with matches against Uruguay and Paraguay in March.

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