Euro round-up: Atletico stunned by Granada, Napoli shocked

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone faced increased pressure after the La Liga champions slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat by Granada on Wednesday.

With Atletico having lost four successive league matches for the first time since Simeone took charge in 2011, the Argentinian’s role has come under scrutiny from club supporters and Spanish media.

It took less than two minutes for Joao Felix to fire Atletico ahead with a perfect low shot from the edge of the box, with the goal demonstrating why the fans had been urging Simeone to play the Portuguese striker from the start more often.

But Granada equalised 15 minutes later with a stupendous long shot from Darwin Machis.

Felix desperately tried to score a second goal but he was frustrated by an equally determined Granada, who found the winner midway through the second half thanks to Jorge Molina.

Granada survived a frenzied final 20 minutes during which Atletico desperately tried to score an equaliser without success. It was Granada’s first win against Atletico since 1973, ending a 25-game winless streak.

Simeone’s judgment is being questioned as Atletico’s usually rock-solid defence has now leaked in 22 goals in 18 games this season, with the champions keeping only five clean sheets in La Liga during that time. In contrast, they had conceded only eight goals at the same stage last season.

Atletico sit fifth in the standings with 29 points after 18 games, 17 points behind Real Madrid.

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal Athletic Bilbao
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Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal Athletic Bilbao

Karim Benzema scored two goals in the opening seven minutes to send leaders Real Madrid eight points clear at the top of La Liga with a 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao.

Real, who were missing eight players due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the club, stretched their unbeaten run to 15 matches in all competitions.

Benzema broke the 400-goal mark in his professional career with a stunning strike from just outside the box in the fourth minute before adding another just three minutes later when an Athletic defender missed a clearance.

Oihan Sancet stopped Real’s momentum with a sensational goal in the 10th minute. The hosts put up a fight but Real held on to secure all three points.

Serie A – Napoli stunned by Spezia

Spezia celebrate after Juan Jesus' own goal saw them ahead against Napoli
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Spezia celebrate after Juan Jesus’ own goal saw them ahead against Napoli

Third-place Napoli dropped seven points behind Serie A leaders Inter after losing 1-0 at home to relegation-threatened Spezia, who benefited from an own-goal from Napoli defender Juan Jesus.

Napoli were missing captain Lorenzo Insigne, who tested positive for Covid-19, while Spezia did not produce a single shot on goal.

Inter Milan concluded the year with a 1-0 win over Torino to remain top of the league heading into the winter break

Denzel Dumfries scored from the edge of the area, finishing a counter-attack after taking a backheel pass from Edin Dzeko during the first half at the San Siro. It was the third goal in four matches for the Netherlands right-back.

AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie played a starring role by scoring twice in a 4-2 win over Empoli, leaving the Rossoneri second in Serie A at the midway stage of the season.

The Ivory Coast international was deployed in a more advanced attacking midfield position, and excelled in the role by striking twice before half-time, either side of Nedim Bajrami’s goal for Empoli.

Franck Kessie was the star for AC Milan as they beat Empoli
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Franck Kessie was the star for AC Milan as they beat Empoli

An Alessandro Florenzi free-kick and a Theo Hernandez goal extended the visitors’ lead, before Andrea Pinamonti pulled one back for the hosts from the penalty spot.

Manolo Gabbiadini scored 10 minutes from time to secure a 1-1 draw for Sampdoria at Roma.

Eldor Shomurodov had put Roma ahead eight minutes earlier. Gabbiadini then scored from close range following a corner.

Roma are level on points with seventh-place Fiorentina, who drew 1-1 at Hellas Verona. Gaetano Castrovilli equalised for the Viola with a diving header following an opener from Kevin Lasagna.

Lazio won 3-1 at Venezia despite missing striker Ciro Immobile, who has coronavirus. Pedro, Francesco Acerbi and Luis Alberto scored for the Roman club.

Also, Bologna won 3-0 at Sassuolo with goals from Riccardo Orsolini, Aaron Hickey and Federico Santander. It was the fourth goal this season for Scottish midfielder Hickey.

Ligue 1 – Ramos sent off as PSG salvage draw

Sergio Ramos was sent off for PSG
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Sergio Ramos was sent off for PSG

Mauro Icardi’s stoppage-time strike helped 10-man Paris Saint-Germain salvage a fortunate 1-1 draw at lowly Lorient in a dismal performance.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who had Sergio Ramos sent off, have 46 points from 19 games with Nice in second place 13 points behind after a 2-1 comeback win at home against RC Lens.

Third-placed Marseille, who have a game in hand, trail Nice on goal difference after being caught cold at the Velodrome in a 1-1 draw against Reims, Dimitri Payet salvaging a point with a penalty eight minutes into injury-time.

Rennes are fourth on 31 points after a 2-1 defeat at Monaco.

Elsewhere, Montpellier consolidated their fifth place with a convincing 4-1 home victory against mid-table Angers and champions Lille moved up to eighth when Jonathan David’s late goal gave them a 3-2 victory at Bordeaux.

The game between Clermont and Racing Strasbourg was postponed because of foggy conditions.

Euro: Muller, Lewandowski milestones in Bayern win

Bayern Munich’s Thomas Mueller celebrated his 400th Bundesliga appearance with a goal and an assist as the champions crushed Wolfsburg 4-0 on Friday to go into the winter break with a nine-point lead at the top of the standings.

Top scorer Robert Lewandowski also broke the record for most league goals in a calendar year three minutes from the end, volleying in his 43rd for 2021 to better Gerd Mueller’s 42-goal run from 1972.

Mueller opened the scoring, tapping in on the rebound in the seventh minute after ‘keeper Koen Casteels had palmed a Serge Gnabry shot into his path.

He then set up Dayot Upamecano with a clever chip to head in their second goal in the 57th minute, before Leroy Sane curled a superb shot into the top far corner two minutes later to put the game to bed.

Robert Lewandowski celebrates with Jamal Musiala after scoring Bayern Munich's fourth goal
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Robert Lewandowski celebrates with Jamal Musiala after scoring Bayern Munich’s fourth goal

Lewandowski was desperate to end the year on a high after missing out on the Ballon d’Or to Lionel Messi, but first fired over the bar in the 66th minute and was then denied at point-blank range by Casteels with a superb piece of goalkeeping.

But he did not miss from close range in the 87th minute to hand toothless Wolfsburg their fourth consecutive league loss and their seventh straight defeat in all competitions.

Bayern Munich celebrate after Dayot Upamecano's goal
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Bayern Munich celebrate after Dayot Upamecano’s goal

Bayern – chasing a record-extending 10th straight league crown – are on 43 points, with Borussia Dortmund, in second place on 34 points, travelling to Hertha Berlin on Saturday.

The Bundesliga will break for three weeks and then resume on January 7.

Serie A – Inter thrash Salernitana

Ivan Perisic scored early on for Inter Milan
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Ivan Perisic scored early on for Inter Milan

Inter Milan notched a sixth consecutive Serie A victory by thrashing bottom side Salernitana 5-0 to stretch their lead at the top of the standings to four points.

Ivan Perisic headed in the opener before Denzel Dumfries smashed in a second before the break, marking the first time in Inter’s history that they have reached 100 Serie A goals in a single calendar year.

Alexis Sanchez fired in a third before substitutes Lautaro Martinez and Roberto Gagliardini completed the rout to leave the hosts bottom of the table with eight points.

Inter are top with 43 points, four clear of AC Milan in second, who play Napoli on Sunday evening.

Elsewere, Lazio beat Genoa 3-1 with goals from Pedro, Francesco Acerbi and Mattia Zaccagni.

La Liga – Aspas return to guide Celta to victory

Santi Mina scored inside three minutes for Celta Vigo
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Santi Mina scored inside three minutes for Celta Vigo

Back after missing two matches, Iago Aspas scored and played a part in two more goals to lead Celta Vigo to a 3-1 win over Espanyol.

The veteran striker, who missed one game because of suspension and another because of injury, set up Santi Mina to open the scoring three minutes after kick-off.

Aspas doubled the advantage two minutes after half-time when he curled a shot around two defenders and goalkeeper Diego Lopez before the ball went in off the post. It was Aspas’ eighth goal of the season.

Substitute Denis Surez added a third in the 82nd minute after Aspas started a counter-attack before playing the ball wide for Hugo Mallo to assist Suarez.

Loren Moron lobbed in Espanyol’s only goal with an audacious strike from near the centre line in stoppage time that caught goalkeeper Matias Dituro out of position.

Eriksen ‘optimistic’ about resuming career

Christian Eriksen is “optimistic” about resuming his football career and clubs have already been in contact, his agent has told Sky Sports News.

Martin Schoots says the midfielder has been working hard to return to playing after suffering a cardiac arrest playing for Denmark at Euro 2020, and the “future is bright”.

But it is still too early to determine Eriksen’s next move after his contract with Inter Milan was terminated by mutual consent this week, because he cannot play in Serie A with an implanted defibrillator device under Italian law.

His long-term representative Schoots told Sky Sports News: “Christian is doing really fine. We’re hopeful he can get back in professional football. There is no reason not to be optimistic.

Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest in Denmark's opening Euro 2020 game versus Finland
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Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest in Denmark’s opening Euro 2020 game versus Finland

“He is working really hard, and I’m glad that he was able to do that during the last few months in silence.

“We had so many requests for interviews, documentaries – all kinds of initiatives – especially from the UK. He is still so popular in Britain and not only with Spurs fans, not only for his fantastic football skills, but also for his social and humble personality.

“It’s still amazing to read in the English press and fan websites that Spurs are looking for what is called ‘Eriksen’s replacement’ two years after he has left. People probably are not aware of it, but implicitly that’s such an incredible compliment.

“You hardly could blame Spurs that they struggle to find a player who has the qualities to become the League’s top assist-maker, helping them to reach three Champions League qualifications in a row and the Champions League final. There are simply not too many of those players, and there is always competition with other clubs to sign them.

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Former England captain Martin Johnson, who is a patron of the Joe Humphries Memorial Trust, says everyone should learn CPR and be aware of the risk of sudden cardiac arrests

“It’s too early to say where Christian’s future lies. Because of special regulations in Italy, which have already existed for decades, the only thing we know for sure is that it will not be in Italy. And it will not be in another continent either, because of family reasons.

“A few clubs have already contacted us some weeks ago. We have to see what the future brings. But it seems bright and that is the most important thing.”

Inter agree to terminate Eriksen contract

Inter Milan have terminated midfielder Christian Eriksen’s contract after the Denmark international was suspended from playing due to having a cardiac device fitted.

Eriksen, 29, has not played since suffering a cardiac arrest during Denmark’s opening game of the European Championship against Finland in June and receiving life-saving treatment on the pitch.

The 29-year-old is prohibited from playing in Italy with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator due to local health regulations. But he could continue his career in another country where the rules are different.

“The club and the entire Nerazzurri family wish Christian all the very best for his future,” Inter said in a statement.

“Although Inter and Christian are now parting ways, the bond shall never be broken. The good times, the goals, the victories, those Scudetto celebrations with fans outside San Siro – all this will remain forever in Nerazzurri history.”

Eriksen has not played since his cardiac arrest on the pitch during Denmark’s opening match at the European Championship against Finland on June 12.

His team-mates formed a protective wall around him as medical workers resuscitated him with a defibrillator. Eriksen spent a week in the hospital, where he had a type of pacemaker fitted.

Eriksen joined Inter in January 2020 from Tottenham and his contract was due to expire in 2024. The midfielder played 60 matches for Inter, helping the club win Serie A last season, and scored eight goals.

Eriksen recently resumed training in Denmark at Odense Boldklub, the club where he started his career.

CL re-draw pits Man Utd against Atletico after initial error

A re-draw for the Champions League last 16 has pitted Manchester United against Atletico Madrid after Ralf Rangnick’s side had initially been drawn to face Paris Saint-Germain.

A surprise turn of events saw the initial last-16 draw declared void after what UEFA called a “technical error” involving Atletico Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester United.

The re-draw took place three hours later, and Liverpool now face Serie A champions Inter Milan, Chelsea drew Ligue 1 winners Lille – having done so in the first draw as well – while Manchester City will take on Sporting Lisbon.

United looked to have been offered the biggest reprieve after drawing PSG in the initial draw, but a meeting with Atletico in European competition since 1991 will still provide a stern test.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid will perhaps feel the most aggrieved by the error – they were drawn against Benfica in the morning but will now face PSG instead.

Elsewhere, Liverpool’s reward for becoming the first English side to win all six Champions League group games is a tie with Inter, who won Serie A last season and currently top the table after 17 games.

It was a case of deja vu for defending champions Chelsea, who were drawn against Lille in both the original and rescheduled draw.

City, last season’s losing finalists, face Sporting for the first time since the two sides met in the Europa League nine years ago.

Champions League last-16 draw

Salzburg vs Bayern Munich

Sporting Lisbon vs Manchester City

Benfica vs Ajax

Chelsea vs Lille

Atletico Madrid vs Manchester United

Villarreal vs Juventus

Inter Milan vs Liverpool

Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid

Liverpool became the first English side to win all six Champions League group stage games
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Liverpool became the first English side to win all six Champions League group stage games

When are the last-16 ties?

The last-16 ties will be split across different weeks, with the first legs taking place on February 15-16 and February 22-23.

The second legs are then on March 8-9 and March 15-16.

How UEFA’s Man Utd gaffe prompted re-draw

Cristiano Ronaldo played a pivotal role as Manchester United topped their Champions League group
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Manchester United were initially drawn against PSG

The Champions League draw was conducted in Nyon by UEFA deputy general secretary, Giorgio Marchetti, and UEFA head of club competitions, Michael Heselschwerdt, with the help of special guest Andrey Arshavin.

Eight balls representing eight runners-up were in one bowl, while eight group winners were in individual pots.

Every winner was to be drawn against a runner-up from a different group and football association.

Heselschwerdt confirmed that the draw process would see one runner-up drawn from the runners-up pot. A computer would then indicate which winners could be drawn against them. Balls containing the names of eligible opponents would be placed together into another bowl, from which one eligible group winner would be drawn and paired with the runner-up.

What was the original Champions League last-16 draw?

  • Benfica vs Real Madrid
  • Villarreal vs Manchester City
  • Atletico Madrid vs Bayern Munich
  • Salzburg vs Liverpool
  • Inter Milan vs Ajax
  • Sporting Lisbon vs Juventus
  • Chelsea vs Lille
  • Paris Saint-Germain vs Manchester United

How the draw farce unfolded…

Draw starts: Benfica are the first team drawn from the runners-up pot – and subsequently paired with Real Madrid.

Villarreal error: Villarreal are drawn from the runners-up pot as Marchetti said: “Villarreal can be paired against all the other seven teams”. Arshavin draws Man Utd from the pot of eligible opponents, prompting Marchetti to correct his earlier assertion and say: “This is not possible because Man Utd were in the group so we need to do another one.”

Apology: Arshavin instead draws Manchester City but Marchetti apologises for “the technical issue that our draw is experiencing” as a delay occurs in City’s name appearing on screen as Villarreal’s opponents.

Man Utd missing: Atletico are drawn from the runners-up pot as Marchetti says: “The possibilities are all except Liverpool, who were in the same group, and Manchester United; Manchester United have already been drawn.” Manchester United have not already been drawn but Heselschwerdt appears to pick Liverpool and miss picking Man Utd when placing balls representing Atletico’s eligible opponents into the bowl. Arshavin draws Bayern to face Atletico.

Draw concludes: The rest of the draw is concluded, with Liverpool drawn against Salzburg and Man Utd eventually drawn against PSG.

Re-draw? The draw concludes but reports emerge of clubs immediately questioning the draw. Sky Sports News contacts UEFA about the possibility of a re-draw.

Draw void! UEFA admits a “technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other” caused a “material error” and declares the draw void, to be re-done later on Monday afternoon.

What are the key dates?

Last 16 first legs: February 15/16/22/23

Last 16 second legs: March 8/9/15/16

Quarter-final & semi-final draw: March 18

Quarter-final first legs: April 5/6

Quarter-final second legs: April 12/13

Semi-final first legs: April 26/27

Semi-final second legs: May 3/4

Final: May 28 – Gazprom Arena, Saint Petersburg