Euro round-up: Real held at home by Girona as Kroos sees red

Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw by Girona at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday but the reigning champions maintained their unbeaten streak in La Liga and hold a one-point lead over Barcelona.

After a goalless first half, Real opened the scoring through Vinicius Jr in the 70th minute but their lead was cancelled out by a Cristhian Stuani penalty 10 minutes later.

Real were frustrated for more than an hour but finally made the breakthrough when their patient build-up play allowed Federico Valverde to put the ball into the six-yard box where Vinicius was on hand to tap it into the net.

Girona were handed a lifeline when Marco Asensio handled the ball in the box and the referee awarded a penalty following a VAR check, with Stuani stepping up to the spot and sending Thibaut Courtois the wrong way to level the score.

Real’s Rodrygo thought he had won the game at the death when he fought for the ball in a goalmouth scramble with Girona goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga, but the referee disallowed his goal as the keeper was in control of the ball when the Brazilian bundled it in.

Real’s match only got worse when midfielder Toni Kroos was sent off in added time after receiving a second yellow card. Girona, who are 16th in the standings, came away with a precious point as their players sank to the ground in relief.

Union score stoppage time winner to stay top

Union Berlin returned to the Bundesliga summit
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Union Berlin returned to the Bundesliga summit

Union Berlin scored a stoppage-time winner through Danilho Doekhi on Sunday to snatch a 2-1 win over visiting Borussia Monchengladbach and remain top of the Bundesliga, one point ahead of Bayern Munich.

Kevin Behrens’s powerful header levelled the score in the 79th for Union, avoiding a second consecutive loss for the club, who have surprisingly led the title race for more than a month, before Doekhi’s last-gasp winner.

Union are on 26 with Bayern on 25 points following their 6-2 win over Mainz 05 on Saturday.

Gladbach’s Nico Elvedi headed in for the lead in the 33rd minute from a Lars Stindl corner, with the visitors controlling possession in the first half.

The hosts, who lost last week to VfL Bochum, pushed forward after the break and earned the equaliser when Behrens beat keeper Tobias Sippel 11 minutes from the end.

Union then put the ball in the net again but Christopher Trimmel’s 87th-minute header was overruled by the VAR before Doekhi got the winner with the last move of the game.

Sarri laments Lazio collapse against Salernitana

Matteo Cancellieri and Boulaye Dia scuffle
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Matteo Cancellieri and Boulaye Dia scuffle

Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri said his team lost their heads in their 3-1 loss at home against Salernitana on Sunday in Serie A.

Sarri’s side went into the game with six consecutive clean sheets in the league and were only one game away from equalling the club’s record streak of seven in a row from 1998.

“We had the game completely in hand until the equaliser, which caught us unprepared. We probably assumed the game was won and that made us lose all our balance and shape,” Sarri told DAZN.

Lazio scored the first goal with Mattia Zaccagni in the 41st minute but saw the visitors score three after the break.

“The game changed after it went to 1-1, the referee did not help keep the situation calm, but we still should have had the strength to overcome all of that,” Sarri said.

Lazio ended a lousy day with midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic getting a yellow card in the 72nd minute, suspending him for the upcoming derby against AS Roma.

“Not only was it not a yellow card, it wasn’t even a foul, Milinkovic-Savic had already passed the ball, the other player was late and there was no way to avoid the collision,” Sarri said.

“In 50 years of football I have never seen this type of yellow card given for a team that is attacking and in possession. If I say what I really think, they will give me a six-month ban.”

Lazio play at Dutch side Feyenoord in the Europa League on Thursday before facing Roma away on Sunday.

“We need to get ourselves back in order and start again, beginning with the trip to Holland, then we can think about the derby after that,” Sarri said.

Lazio are fourth in the standings on 24 points, eight behind leaders Napoli. Salernitana are 10th.

CL round-up: Benfica end Juve’s hopes | PSG score seven vs Maccabi

Benfica’s Rafa Silva scored two superb goals as they edged Juventus 4-3 in a thriller at Estadio da Luz to seal a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League and end the Italian club’s chances in this years competition.

Benfica have 11 points from five games, the same as Group H leaders Paris Saint-Germain, while Juve’s three points leaves them to focus on winning a place in the Europe League, something they can secure on the final matchday when they host PSG.

Antonio Silva, 18, scored his first Benfica goal to give the home side the lead after 17 minutes, but Juventus drew level when Moise Kean bundled the ball home four minutes later.

Benfica were back in front thanks to a controversial penalty that was converted by Joao Mario before Rafa Silva appeared to make the points safe with two sublime finishes, either side of the break, that perfectly illustrated his technique and guile.

But the visitors pulled a goal back late on through Arkadiusz Milik after he was set up by 19-year-old English winger Samuel Iling, and the latter was key again in creating a chance for Weston McKennie to score Juve’s third.

That saw a tense finish on a night when Benfica looked as though they would humiliate their visitors but had to hold on as Rafa Silva missed out on a hat-trick by hitting the post.

Messi and Mbappe at the double as PSG thrash Maccabi

Paris Saint-Germain’s Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe both scored twice with Neymar also on target as the French club’s fearsome attack tore apart Maccabi Haifa in a 7-2 win to send them into the last 16 of the Champions League.

The irrepressible trio were too much for a Maccabi side to handle, although the Israelis showed great heart in the Group H clash with Abdoulaye Seck scoring twice.

Lionel Messi celebrates with Kylian Mbappe after scoring for PSG against Benfica

Messi got the ball rolling in the 19th minute with a sumptuous opening goal with the outside of his left foot and Mbappe curled in his side’s second in the 32nd.

Mbappe and Messi then combined to play in Neymar three minutes later with the Brazilian’s shot going in off the post.

Seck replied almost immediately with a header but Messi dispatched a left-footed shot inside the post just before halftime after linking with Neymar again.

Maccabi again reduced the arrears in the 50th minute with a looping header but PSG were not done and Mbappe sent another curler past goalkeeper Joshua Cohen before Neymar’s low cross was turned into his own goal by Sean Goldberg.

Messi, who was denied a ninth Champions League hat-trick by the crossbar, then set up Carlos Soler to wrap up the scoring with six minutes remaining.

RB Leipzig one step closer to knockout stages after Real win

RB Leipzig took a big step closer to the Champions League knockout stage with a 3-2 home win over Real Madrid.

The German side are second in Group F on nine points, one behind leaders Real and three ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk, whom they will face in their final group game next week in need of a draw to guarantee them a top-two spot.

With Real Madrid already having qualified for the last 16, manager Carlo Ancelotti rested several regular starters and his side were dominated early by the young Leipzig team.

RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku celebrates scoring to make it 1-0 against Celtic
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Christopher Nkunku was among the scorers for RB Leipzig

The home side took the lead 13 minutes into the game with Josko Gvardiol scoring on the rebound from a Thibaut Courtois save after a bullet header by Andre Silva.

With the champions still recovering from the first blow, Leipzig extended their lead five minutes later when David Raum tried to pass into the box but the ball deflected off a defender into the path of Christopher Nkunku, who was quick to react and rifled the ball in off the crossbar.

Vinicius Jr put Real back into the game just before the break with a header that went just inside the left post.

But a Timo Werner strike from close range to finish a quick counter-attack in the 81st minute put Leipzig 3-1 up.

After being fouled inside the area, Rodrygo scored from the penalty spot for Real’s second goal in added time.

Milan thrash Dinamo Zagreb to revive UCL hopes

AC Milan revived their hopes of reaching the Champions League last 16 with a 4-0 win at Dinamo Zagreb in Group E.

Back-to-back defeats by Chelsea in their two previous matches had left Milan with plenty to do to qualify for the knockout stages, but Matteo Gabbia’s first-half header set them on their way to a crucial victory in Croatia.

AC Milan's Rafael Leao celebrates after scoring during the Champions League group B soccer match between AC Milan and Atletico Madrid at the San Siro stadium in Milan
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Rafael Leao was on target in an emphatic win for AC Milan

Portugal forward Rafael Leao’s solo run and finish early in the second half put the game beyond the home side, before Olivier Giroud made doubly sure of the three points with a penalty just before the hour mark.

A late own goal put the seal on the second win of Milan’s European campaign that moves them up to second place on seven points. If they avoid defeat next week against third-placed Red Bull Salzburg they will reach the last 16.

Milan’s victory also means Chelsea progress to the knockout stages as group winners after their 2-1 win away to Salzburg earlier on Tuesday, while Zagreb stay bottom on four points.

Benzema would like to retire at Real

Karim Benzema has revealed that his intention is to retire as a Real Madrid, with there “no other option” for the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner. Best end with best, just like best play at best sportsbooks.

The 34-year-old France international has become the oldest recipient of a prestigious Golden Ball since Sir Stanley Matthews in 1956 after hitting 44 goals for the current holders of La Liga and Champions League titles in 2021-22. He is showing no sign of slowing down and, having previously seen a return to his roots at Lyon speculated on before a day comes to hang up his boots, has stated a desire to spend the rest of his career at Santiago Bernabeu.

Quizzed on his future plans after landing the Ballon d’Or at a glitzy ceremony in Paris, Benzema told Onda Cero: “I’m going to retire at Real Madrid, there’s no other option.”

Benzema’s current contract is set to expire in the summer of 2023, but fresh terms are being mooted. That is because he remains a talismanic figure for Real, with captaincy duties taken on having previously been charged with the task of filling Cristiano Ronaldo’s boots. He said of raising his game once the legendary Portuguese forward left Spanish football in 2018: “It was an honour to play with him, he’s a beast. The day he left, the ambition to be more entered my head.”

Real Madrid’s Benzema wins Ballon d’Or for first time | ‘I never gave up’

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has won the men’s Ballon d’Or for 2022.

The 34-year-old managed 44 goals in 46 matches last season as Real won the Champions League, another LaLiga title along with the Spanish and European Super Cups.

Benzema was crowned in a ceremony in Paris ahead of Sadio Mane in second and Kevin De Bruyne in third – with the striker becoming the first French winner of the Ballon D’Or since Zinedine Zidane – who presented him the award – in 1998.

The striker is also the oldest Ballon D’Or winner since Stanley Matthews won the first edition of the prize in 1956.

Madrid, Spain; 08.01.2022.- Real Madrid vs Valencia Football Soccer to La Liga Spain match 20 2021-2022 held at Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid. Real Madrid player Real Madrid player Karim Benzema score goal. Photo by: Juan Carlos Rojas/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
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Benzema’s goals helped Real Madrid win the Champions League last season

“It makes me really proud,” said Benzema. “All the work I did, I never gave up. It was a childhood dream like all kids [have]. I had two motivations in my life – Zidane and Ronaldo. I’ve always had this dream in my mind that anything is possible.

“There was a difficult period where I wasn’t in the French team, but I never stopped working hard nor gave up. I always kept my head, concentrated on playing football and I’m really proud of my journey here. It wasn’t easy, it was a difficult time. It was hard for my family as well. To be here today, for the first time for me, I’m happy and pleased with my work and I keep going.

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“I want to thank my team-mates, whether it’s Real Madrid or the national team. My coach, thanks to him as well. The Real Madrid president as well.

“I have a lot of people to thank. It’s an individual prize, but it’s a collective one because everyone has played a role.”

How did the Premier League stars fare?

De Bruyne was voted the highest ranked player currently playing in England, with the Manchester City midfielder finishing third.

Mohamed Salah celebrates his goal against Man City
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Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah finished in fifth place

There was no success for Cristiano Ronaldo, as he had to settle for 20th place in this year’s Ballon D’Or honours board – the lowest position the Manchester United forward has been ranked in this prize since 2005.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah was voted as the fifth-best player, ahead of PSG’s Kylian Mbappe and Champions League match-winner Vinicius Junior of Real Madrid.

Manchester City forward Erling Haaland finished in 10th place, just one place ahead of Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son and two over current club team-mate Riyad Mahrez.

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Esteban Ocon delivered the Ballon d’Or trophy in his Formula One car as the world’s best football stars walked the red carpet of the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.

Liverpool duo Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk finished in 14th and 16th place respectively, while Luis Diaz, Casemiro, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Darwin Nunez and Joao Cancelo made up the rest of the 25-man shortlist.

What about the other awards?

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 were named Club of the Year

The women’s award went to Barcelona star Alexia Putellas, who pipped runner-up Beth Mead of England to the prize after guiding the Catalan club to the Spanish title with a 100 per cent points tally.

Manchester City were named Club of the Year at the Paris ceremony after winning their fourth Premier League title in five seasons, beating runners-up Liverpool and Real Madrid to the prize.

“We haven’t won the Champions League yet, but we are proud of how we play as a team,” said De Bruyne who picked up the award for the club.

Barcelona midfielder Gavi was named the winner of the Kopa trophy, awarded to the best player under the age of 21, with England duo Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka finishing in fourth and eighth position respectively.

Jude Bellingham (left) and Bukayo Saka were nominated for the Kopa young player trophy
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Jude Bellingham (left) and Bukayo Saka were nominated for the Kopa young player trophy

Former Liverpool winger Mane was the winner of the inaugural Socrates award, a humanitarian prize, for giving back to his native Senegal.

“I’m really happy to do what I can for my people and to make everything better,” said the Bayern Munich winger.

Barcelona forward Robert Lewandowski, who like Benzema is also 34, was given the Gerd Muller award given to the best striker, after a superb season for Bayern Munich last term in which he scored 50 goals in 46 matches.

Real Madrid's goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois celebrates after the Champions League final soccer match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint Denis near Paris, Saturday, May 28, 2022. Real won 1-0. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
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Real Madrid’s goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois won the Yashin Trophy

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was given the Yashin Trophy for the best goalkeeper prize, after his man-of-the-match performance in the Champions League final, against Liverpool, won the Spanish giants the most coveted club prize in European football.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson was ranked as the second-best goalkeeper, with Manchester City’s Ederson in third.

“I want to thank my team-mates at Real Madrid. I’m really proud to win this trophy alongside the other goalkeepers who are there – and the female ones too,” said Belgian goalkeeper Courtois. “I hope the next trophy is the World Cup!”

The full men’s Ballon D’Or award rankings

1st – Karim Benzema (Real Madrid and France)

2nd – Sadio Mane (Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Senegal)

3rd – Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium)

4th – Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Poland)

5th – Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt)

6th – Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain and France)

7th – Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid and Belgium)

8th – Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid and Brazil)

9th – Luka Modric (Real Madrid and Croatia)

10th – Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City and Norway)

11th – Heung-Min Son (Tottenham and South Korea)

12th – Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City and Algeria)

13th – Sebastian Haller (Ajax, Borussia Dortmund and Ivory Coast)

Joint 14th – Fabinho (Liverpool and Brazil), Rafael Leao (AC Milan and Portugal)

16th – Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool and Netherlands)

Joint 17th – Luis Diaz (FC Porto, Liverpool, and Colombia), Casemiro (Real Madrid, Manchester United and Brazil), Dusan Vlahovic (Fiorentina, Juventus and Serbia)

20th – Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United and Portugal)

Joint 22nd – Bernardo Silva (Manchester City and Portugal), Phil Foden (Manchester City and England), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool and England)

Joint 25th – Darwin Nunez (Benfica, Liverpool and Uruguay), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig and France), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City and Portugal), Mike Maignan (AC Milan and France), Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea, Real Madrid and Germany), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich and Germany)