‘Genius’ Ronaldo Hat-Trick Sends Portugal Into Nations League Final

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his third goal during the UEFA Nations League semi-final football match between Portugal and Switzerland at the Dragao stadium in Porto on June 5, 2019. PHOTO: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 

Portugal manager Fernando Santos hailed Cristiano Ronaldo a “football genius” after his 53rd career hat-trick sent Portugal into the final of the Nations League on home soil in Porto with a 3-1 win over Switzerland.

The hosts had to withstand a huge moment of VAR controversy as after Ronaldo’s free-kick opened the scoring, Portugal thought they had the chance to double their lead from the penalty spot.

Instead, German referee Felix Brych reversed his initial decision and awarded a spot-kick at the other end for an earlier incident, which Ricardo Rodriguez converted to seemingly send the game to extra-time.

However, Ronaldo predictably took centre stage as he struck twice in the final two minutes to set up a clash with England or the Netherlands, who meet in the second semi-final on Thursday, in Sunday’s final.

“I was his coach in 2003 and I could see where hed go,” said Santos. “He’s a genius. There’s genius paintings and sculptures and he’s a football genius!

Portugal made it to the last four without their all-time record goalscorer as Ronaldo took a hiatus from international football to concentrate on his first season at Juventus.

However, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner returned to the national team in March and was always likely to be the centre of attention, particularly on a day when it was reported a rape lawsuit against him had been dropped.

A lawyer for the American woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted by Ronaldo — accusations he has strongly denied — later dismissed that report, saying the case had not been dropped.

In front of an adoring home crowd, Ronaldo put the spotlight back on his performance on the pitch as he opened the scoring with a brilliant free-kick.

 

– Debut for Felix –

The Portugal captain is however no longer his country’s only star name, with Bernardo Silva starring for Manchester City where he could soon be joined by Joao Felix.

City are reportedly set to pay Felix’s 120-million-euro ($135 million) buyout clause from Benfica, but the 19-year-old missed a glaring chance to mark his international debut with a goal just before the break as he blasted over from Ronaldo’s pass.

Switzerland had posed a threat themselves in the first half with Xherdan Shaqiri, fresh from winning the Champions League with Liverpool, particularly lively.

However, it took the help of VAR to get them back in the game just before the hour mark.

Brych had waved away appeals for a foul by Nelson Semedo on Steven Zuber before awarding Portugal a penalty as play broke down at the other end, but overturned his initial decision.

Rodriguez drilled home the resultant spot-kick much to the fury of the home supporters at the Estadio do Dragao.

The Swiss could then have gone in front when Benfica forward Haris Seferovic headed just wide.

By contrast, Portugal had one of the deadliest finishers in football history on the end of their chances.

“Congratulations to Portugal. They had street smarts, they had the cherry on top of the cake and that made the difference. Four shots, three goals,” said Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic.

Silva was the creator for Ronaldo to drill home his second of the night two minutes from time.

Moments later the hosts sealed their place in the final on the counter-attack as Ronaldo curled into the far corner for his 88th international goal.

AFP

Messi Hat-Trick Restores Barcelona’s La Liga Lead

Levante’s Spanish midfielder Ruben Rochina (L) vies with Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi during the Spanish League football match between Levante and Barcelona at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium in Valencia on December 16, 2018. JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Lionel Messi continued his sublime form by netting his 31st La Liga hat-trick as Barcelona thrashed Levante 5-0 on Sunday to regain their three-point lead at the top of the table.

The 31-year-old Argentinian arrived in Valencia having scored two free-kicks in last weekend’s derby thumping of Espanyol. He took his goals tally for the season to 20 after a virtuoso display, while also teeing up Luis Suarez’s 35th-minute opener and Gerard Pique’s late fifth.

Barca were under pressure after Atletico Madrid and second-placed Sevilla had both moved level on points with the Catalan giants.

But after resting his key stars for their final Champions League group stage match against Tottenham in midweek, coach Ernesto Valverde saw his refreshed side cruise to a third straight league win without conceding a goal.

“At the beginning it was difficult, they squeezed us and had a chance that hit the woodwork,” said Valverde.

Levante started the game brightly and visiting goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was forced into an early save by Ghanaian Emmanuel Boateng.

But Barca did not take long to start moving through the gears, with Messi curling wide from long range before testing Oier Olazabal in the Levante goal with a free-kick.

Just seconds after Boateng hammered a left-footed strike against the crossbar, the reigning Spanish champions broke the deadlock as Messi jinked through a mesmerised home defence and picked out Suarez who volleyed home.

But Levante, who had ended Barcelona’s dreams of going through last season’s La Liga campaign unbeaten with a remarkable 5-4 victory in the penultimate game, came close to a quick response as Jose Luis Morales fired over.

The match was all but ended as a contest when Messi bore down on goal two minutes before half-time and drilled low into the net.

“I’m happy to have won here because last year we came and they put five goals past us having gone the whole season unbeaten, so we knew about the danger of Levante and it was a match we had marked out,” added Valverde.

He wasted little time after the restart to add his second in the 47th minute, sweeping home Jordi Alba’s clever cutback, before completing his treble with a simple tap-in from Arturo Vidal’s square pass on the hour mark.

Messi has scored five goals in two league games since finishing only fifth in the voting for the Ballon d’Or earlier this month.

A bad evening for Levante worsened with 14 minutes to play, as left-back Erick Cabaco was sent off for a reckless lunge on Ousmane Dembele.

Centre-back Pique added further gloss to the scoreline in the 88th minute, rampaging forward to collect Messi’s pass, before keeping his cool and rolling the ball home.

Sevilla keep up the pace 

Sevilla reclaimed second place earlier on Sunday as second-half strikes from Ever Banega and Pablo Sarabia sealed a 2-0 win over Girona.

Pablo Machin’s side are unbeaten in seven league games since a 4-2 loss at Barca in October.

The hosts had to wait until the 55th minute to break the deadlock when striker Andre Silva was tripped in the area by Girona defender Juanpe.

Argentinian Banega stepped up to send visiting goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz the wrong way from the penalty spot.

The points were wrapped up only nine minutes later, as Wissam Ben Yedder cut the ball back for the onrushing Sarabia to slide home his 14th goal of the season in all competitions.

“In the first half they (Girona) were very good,” said Machin. “They were very organised and had good chances when (Sevilla goalkeeper) Tomas (Vaclik) was splendid.

“In the second half, we were the better team.”

Elsewhere, Villarreal were plunged further into crisis as Samuele Longo’s 93rd-minute strike saw them held to a 2-2 draw at bottom club Huesca.

Villarreal, who replaced Javier Calleja with Luis Garcia Plaza as coach in midweek, are only one point and one place above the relegation zone.

Real Betis eased to a 3-1 win at Espanyol to move into fifth place after a third successive league victory.

Espanyol, who led the table earlier in the season, have lost five straight matches to slip into the bottom half.

jc

Klopp Praises Hat-Trick Hero Salah After Liverpool Win

Bournemouth’s English defender Steve Cook (L) appeals for offside as Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (R) shoots past Bournemouth’s Bosnian-Herzegovinian goalkeeper Asmir Begovic (C) to score the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Bournemouth and Liverpool at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, southern England on December 8, 2018. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Jurgen Klopp hailed Mohamed Salah after his hat-trick against Bournemouth on Saturday propelled Liverpool to the top of the Premier League.

The Egyptian opened his account midway through the first half, netting the rebound after Asmir Begovic parried Roberto Firmino’s fierce shot.

He doubled Liverpool’s lead shortly after half-time with a neat finish and following a Steve Cook own goal, scored his 10th goal of the Premier League season after beating Begovic twice to complete a 4-0 win.

The victory took Liverpool to the top of the Premier League table ahead of Manchester City’s match against Chelsea later on Saturday.

Klopp described Salah’s performance as “brilliant”.

“The whole game was brilliant from him today — not only the goals,” he told the BBC. “He wanted to help with runs in behind and him scoring three goals is big for him and very important for us.”

Liverpool face a tough week ahead — they play Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday with their hopes of progressing to the knockout phase in the balance and Manchester United next weekend.

“It is always a huge week,” said Klopp. “Napoli is a tough one and then Man United — we all know what can happen there. Hopefully, we can stay fit. Let’s go for it.”

AFP

Hazard’s Hat-Trick Sees Chelsea Smash Cardiff

Chelsea’s Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard shoots from the penalty spot to score his team’s third goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge in London on September 15, 2018. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Chelsea and Liverpool continue to throw down the gauntlet to Premier League champions Manchester City as all three were victorious on their return to Premier League action on Saturday.

Liverpool showed their credentials in targeting a first title since 1990 are for real and such was the Reds’ dominance the scoreline did not do Jurgen Klopp’s men justice in winning 2-1 at Tottenham.

Chelsea also made it five wins from as many games under Maurizio Sarri thanks to the brilliance of Eden Hazard, who scored a hat-trick in a convincing 4-1 win over Cardiff to edge ahead of Liverpool on goal difference.

City remain just two points back and looked back to their best in tearing apart Fulham 3-0 thanks to goals from Leroy Sane, David Silva and Raheem Sterling.

Liverpool’s first win away at Tottenham in four attempts for Klopp was another sign of the progress made under the German, particularly as they suffered a 4-1 thrashing at Wembley last season.

“Nobody will play the perfect season. It’s still early, five games, fantastic we won all five and improved. I like that development,” said Klopp.

“Now we have to prove that and do it again and again.”

Spurs paid a heavy price for the absence of captain Hugo Lloris through injury as stand-in goalkeeper Michel Vorm flapped at a corner six minutes before the break and Georginio Wijnaldum looped a header over the line before Vorm could scramble clear.

Roberto Firmino tapped home a second nine minutes into the second-half and Liverpool should have added to their lead as Sadio Mane and Naby Keita were denied by Vorm.

However, the visitors had to see out a nervy final few seconds when Erik Lamela skillfully volleyed home from a narrow angle and Son Heung-min had a penalty appeal waived away with the final attack of the game.

Sane returns in style 

City and Chelsea await in Liverpool’s next three league games and remained in touch with the leaders with comfortable home victories.

Pep Guardiola started Leroy Sane for the first time this campaign and last season’s Premier League Young Player of the Year looked more like his old self as Fulham were put to the sword.

Sane tapped home Fernandinho’s inviting cross inside two minutes before Silva smashed his 50th Premier League goal and Sterling completed the rout.

Sarri is still to taste anything but victory in English football, but had a scare early on at home to Cardiff when Sol Bamba put the visitors in front at Stamford Bridge.

However, Cardiff’s failure to significantly strengthen over the summer means they are liable to being outclassed at this level and were undone by the brilliance of Hazard.

The diminutive Belgian scored twice in seven minutes to send Chelsea in ahead at half-time and completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot before Willian added a fourth.

Mesut Ozil quietened his critics with his first goal since February as Arsenal continued to creep up the table with a 2-1 win at Newcastle.

The Gunners are still not firing on all cylinders under new boss Unai Emery, but Granit Xhaka’s free-kick put them on course for a third straight win before Ozil compounded Newcastle’s misery as the Magpies remain rooted in the bottom three.

Bournemouth moved up to fifth with an impressive 4-2 victory over 10-man Leicester with Ryan Fraser scoring twice.

And Wilfried Zaha underlined his importance to Crystal Palace with the only goal in his return from injury in a 1-0 win at Huddersfield.

AFP

Messi Hat-trick Seals Barca’s 25th Title In Style

Deportivo La Coruna’s Spanish defender Raul Albentosa (L) challenges Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi during the Spanish league football match between Deportivo Coruna and FC Barcelona at the Riazor stadium in Coruna on April 29, 2018. PHOTO: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 

Barcelona claimed their 25th La Liga title on Sunday as a Lionel Messi hat-trick secured a thrilling 4-2 victory at Deportivo La Coruna that wrapped up the league with four matches to spare.

Ernesto Valverde’s men completed a league and cup double after thrashing Sevilla 5-0 in last week’s Copa del Rey final, regaining the Spanish crown from Real Madrid and relegating Deportivo in the process.

The only blip on the Catalans’ season was the stunning Champions League quarter-final loss at Roma when they blew a 4-1 first-leg lead.

“We have managed an almost perfect league campaign, without losing so far. I hope we can continue,” midfielder Sergio Busquets told Spanish broadcaster Movistar.

“This season was very good, almost excellent. The Champions League is a regret but we managed a double, it’s fantastic.”

Barca knew they just had to extend their record unbeaten streak to 41 La Liga matches to seal a seventh title in 10 seasons, and Philippe Coutinho fired them into an early lead.

Messi’s 38th-minute volley made it two, but Lucas Perez pulled one back for Deportivo before half-time and Turkish winger Emre Colak stunned Barca with an equaliser midway through the second period.

Barca finally saw off their stubborn hosts, though, as Messi pounced after a brilliant one-two with Luis Suarez before slotting in to complete his 30th La Liga treble.

The Catalan giants now hold an unassailable 11-point lead over second-placed Atletico Madrid, who have just three games to play, and are closing in on becoming the first Spanish side to go through a top-flight season without tasting defeat.

Andres Iniesta was surprisingly left on the bench after the midfield great announced earlier this week that he will leave the club at the end of the season.

But it was his expected long-term successor Coutinho who broke the deadlock in the seventh minute, bending an exquisite finish into the top corner for his third La Liga goal for the club since signing from Liverpool in January.

Deportivo had to win to stave off relegation for another week, but Clarence Seedorf’s men were denied an equaliser when Perez was flagged offside after tapping in from close range.

Messi went close to doubling the advantage just before the half-hour mark, only for home goalkeeper Ruben to pull off an excellent one-handed save to turn his free-kick around the post.

Deportivo cause problems

Deportivo were causing Barca plenty of problems at the back, though, and centre-back Fabian Schaer should have levelled as he headed over when unmarked inside the six-yard box.

But Messi drilled a curling Suarez cross past Ruben at the keeper’s near post to score his 30th league goal of the campaign, before on-loan Arsenal striker Perez swept home to halve the deficit just two minutes later.

Despite the close scoreline, Barca were playing as if the second half was a pure title party, with centre-back Gerard Pique even performing a few ‘keepie uppies’ on the left wing.

Their complacency cost them in the 64th minute, as Celso Borges unselfishly squared for Colak to score.

Suddenly the champions-elect were desperately trying to hang onto their unbeaten record, as goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a smart stop from another Schaer header.

But Barcelona showed their class as Suarez and Messi combined to terrific effect with eight minutes to play — the latter clipping the ball in off the post.

Suarez again sent the Argentinian racing clear three minutes later, and the 30-year-old made no mistake to complete a hat-trick and a title-sealing victory.

Earlier on Sunday, Kevin Gameiro scored a second-half penalty just seven minutes after Fernando Torres had missed a spot-kick as Atletico Madrid claimed a 1-0 win at Alaves.

Diego Simeone’s Atletico stayed in control of the race for second by moving four points clear of Real Madrid, who have a game in hand.

Fourth-placed Valencia’s winless run was extended to four league games with a goalless home draw with Eibar, but their Champions League spot for next season will be confirmed if Real Betis fail to beat Malaga on Monday.

AFP

Messi’s Hat-trick Fires Argentina Into World Cup 

Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Ecuador during their 2018 World Cup qualifier football match in Quito, on October 10, 2017. Juan Ruiz / AFP

Lionel Messi fired Argentina into the World Cup with a brilliant hat-trick on Tuesday as South American champions Chile suffered a shock elimination.

Messi single-handedly resurrected Argentina’s hopes in a 3-1 win over Ecuador in Quito that drew a line under a chaotic campaign that had left the two-time champions in danger of failing to qualify.

The Barcelona superstar scored twice inside the opening 20 minutes to give Argentina the lead after Ecuador had stunned the visitors with an opening goal after from Romario Ibarra after 38 seconds.

Messi then completed his hat-trick — the 44th of his dazzling career — with a sublime chip in the second half to seal the victory.

The Argentinian superstar can now look forward to his fourth appearance at the World Cup at next year’s finals in Russia, where he will attempt once more to lead his country to an elusive major title.

Since his country’s defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, Messi has twice suffered agony at major tournaments with Argentina, losing the finals of both the 2015 Copa America and the 2016 Copa America Centenario.

Messi, who will turn 31 during next year’s World Cup, now has one, perhaps final, chance to emulate his idol Diego Maradona by lifting the World Cup.

Relieved Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli — the third coach appointed during the qualifying campaign — could not avoid expressing his gratitude to Messi following Tuesday’s win.

“Messi doesn’t owe a World Cup to Argentina — football owes a World Cup to Messi,” Sampaoli said.

“He’s the best player in history. This is a team victory. They played a brilliant match.”

Messi later told reporters the prospect of not qualifying had weighed heavily on the squad.

“It would have been crazy for Argentina, for all of us,” he said. “Obviously there was that fear, but today we knew how to play.”

The striker said he expects Argentina to improve now the pressure of qualifying has liften.

“I think there is going to be a very big change. I think the team will grow much better now,” he added.

– Messi masterclass –

Argentina had started the day outside the automatic qualifying positions, needing to secure their first win in Quito since 2001 to be certain of claiming at least a playoff place.

It looked as if Argentina’s worst fears were set to become a reality after Ibarra’s opening goal in the first minute.

But it was not long before Messi stamped his authority on the game, hauling his team back into the contest with a composed opening goal.

The equaliser came in the 12th minute when Messi darted forward and quickly released Angel Di Maria down the left.

The Paris Saint-Germain attacker duly returned the favour as Messi raced into the penalty area to poke home a low finish past Maximo Banguera.

Eight minutes later Messi fired Argentina into the lead with another virtuoso strike, lashing into the top corner.

Messi then completed his hat-trick with a sublime chip in the 62nd minute to make it 3-1.

But while Argentina celebrated, it was a miserable night for Sampaoli’s former team Chile.

The Chileans — winners of the Copa America in 2015 and 2016 — were soundly beaten 3-0 by Brazil in Sao Paulo to see themselves eliminated on goal difference.

Barcelona’s Paulinho opened the scoring before Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus bagged a brace to secure a win already-qualified Brazil which relegated Chile to sixth place in the standings.

AFP

Aguero Bags Hat-trick As City Thrash Watford

 

Sergio Aguero,

A Sergio Aguero hat-trick helped Manchester City to record their highest victory under Pep Guardiola as they crushed Watford 6-0 at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

Aguero was in sublime form to help City move to the top of the Premier League and avoid a hangover from European success at Feyenoord in midweek.

City were anxious to end their relatively poor record in Premier League games which followed Champions League fixtures last season.

Of their last six such games dating back to last September, Pep Guardiola’s side managed to win just one.

The manner in which they swept Watford away suggests the subject will not be raised very often this season.

The opening minutes were notable for the driving runs of Kyle Walker who charged forward at every opportunity.

The City right-back then ceded centre stage to Kevin de Bruyne, whose range of passing was simply mesmerising.

De Bruyne’s first contribution was to glide to the by-line before picking out the run of Benjamin Mendy, only for the City left-back to skew his shot wide.

Combining effortlessly with David Silva, de Bruyne continued to direct City’s forward play, curling a shot wide himself after a one-two with Silva before sending over a cross which Daryl Janmaat did well to clear under pressure from Nicolas Otamendi.

If a City goal was inevitable, it came just after Watford’s only meaningful effort on goal in the opening 45 minutes when Richarlison should have done much better than to guide Jose Holebas’s cross wide of the post from a free header.

That profligacy was duly punished after 27 minutes when Aguero showed him how it should be done, glancing home de Bruyne’s pinpoint free-kick.

The 10 minutes which followed emphasised the chasm in class between the two sides.

Aguero made it 2-0 when he tapped home after Gabriel Jesus and David Silva had combined to carve open the home defence once more.

Champions League: Atletico, Real Madrid Arrive For Milan Final

Champions League, Atletico, Real MadridThe city of Milan is getting ready for the final of the UEFA Champions League as arch rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid compete for the coveted trophy on Saturday evening.

Majority of the Spanish fans are expected to start arriving by air, rail and road on Saturday. Fans already arrived in Milan are hoping that they would see an exciting match.

10-time European champions, Real Madrid have arrived their Milan hotel ahead of the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid.

Cristiano Ronaldo was the first player off the bus and the Portuguese should be fit to play.

The Portuguese set alarm bells ringing on Tuesday when he ended training prematurely with a knock but was fit to train again the following day.

He has scored 16 goals in the competition this season.

Zinedine Zidane’s men are without defenders Raphael Varane and Alvaro Arbeloa for the game.

Meanwhile a crowd of Atletico Madrid fans gathered outside the Hotel Melia in Milan to also welcome their team as they arrived.

Atletico players briefly waved at a group of supporters, many dressed in the team’s jerseys and waving red and white flags, before entering their hotel.

While Madrid will be missing two players, Atletico have a clean bill of health.

It is a far cry from the dishevelled state in which Diego Simeone’s team arrived at the 2014 final, when they struggled with fitness after a long season and suffered key injuries.

The teams’ face off at the San Siro stadium is a repeat of the 2014 final in Lisbon which saw Real come from behind to win 4-1 after extra-time.

Champions League: Ronaldo Injury Scare Ahead Of Final

Champions League, RonaldoReal Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo says he will be fit to face Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final on Saturday after limping out of training.

Ronaldo left the pitch with a thigh problem following a clash with goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.

The Portuguese forward was seen showing his thigh to medical staff, receiving attention, he later described the injury as a minor scare.

“I had a small problem in the training session, a ‘sandwich’ (bocadillo) as they say in Spain. But tomorrow or the day after I will be fine,” he told reporters.

Ronaldo has not completed his last three training sessions.

Real Madrid boss, Zinedine Zidane has admitted that Ronaldo sat out a full training as a precaution.

“There will be no problem with that. We had a game among ourselves on Saturday and (Ronaldo) didn’t play, but (only) as a precaution as he felt something small.

“He is preparing for the final and I think we’ll be in good shape physically,” Zidane said.

Real Madrid Stars React To Champions League Final Qualification

Real MadridIn a repeat of the 2014 Lisbon final, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will meet each other at the San Siro on May 28 in the 2016 Champions League final.

Real Madrid beat Manchester City 1-0 to set up the all Spanish final for the second time in three seasons after a first-half own goal from Fernando was enough to secure a narrow win that barely reflected Real’s dominant.

It was a perfect night for Zinedine Zidane. He has just passed the four-month mark as Real Madrid coach and his team are now through to the Champions League final.

The Frenchman had the following to say about his team reaching the final in Milan; “I’m happy, not just for myself; it was a team effort. I’m happy for the players because what they did tonight was fantastic. We suffered because that always happens in semi-finals, but we’ve got through to the final and that is what is important for us.

“We won the game 1-0 and that shows that we had to dig in against a very strong side. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and can say that City didn’t do anything in the game. I think that they did a lot. We hardly allowed them any chances because we defended well and got things right tactically.”

On his part in the success; “I’m the coach of this team. For sure, I’m doing something right. But, it’s not just me, it’s down to everyone who works alongside me. The most important ones are the players, it’s them who allow us to enjoy the football.

“I love football and when I see them doing what they do, I’m happy. I suffer a bit more as a coach than I did as a player. I feel tense during the games. We’ve got to enjoy these moments.”

Important Goal

Madrid went ahead in the first half when Bale picked up Dani Carvajal’s pass and aimed a cross towards the far post that was deflected by Fernando past Joe Hart into the top corner.

He said of the goal that has been credited as an own goal, “The most important thing was to get the goal and that the ball ended up in the net. It doesn’t matter who scores it, the only thing that matters is that it was an important goal which has sent us through to the final. We’ve now got the chance to win another Champions League title”.

Other Real Madrid stars have also spoken about the victory and their expectations from Milan.

Left back, Marcelo said; “In the Champions League there is always a lot of tension, they are tough games. In every competition we play in, we try to do the best we can. It is difficult because they are tough competitions, but we are in the Champions League final and we have a very difficult game ahead of us. We are going into the end of season strong.”

Jesé says; “Last time I wasn’t in the final and now I have the good fortune and opportunity to be there and help the team. This year we deserve to win something and I’m happy.

“All madridistas want to win the Champions League and important things and now we have the opportunity. It is the product of months of work and in the final we have to fight till the last”.

Tough Season

Veteran defender Sergio Ramos considers it a very special night coming off a very tough season.

“After such a tough season, the hard work and the team’s togetherness means that we’re able to enjoy our second final in three years. We dug in and we worked together when we had to.

“The Champions League demands great concentration levels, we performed very well defensively and we put away the chance that we had. We must now enjoy this because it’s a special moment and it takes a lot of hard work to get to a final”.

“The team and the supporters deserve it. Once again, they got fully behind us and were our 12th man. We’ve now got to enjoy this and give our all in another final, we’ve already shown that we know how to win the final.

“It was a very special night for the Real Madrid fans and we’re really keen to bring the eleventh European title back home to our supporters.”

La Liga Quality

Cristiano Ronaldo, in his analysis of the semi-final win against Manchester City, tagged it a busy game.

“The team did well, we controlled the game and had more opportunities. We could have killed the game with a second goal and 1-0 is a small result but it is sufficient. We are in the final, which was our aim. We knew we needed to score and in the first game in Manchester we deserved to. Today as well, we were the better team and it is fair that we are in the final”.

“It is a final. We are facing Atletico again and I’m happy. This shows the quality of La Liga. I am very happy to be in the final and we still have a chance in La Liga.”

Ronaldo also had good words for the coach; “Zidane is doing a fine job. He is helping us and we are happy with his work. I admire him as a coach and as a person, and I hope that he stays with us.

“We have always been with him. He is a humble person, he likes to learn and listen to the players and it is very easy in this sense.”

Real Madrid will go in search of their eleventh European Cup title, against Atlético de Madrid at the San Siro.

It will be the fourth time that this stadium plays host to a European Cup final after the previous showdowns in 1965, 1970 and 2001.

It is the second time in the history of the European Cup that two sides from the same city face each other in the final. The first of these meetings was also between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

In a repeat of the final from two years ago, in which Real Madrid lifted the Décima in Lisbon, Zinedine Zidane’s men will be looking to win and claim their eleventh European Cup title.

UCL: Real Madrid, Manchester City Bosses Laud Players

Real MadridReal Madrid Coach, Zinedine Zidane, is pleased with his side’s 3-0 win against Wolfsburg at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Spain.

Zidane said that although it was a challenging match, he could not deny the fact that they did a good job.

“It is not easy to start how we did, scoring two goals in 15 minutes. We went in with a really high intensity (and) we showed the opposition that it was important for us to win and go through,” the French said on the club’s website.

He also commended the Whites’ messiah, Cristiano Ronaldo whom he described as the world’s best player, saying he was demonstrating what he is.

“What can I say about Cristiano Ronaldo? He is demonstrating what he is, the best player in the world. That’s what makes him a special player,” he said.

Manchester City Manager, Manuel Pellegrini, has also asked his side to go all the way in the Champions League after their historic 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).Manuel Pellegrini

Kevin De Bruyne fired city through to the last four of the league for the first time with his 76th-minute winner at the Etihad stadium.

As Madrid and City progress to the semi-final in the UEFA Champions League (UCL), Manuel Pellegrini could meet his city successor, Pep Guardiola should Bayern Munich beat Benfica on Wednesday.

UCL: Cristiano Ronaldo Hat Trick Sends Real Madrid To Semis

Cristiano RonaldoA hat trick by Cristiano Ronaldo ensured that Real Madrid would be playing in their sixth consecutive semi-final of the UEFA Champions League (UCL).

The Spanish giants had suffered a shocking 2-0 defeat to Wolfsburg in Germany in the first leg but made the comeback that so many predicted in style.

Two quick goals in the first half put Zidane’s men on their way, although they had to endure some nervy moments as Wolfsburg tried to get a goal which could have changed the game entirely.

Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 15th minute. Toni Kroos whipped an inviting corner delivery in towards the near post, and he placed a perfect header beyond Benaglio.

With a sense of urgency, leaving no time to celebrate, the Portuguese was back again within two minutes. It was another header off a well delivered corner kick.

The second half resumed with Madrid still in the ascendancy and in the 77th minute, Ronaldo completed his hat trick with a trade mark free-kick.

In England, Manchester made it to the semi-final of the Champions League for the first time in their history with a 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain.

Kevin De Bruyne scored in the 76th minute to send Manchester City into the Champions League last four with a 3-2 aggregate success.

They had secured a 2-2 draw in the quarter-final first leg in Paris a week earlier.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic did have the ball in the net, but it was ruled out for offside.