Vinicius Junior responds in style as Real beat Atletico in Copa del Rey

Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior scored in extra-time as Real Madrid fought back to beat local rivals Atletico 3-1 on Thursday and reach the Copa del Rey semi-finals.

On a freezing night at a sold-out Santiago Bernabeu hosting its first game for 77 days due to the World Cup break, Real started slowly and Atletico had many dangerous counter-attacks.

Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata, right, celebrates with teammate Antoine Griezmann after scoring the opening goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey quarter final soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
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Atletico Madrid took the lead against their rivals

Atletico captain Koke delivered a brilliant through ball to Nahuel Molina who ghosting in behind Reals defence and the full back set up Alvaro Morata, a former Real academy player, to tap the ball into an empty net in the 19th minute.

Eder Militao wasted a golden chance to equalise in the 32nd minute after Toni Kroos had delivered a perfect cross.

Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring
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Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring the opener

It was not only until Dani Ceballos came off the bench to replace the injured Ferland Mendy late in the first half that Real started to play better.

The 26-year-old midfielder injected a new dynamic into the team who were far more aggressive after the break.

Benzema wasted two good opportunities and Federico Valverde also sent a shot wide from just outside the box.

Real Madrid's Rodrygo celebrates with team-mates
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Real Madrid’s Rodrygo celebrates with team-mates

Substitute Rodrygo equalised in the 79th with a delightful goal, dribbling past three defenders before finishing well.

With Real Madrid in full control, Atletico played most of extra time with 10 men after defender Stefan Savic was shown his second yellow card for chopping down Eduardo Camavinga in the 99th minute.

Five minutes later, Real substitute Marco Asensio sent a low cross into the box and Vinicius’s deflected shot reached Benzema who unleashed an unstoppable strike into the net.

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey quarter final soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
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Karim Benzema’s goal made it 2-1 in extra time

Vinicius secured Real’s win in the dying seconds with a brilliant individual goal, running half the length of the pitch before scoring with a low shot.

“We got behind very early and after Mendy’s injury the whole team had to be rebuilt. But we woke up and played really well after the break,” Ceballos told TVE.

“They played better in the first half, but the coach corrected things in the second; we took control of the ball and found the goal. Then, after the red card, everything was easier.”

Real Madrid joined Barcelona, Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao in the semi-finals.

Atletico condemn ‘repugnant’ Vinicius effigy before Madrid derby

An effigy of Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior was hung from a motorway bridge hours before the team’s match against Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey.

The perpetrators used a black figure with Vinicius Junior’s name on it, tied a rope around its neck and hung it from an overpass in Madrid along with a banner with the words “Madrid hates Real”.

The banner and the figure were apparently attached to the bridge while it was still dark early on Thursday morning.

Vinicius has been subjected to racist taunts more than once in Spain.

The Brazil forward has complained on social media about being targeted by racists since he came to play in Europe.

The message on the banner is often used by one of Atletico Madrid’s ultra fans groups, though it denied being responsible for the display.

“These are repugnant and inadmissible acts that shame society,” Atletico said in a statement.

“Our condemnation of any act that attacks the dignity of persons or institutions is categorical and unreserved,” the club said.

“The rivalry between the two clubs is the greatest, but so is respect. No individual, whatever their intentions or colours, can tarnish the co-existence between different supporters. It is everyone’s responsibility to avoid this.”

Real Madrid thanked others for the messages of support it received after the “lamentable and repugnant act of racism, xenophobia and hatred against our player Vinicius”.

“Attacks such as those suffered by our player, or those suffered by any sportsperson, have no place in a society such as ours,” Real Madrid said.

Vinicius Jr celebrates after scoring Real Madrid's fourth goal vs Celtic
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Vinicius has lost just one of nine games against Atletico, scoring three times

The Spanish league said it “strongly condemns acts of hatred and intimidation” made against Vinicius.

It said it would ask authorities to investigate and seek convictions with “the most severe sentences” for those responsible.

“Intolerance and violence have no place in our sport,” the league said in a statement.

The Spanish football federation condemned the “intolerable act” and offered a message of support to Vinicius following the “direct threat by radical groups”.

“These types of manifestations, charged with hatred, only encourage violence and have no place in our sport. Soccer must be lived with passion, but always respecting the players, the opponent and the fans,” the federation said.

“This type of vandalism is unacceptable.”

Atletico had already condemned its fans when a large group of them shouted racist chants before Madrid’s 2-1 win in the city derby last year at the Metropolitano Stadium.

Spanish state prosecutors closed a probe into that case, citing a lack of sufficient evidence to identify potential perpetrators of the hate crime.

The Spanish league this month filed criminal complaints against Valladolid fans who aimed racist insults against Vinicius, and he was also targeted by a fan who racially insulted him after a “clasico” against Barcelona in 2021.

The Copa del Rey derby had been engulfed in controversy following a report that Madrid would prohibit Atletico fans from wearing team jerseys at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, something that Madrid later denied.

How much of a racism problem does Spain have?

Sky Sports’ European expert Andy Brassell:

“It’s a huge problem but I think what we’re talking about here is an Atletico Madrid problem. Frente Atletico – the main ultras group for the club – have had a very racist element to them for a very long time.

“It’s something that, if we’re honest, the club hasn’t dealt with. They’ve let them get away with it and they’ve let them fester. They’ve come out with strong words after the Madrid derby where Vinicius was racially abused for all of Europe and the world to see.

“They’ve now come out with a strong statement after this but it doesn’t really say what action they’re going to take. We need to see action as the statement is meaningless unless they follow it up.

“Frente Atletico need to have their privileges taken away. The problem they have with Vinicius is that he scored and celebrated in front of them – and because he is black.”

Liverpool jump above Man Utd in Money League as Man City stay top

Liverpool have climbed four places to third in the Deloitte Football Money League for 2021/22, putting them above Manchester United for the first time in the publication’s 26-year history.

Manchester City retain their place at the top of the Money League, which ranks the 20 highest revenue-generating clubs in world football, with Real Madrid (2nd), Manchester United (4th) and Paris Saint-Germain (5th) making up the rest of the top five.

Liverpool are the biggest movers in this year’s edition thanks to a revenue increase of almost 22 per cent, from £487.4m in 2020/21 to £594.3m in 2021/22.

Deloitte put Liverpool’s rise down to additional broadcast revenue generated by their run to the 2022 Champions League final and a particularly significant increase in matchday revenue.

Transfer fees not included

The Deloitte Football Money League factors revenue from matchday, broadcast and commercial sources and excludes player transfer fees.

This year’s Money League highlights the financial might of the Premier League, with Premier League clubs making up more than half of the 20 included, including two new entries in Leeds United (18th) and Newcastle United (20th).

Arsenal (10th) become the first new club to enter the Money League’s top 10 since 2018/19, rising from 11th thanks to a revenue increase of 13 per cent from £324.5m to £367.1m, but they remain behind Chelsea (8th), who made £481.3m and Tottenham (9th) whose total of £442.8m represents a huge 23 per cent increase on 2020/21.

West Ham (15th) are the next-highest Premier League club, their year-on-year revenue increase of 30 per cent, from £196.1m in 2020/21 to £255.1m in 2021/22, the largest of any club in the Money League.

The Money League’s new Premier League representatives, Leeds and Newcastle, meanwhile, climb into the top 20 having generated revenues of £189.2m and £179.8m respectively in 2021/22.

Leicester City (17th) and Everton (19th) are the only Premier League clubs in the Money League whose revenues have fallen, by roughly six per cent each, to £213.6m and £181m respectively, seeing them drop two places in Leicester’s case and one place in Everton’s.

The picture was less bright for clubs from Europe’s other major leagues.

Bayern Munich (6th) and Barcelona’s (7th) revenues rose slightly, by two per cent and five per cent respectively, to £553.5m and £540.5m, but that modest growth saw them drop three places each in the Money League.

Atletico Madrid (12th) and AC Milan (16th) fared better, revenue increases of 13 per cent and 17 per cent, to £333.6m and £224.4m, seeing them climb a place each, but Juventus (11th) and Inter Milan’s (14th) revenues dropped by roughly 12 and 11 per cent, while Borussia Dortmund’s (13th) only increased fractionally.

Premier League dominance explained

“For the first time, Premier League clubs fill the lion’s share of positions in Deloitte’s Football Money League,” said Tim Bridge, lead partner in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.

“The question now is whether other leagues can close the gap, likely by driving the value of future international media rights, or if the Premier League will be virtually untouchable, in revenue terms.

Manchester City's Phil Foden, left, celebrates with Manchester City's Erling Haaland after scores a disallowed goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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Manchester City’s Phil Foden celebrates with Erling Haaland against Liverpool

“The Premier League was the only one of the big five European leagues to experience an increase in its media rights value during its most recent rights sale process.

“It continues to appeal to millions of global followers and its member clubs have a greater revenue advantage over international rivals.

“Commercial partner, fan and investor interest in the Premier League appears higher than ever before. While this suggests optimism for further growth, continued calls for greater distribution of the financial wealth of English clubs across the football system and the impact of a cost-of-living crisis makes it all the more important for the game’s stakeholders to keep a clear focus on their responsibility as stewards of leading clubs.”

Sam Boor, director in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, added: “The Premier League’s financial superiority is unlikely to be challenged in the coming seasons.

“This is particularly apparent at a time when these clubs continue to attract international investment which often, in the best examples, encourages a focus on profitability, as well as on-pitch success.”

Man Utd second among women’s teams

Manchester United players celebrate Maya Le Tissier's goal
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Manchester United’s women’s team ranks second for revenue generated

For the first time, the Money League also reported revenues generated from the women’s teams of the Money League clubs.

Manchester United ranked second behind Barcelona, their women’s side generating £5.1m, followed by Manchester City (£4.3m), Paris Saint-Germain (£3m), Arsenal (£1.9m) and Tottenham (£1.8m).

Bridge added: “The women’s professional game is still near the start of its journey and revenues reported by top clubs at this early stage hint at the significant value women’s sides will generate in future seasons.

“Coupled with long-term and growth-focused decision making, we expect that the development of industry data analysing women’s sport will also support success in the women’s game.

“This will enable clubs and leagues to clearly demonstrate the value of their women’s sides and the fanbase that they’re attracting.”

Barcelona beat Real Madrid to lift Super Cup | Atleti held by Almeria

Barcelona were crowned Spanish Super Cup champions after goals from Gavi, Robert Lewandowski and Pedri earned them a 3-1 win over bitter rivals Real Madrid in Saudi Arabia.

Barcelona were dominant in every aspect of the game and took advantage of three mistakes by Real Madrid to score.

They took the lead in the 33rd minute after Real defender Antonio Rudiger passed across his own area to Barca’s Sergio Busquets, who began a move that ended with Gavi all alone inside the box to score with a precise left-foot strike.

Lewandowski extended the lead 12 minutes later on the counter when Frenkie de Jong found Gavi, who ghosted in behind Real’s defensive line. He sprinted through the left channel before putting it on a plate for the Polish striker, who tapped into the back of the empty net.

Real Madrid, who had no shots on target in the first half, spent most of the second in panic mode, trying to avoid a bigger defeat.

Yet, once again a costly mistake allowed Barcelona to score. Substitute Dani Ceballos lost the ball in midfield and Gavi sprinted forward and crossed for Pedri to fire point-black into the empty net.

Karim Benzema scored a consolation goal for Real in added time, striking home on the rebound after Marc-Andre ter Stegen denied his first attempt.

Earlier on Sunday, Atletico Madrid were held to a 1-1 LaLiga draw by Almeria in another disappointing showing for Diego Simeone’s team.

Atletico started well and Angel Correa gave them the lead in the 18th minute before Almeria equalised with a delightful diving header by El Bilal Toure from a long cross by Lucas Robertone.

Atletico played with 10 men for the last few minutes after substitute Reguilon was shown a second yellow card for raising his forearm to an opponent’s face in an aerial challenge.

Atletico, who have won only one of their last six LaLiga games, are fourth in the standings on 28 points, level with Villarreal and Real Betis. They are now 13 points adrift of leaders Barcelona, who have a game in hand.

European round-up: Messi scores on PSG return | Real win in Super Cup

Lionel Messi celebrated his return to competition after the World Cup by scoring a second-half goal as Paris St Germain extended their Ligue 1 lead to six points with a 2-0 home win against Angers on Wednesday.

Messi, who won the World Cup with Argentina, received a warm welcome from the Parc des Princes crowd and netted from close range in the 72nd minute to add to Hugo Ekitike’s first-half opener, putting PSG on 47 points from 18 games.

RC Lens stayed second but dropped two points in a 2-2 draw at strugglers Racing Strasbourg with all the goals being scored before the break.

Messi celebrates with Neymar after scoring
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Messi celebrates with Neymar after scoring

Third-placed Olympique de Marseille are now two points adrift of Lens on 39 points after a 2-0 win over Troyes.

Thibaut Courtois saved Jose Gaya’s poorly-struck spot kick to give Real Madrid a 4-3 penalty shootout win over Valencia after the teams had finished level at 1-1 after extra-time in their Spanish Super Cup semi-final in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema celebrates his goal
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Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema celebrates his goal

Karim Benzema gave holders Real Madrid the lead from the spot in the first half after he was fouled inside the area by Eray Comert but Valencia came back into the game and deservedly equalised through a Samuel Lino volley from a Toni Lato cross straight after half-time.

Vinicius Jr could have won it for Real Madrid in extra-time but his close-range shot was saved by Giorgi Mamardashvili.

Real Madrid will face the winner of Thursday’s semi-final between Real Betis and Barcelona in the final in Riyadh on Sunday.