Sanchez brace gives Barcelona edge over Leverkusen


Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring during the Champions League last 16 tie against Bayer Leverkusen.

Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring during the Champions League last 16 tie against Bayer Leverkusen.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Barcelona enjoy comfortable 3-1 win in first leg of Champions League tie against Bayer Leverkusen
  • Lyon beat Cyprus’ APOEL FC 1-0 to edge first leg of their last 16 tie

(CNN) — Barcelona have one foot in the quarterfinals of the Champions League after completing a 3-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday night.

The reigning European champions dominated possession for large parts of the game with Alexis Sanchez opening the scoring in the 41st minute.

The Chilean striker chased onto a pass from Lionel Messi before firing past Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno.

Leverkusen equalized seven minutes after the break as recent signing Vedran Corluka chipped in a cross from which Czech Republic defender Michel Kadlec headed home.

But it wasn’t long before Barca were back in front as Sanchez bagged his second of the night scoring from a tight angle after received the ball from Cesc Fabregas.

Leverkusen had chances to equalize again as Renato Augusto forced a save from Victor Valdes and midfielder Gonzalo Castro also hit the post in the 64th minute.

But it was Messi who had the final say on the evening converting a cross from Dani Alves in the 88th minute.

The return leg will be played at the Nou Camp on March 7.

In Tuesday’s other tie, Lyon scored a narrow 1-0 win over Cypriot minnows APOEL FC at the Stade Gerland.

Alexandre Lacazette goal in the 58th minute proved the difference between the teams but the first team from Cyprus to reach the knockout stages are still in the tie which concludes in Nicosia on March 7.

There were two Europa League ties played Tuesday with Besiktasbeating 10-man Braga 2-0 in the first leg of their last 32 tie.

Helder Barbosa’s dismissal in the first half capped a miserable night for last year’s finalists as their Turkish visitors made the most of the numerical advantage with goals in either half from Tomas Sivok and former Portuguese international Simao.

Olympiakos narrowly beat Russian side Rubin 1-0 thanks to a goal from David Fuster in the 73rd minute with former Manchester United goalkeeper Roy Carroll coming on as a substitute to save a penalty five minutes later to earn the Greek side a hard fought victory.

Suarez snubs Evra handshake as Utd go top


Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Man United's Patrice Evra clash on during a controversial encounter at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Man United’s Patrice Evra clash on during a controversial encounter at Old Trafford on Saturday.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra feud ignited as Man Utd and Liverpool clash at Old Trafford
  • Wayne Rooney scores a brace as United go a point clear at top of English Premier League

         Manchester United went top of the English Premier League on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Liverpool at Old Trafford, but it was Luis Suarez who grabbed the headlines again.

Suarez, who was starting his first match since returning from an eight-match ban for racially abusing United defender Patrice Evra last October, refused to shake the French international’s hand as the team’s lined up before the match.

Suarez fined, suspended over racist remarks

It was the precursor to a fractious encounter with both sets of players reportedly clashing in the tunnel at halftime and having to be restrained after the final whistle.

On the pitch, the game was ignited by Wayne Rooney who struck twice in three minutes at the start of the second half after a goalless first period.

The England striker volleyed home in the 47th minute before latching on to a Antonio Valencia pass moments later to slot the ball past Pepe Reina.

Liverpool’s attempts to half the deficit were rewarded with a Suarez goal in the 80th minute but a spirited search for an equalizer ended in vain.

The arguments over the handshake incident went on after the match.

Alex Ferguson called Suarez “a disgrace” saying he should never be allowed to represent the Merseyside club again.

Reds’ boss Dalglish refused to be drawn on the issue saying he hadn’t see it.

The loss keeps Liverpool in seventh place on 39 points while United now have 58 points, one point more than Manchester City who travel to Aston Villa on Sunday.

Harry Redknapp capped a highly satisfying week as he watched his Tottenham Hotspur side thrash Newcastle United 5-0 at White Hart Lane.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto opened the scoring in the fourth minute, with recent signing Louis Saha doubling the lead two minutes later.

Saha was on target again in the 20th minute with Niko Kranjcar adding a fourth ten minutes before halftime.

Emmanuel Adebayor made it five in the 64th minute to complete the rout.

The win consolidates Spurs’ grip on third place while leaving them five points behind leaders Manchester United.

Chelsea slipped out of the top four as they lost to Everton 2-0 at Goodison Park.

Steven Peinaar put the Toffees ahead in the fifth minute with Denis Stracqualursi adding a second midway through the second half.

The result moves Everton up to 10th with 33 points while Chelsea drop to fifth behind Arsenal who beat Sunderland 2-1 at the Stadium of Light.

Thierry Henry’s strike in stoppage time saw Arsene Wenger’s team take all three points after going behind to a goal from James Mclean in the 70th minute.

Aaron Ramsey put the Gunners back on level terms before a volley by on-loan Henry sealed a dramatic victory and Martin O’Neill’s first home defeat since taking over as Sunderland boss in December last year.

Blackburn Rovers bounced back from their 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Arsenal last week with a 3-2 win over Queens Park Rangers at Ewood Park.

First-half goals from French midfielder Steven Nzonzi, Yakubu and an own goal from Nedum Onuoha proved enough to defeat Mark Hughes side despite two second half goals from his Scottish striker Jamie Mackie.

The win lifts Blackburn to 18th level on 21 points with QPR who are two places higher thanks to a superior goal difference.

Bottom-of-the-table Wigan also enjoyed a rare victory defeatingBolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium.

Scottish defender Gary Caldwell put Wigan in front two minutes before the break.

Mark Davies equalised in the 67th minute for Bolton but James McArthur’s 76th minute tap-in sealed Wigan’s fourth league win of the season.

Roberto Martinez’s team remain in last place but are now only one point adrift of Bolton who switch places with Blackburn.

Norwich City are up to eighth in the table after beating Swansea City 3-2 at the Liberty Stadium.

Danny Graham put the hosts ahead in the 23rd minute before the Canaries hit back with three second-half goals — two from striker Grant Holt, the other from Anthony Pilkington.

Graham got his second of the match for Swansea three minutes from the end but it couldn’t deny Norwich their ninth league win of the season.

Fulham moved level on 30 points with Stoke City after they beat Tony Pulis’ side at Craven Cottage.

Pavel Pogrebnyak gave the Cottagers the lead in the 16th minute. Twelve minutes later Clint Dempsey’s strike was tipped onto the bar by Danish keeper Thomas Sorensen who then saw the ball rebound back onto him and into the net.

Ryan Shawcross pulled one back for Stoke in the 78th minute but Fulham held on for all three points.

Spain’s fury at French sporting drug slurs


Rafael Nadal has accused media of
Rafael Nadal has accused media of “a globalized campaign” against Spanish sports stars.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rafael Nadal angry with French TV program’s depiction of Spanish athletes as drug users
  • Spanish government tells ambassador to France to make written protest to French media
  • Puppet comedy program spoofs Nadal, cyclist Alberto Contador and footballer Iker Casillas
  • Nadal accuses media of running a concerted campaign against Spanish athletes

         Is it just harmless fun, or is something seriously wrong developing in sporting relations between Spain and France?

Yannick Noah, the last French tennis player to win the French Open back in 1983, started it last year when he claimed that Spain’s recent sporting success could only be due to doping.

His remarks were quickly shot down by Rafael Nadal, the Spaniard who has won the Paris grand slam six times — a record he shares with Bjorn Borg, and may hold alone this year.

Now Nadal is at the center of another row, sparked by a comedy program on French channel Canal Plus that spoofed the 25-year-old and cycling champion Alberto Contador, who was this week stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title and banned after a long-running doping saga.

The Spanish government is so upset it has told its ambassador to France to send a written protest to French media, including the offending channel.

On this occasion, intolerable limits were crossed and the RFET cannot tolerate the lack of respect and slander toward our athletes
Spanish Tennis Federation president Jose Luis Escanuela

And the Spanish Tennis Federation has responded by threatening a lawsuit.

“The RFET will sue Canal Plus Francia for broadcasting a video which, besides inadmissible and slanderous insinuations, uses the federation’s logo. The RFET will also get support from other Spanish sports federation mentioned in that video, so that there is a common judicial action,” it said in a statement.

The French show, called “Les Guignols” (the Puppets), features lifelike representations of Nadal, Contador and Spain’s World Cup-winning football captain Iker Casillas among others.

They are shown writing in books with syringes, and in one scene the muscular Nadal puppet fills up its car’s petrol tank from its own bladder.

“On this occasion, intolerable limits were crossed and the RFET cannot tolerate the lack of respect and slander toward our athletes,” Spanish Tennis Federation president Jose Luis Escanuela said.

Nadal, who has never failed a drug test, also expressed his displeasure in interviews with Spanish media, calling it “a globalized campaign from the neighboring country.”

“At the end of the day it is humor,” Nadal said in quotes reported bynational newspaper El Pais. “One day is okay but when, from what I understand, it is done repeatedly then that is not so good because it crosses the line a bit. And it is always with the same focus.

“The institutions in general have to defend us because I don’t think it is a campaign against me or a campaign against anyone. It is a campaign against Spain in general, and against Spanish sports.

“I don’t think it is only Canal Plus that does it. I think there are other media pushing it along and I think that is something punishable because in Spain sportspeople who are not clean are punished, they don’t compete.”

Noah’s comments were made in the wake of Spain’s incredible sporting achievements in recent years.

Nadal was world No. 1 until last year, when he won his 10th grand slam title, having ended Roger Federer’s dominance before he too was usurped by Novak Djokovic.

Contador has won the Tour de France three times, though he lost one of those titles after testing positive for a small amount of the banned steroid clenbuterol. He overturned his initial ban, but the International Cycling Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency successfully appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Casillas has led Spain’s all-conquering football team to the 2008 European title and the 2010 World Cup crown, while his club Real Madrid’s big rivals Barcelona have been similarly dominant.

Football bucks the trend as Europe’s richest get richer


<br/>Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona were the top two teams in Deloitte's 2010-11 money list. Real are in first place for the seventh year in a row with a revenue of €479.5 million, with Barca second after generating €450.7 million.
Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona were the top two teams in Deloitte’s 2010-11 money list. Real are in first place for the seventh year in a row with a revenue of €479.5 million, with Barca second after generating €450.7 million
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Real Madrid named Europe’s top-earning team for the seventh year in a row
  • Real head archrivals Barcelona at the top of the Deloitte Football Money League
  • English champions Manchester United are third, with Germany’s Bayern Munich fourth
  • In total, the 20 clubs on the list generated $5.8 billion during the 2010/11 season

         The European economy may be experiencing a downturn, but the continent’s wealthiest football clubs have once again bucked the trend according to financial adviser Deloitte.

The Football Money League shows that the combined revenue of Europe’s top soccer clubs was €4.4 billion ($5.8 billion) for the 2010-11 season, a 3% rise on the previous year.

Spanish giants Real Madrid have been named Europe’s highest-earning club for the seventh year in a row. The nine-time European champions’ revenue of €479.5 million ($635 million) is an increase on €438.6 million for 2009-10.

Revenue (in million euros)

1. Real Madrid (479.5)

2. Barcelona (450.7)

3. Manchester United (367)

4. Bayern Munich (321.4)

5. Arsenal (251.1)

6. Chelsea (249.8)

7. AC Milan (235.1)

8. Inter Milan (211.4)

9. Liverpool (203.3)

10. Schalke (202.4)

11. Tottenham Hotspur (181)

12. Manchester City (169.6)

13. Juventus (153.9)

14. Marseille (150.4)

15. Roma (143.5)

16. Dortmund (138.5)

17. Lyon (132.8)

18. Hamburg (128.8)

19. Valencia (116.8)

20. Napoli (114.9)

Real’s archrivals and reigning Spanish and European champions Barcelona were second on the 20-club list with a revenue of €450.7 million ($597 million).

The Madrid giants are closing in on Manchester United’s record of topping the list for eight consecutive years. The top six clubs in the money league have remained the same for the fourth year in a row.

“Continued growth of the top 20 clubs during 2010-11 emphasizes the strength of football’s top clubs, especially in these tough economic times,” Deloitte partner Dan Jones said.

“Whilst revenue growth has slowed from 8% in 2009-10 to 3% in 2010-11, their large and loyal supporter bases, ability to drive strong broadcast audiences and continuing attraction to corporate partners has made them relatively resilient to the economic downturn.”

England boasted the most teams in the list with a total of six. Premier League champions United were third on the list, having generated €367 million ($486 million), up from €349.8 million.

The London duo of Arsenal and Chelsea were fifth and sixth on the list respectively. Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal boasted a revenue of €251.1 million ($332 million), down on last year’s figure of €274.1 million.

Chelsea, backed by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, saw revenue fall from €255.9 million in 2009-10 to €249.8 million ($330 million).

The other English clubs on the list were ninth-placed Liverpool (€203.3 million), Tottenham Hotspur in 11th with €181 million and big-spending Premier League leaders Manchester City in 12th on €169.9 million.

Four-time European champions Bayern Munich were the leading German club on the list in fourth place having generated €321.4 million ($425 million) — a small decrease on the previous period.

Tenth-placed Schalke, Borussia Dortmund in 16th and Hamburg, 18th, were Germany’s other representatives.

Five Italian clubs made the top 20 with city rivals AC Milan (€235.1 million) and Inter (€211.4 million) seventh and eighth respectively as both suffered reductions in revenues.

Serie A leaders Juventus were 10th with Roma rising three places to 15th and Napoli up to 20th after qualifying for the European Champions League.

France had two clubs on the list, with 14th-placed Marseille (€150.4 million) and Lyon (€132.8 million) in 17th position.