first_img Struggling powerhouse The struggling powerhouse, which have already been disqualified from the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player, will also have to be careful not to be caught by fourth-place Villarreal after Bruno Soriano scored his second of two goals deep into stoppage time to grab a 2-1 victory at Deportivo La Coruna. Benitez’s latest stumble, which arrived after losses at home to Barcelona and away at Sevilla and Villarreal in the last eight rounds, came in his return to a Mestalla Stadium where he established his reputation with two league titles and a UEFA Cup trophy. Benitez’s counterpart, Gary Neville, remained winless in his fourth league game since taking over at Valencia, but his team earned a morale-boosting result. Madrid’s strong start provoked panic in Valencia. Bale started the move with an audacious back-heeled flick to send Benzema’s pass to Cristiano Ronaldo, who slid the ball back for Benzema to slot his shot into the corner of the net. But instead of going for a second goal to finish the hosts off, Madrid let complacency creep in, and Valencia slowly began to push forward through midfielder Andres Gomes and forward Joao Cancelo. A Gomes incursion was only stopped when Pepe tripped him in the area, letting Parejo step up and level the score. Madrid recovered some of their attacking verve after the restart, but it was stalled by Kovacic’s sending-off for a lunging tackle on Cancelo in the 70th. Toni Kroos, however, placed a free kick for Bale to rise up and gracefully head in off the far post to momentarily restore Madrid’s lead. But Valencia charged right back to score when Rodrigo Moreno headed down a pass for Alcacer to nod home. Also Sunday, it was Athletic Bilbao 2, Las Palmas 2; Real Betis 0, Eibar 4; Granada 2, Sevilla 1; and Rayo Vallecano 2, Real Sociedad 2. BARCELONA, Spain (AP): Real Madrid squandered a great opening goal and a chance to catch Barcelona in the Spanish league standings when they slipped to a 2-2 draw at Valencia in a match it ended with 10 men yesterday. Madrid seemed set to romp to an easy victory after Karim Benzema finished off a superb move in the 16th minute, but Valencia’s Dani Parejo levelled from the penalty spot just before half-time. Gareth Bale headed Madrid back in front in the 82nd, despite his team playing a man down after Mateo Kovacic saw a direct red card, only for Paco Alcacer to strike right back for the hosts a minute later to spark a thrilling finish by both teams. Coach Rafa Benitez will face even more scrutiny after Madrid failed to capitalise on Barcelona’s scoreless stalemate at Espanyol on Saturday and remained two points behind the defending champions, which have a game to play. Madrid also fell four points behind provisional leaders Atletico Madrid, the only title contender to win this round. Benitez said: “I can’t stop some people from speculating” about his future. “What I can do is get the team to work hard like they did today,” he said. “We missed an opportunity – only if you look at the result. But the effort that my team made deserves more praise that anything else.”last_img read more

first_img Today’s Game: – 3:30 p.m. Humble Lion FC vs Portmore United FC at Effortville Community Centre Fans crying out for excitement in the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) will have it all today when title aspirants Humble Lion hosts former champions Portmore United in a first-leg semi-final at the Effortville Community Centre in Clarendon. Game time is 3:30 p.m. This ‘Clarendon derby’ will feature a number of former teammates at the schoolboy and club levels going against each other and should have fireworks aplenty. Perhaps the only drawback could be the capacity of the venue. Despite the above and the fact that there is a place in the RSPL final on offer, what perhaps will be most on the minds of the fans is whether the ‘vexed’ Humble Lion will have the chance to right what they believe was a wrong. Portmore United, the team many love to hate, were beaten 3-1 in their third encounter of the season with Humble Lion, but had the win erased when they protested the use of an ineligible player. The competition’s committee ruled against Humble Lion and awarded Portmore United three points and a 3-0 win. That result almost derailed Humble Lion’s season as they fell from fourth spot a position which had been their preserve for most of the season and one which would have guaranteed them a spot in the semi-final and fell to sixth. Those three points also enabled Portmore United to top the table on points, as they finished one ahead of defending champions Arnett Gardens and collected the bounty of one million dollars. “Obviously, the issue will be on the minds of all concerned, but we intend not to make it a distraction,” Vassell Reynolds, coach of Humble Lion, said of the impact the ruling will have on his players. “I have asked my team not to focus on that issue, but to focus on the game itself and what winning these two games will mean to us,” added the man who led Wolmer’s Boys’ to a schoolboy football title this season. While stating that he asked his players to put the past in a certain ‘space’, Reynolds confessed that in their matches leading up to this one, that disappointment was a major motivator. “Getting to this stage, we used this incident to motivate us. For about a round and a half, we were in fourth spot, but wouldn’t get any further. Since we lost the points in the boardroom, our only blemish in terms of dropped points was a 0-1 loss to Arnett Gardens. We pledged to fight to get back in,” Reynolds explained. Portmore United’s Geoffrey Hewitt acknowledged that the results and points reversal could play a part in the temperature of the match. “It is something that we are totally cognisant of, but this is a semi-final. It is a big game and several things can motivate us to perform. We are confident in our ability to win and we are motivated to do so,” said Hewitt, a very successful coach at the schoolboy level, in particular at Garvey Maceo. Not one to say a lot, Hewitt would only add that they are driven by ambition. “Our ambition drives us. That is our driving force. We are determined to succeed and we believe that we have what it takes to be champions, and Humble Lion is our first hurdle to the championship,” Hewitt said. Talent is something Portmore United have in abundance. Besides the steady Ewan Grandison, there is the duo of Ricardo Morris and Tramaine Stewart, who can decide a game on their own. Javon East is another player who comes to mind and, if fully fit, could cause problems. Defensively, they are also sound with the vertically-challenged, but commanding Damano Salmon, Ryan Wellington and possibly Uptsan Edwards. Humble Lion are themselves not humble in the talent department and should have at their disposal the on-form Levaughn Williams, Ricardo Cousins, Jermaine Christian, Wolry and Kemeel Wolfe and the fit-again Francois Swaby, who could come off the bench. The other semi-final, between Arnett Gardens and Montego Bay United, who finished third, will be played tomorrow at Catherine Hall Complex in Montego Bay. Tomorrow’s Gamecenter_img – 8:40 p.m. Montego Bay United vs Arnett Gardens at Catherine Hall Complexlast_img read more