It's all in the timing, the control of the ball and the precision swing. Like a glorious golf shot, the perfect cross in football is beyond many players, but Trent Alexander-Arnold strikes the football with such pace, whip and dip that it's no wonder he celebrated Liverpool's opener against Arsenal as though he had headed the ball into the goal himself.

It's The Masters next week at Augusta.

This Emirates Stadium clash was a reminder of last season's Premier League masters in full flow, or at least that was the case for the final half an hour, because the first 60 minutes was so drab the tape should be wiped forthwith and we'll never discuss it again. Arsenal's players, thumped 3-0, would want the whole game deleted from memory, given they were abject from first whistle to last.

Alexander-Arnold had been lively enough before the breakthrough came, and James Milner owed him a better finish from the precise cutback that reached the veteran Liverpool midfielder in the 35th minute. Milner shot wide of the left post.

But in a game between two sides whose seasons have fallen well short of expectations, it was a flash of wonder that reminded the visitors how they became champions with 99 points last term. Gareth Southgate dropped Alexander-Arnold from his England squad a fortnight ago, so this will inevitably be interpreted as some sort of response.

But really it was just Alexander-Arnold doing Alexander-Arnold things. He makes chances and he makes goals, handy attributes for a right-back. And when there is very little actual defending to be done, as was the case against a dreadful Arsenal side, Alexander-Arnold is a world beater.

Diogo Jota, the player on the end of that game-changing cross on Saturday, later described the delivery as "unreal". Jurgen Klopp, who was stunned by the full-back's international omission, said that he "showed his class again".

When all is not going to plan for the 22-year-old, possessing strong defensive cover can paper over his weaknesses, and with Liverpool having hit upon an injury crisis at the back this season, Alexander-Arnold has been unable to count on Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip or Joe Gomez getting him out of trouble.

So the impact of his handful of errors has been magnified, and the scrutiny reached its apex when Southgate decided he should miss those opening World Cup qualifiers.

Since the beginning of last season, Alexander-Arnold has created 172 chances across all club competitions and had 21 assists. On each count, those are the highest number among defenders in Europe's top five leagues. In the same period, he has made four errors that have led to shots and two that have cost Liverpool goals. Some would accept that ratio.

Gary Lineker, who knows a thing or two about being on the end of crosses for England, believes Southgate got it wrong in dropping Alexander-Arnold.

"The perfect response from @TrentAA to his bizarre omission from the @England squad," Lineker wrote on Twitter on Saturday night. "He's been brilliant tonight. Can't be left at home in the summer. Just can't be."

The Euro 2020 finals surely do beckon for Alexander-Arnold, with England's group rivals Croatia, Czech Republic and Scotland certain to be delighted if he stays at home.

Jota gave Alexander-Arnold a target after coming off the bench just after the hour mark, and the sublime cross from the right that found the striker on the edge of the six-yard box was a striker's dream.

Liverpool are still chasing fourth place, with Chelsea's defeat to West Brom earlier in the day a major boon to the Reds.

Mohamed Salah and Jota, with his second, finished off a lousy Arsenal who had just three goal attempts across the 90 minutes, and Mikel Arteta's men can now be counted out of the race for Champions League places.

Gary Neville, commentating for Sky Sports, condemned a "real flaky performance" by Arsenal, adding: "It's the worst I've seen them for a bit."

Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Martin Odegaard all started for the hosts, and Pepe was the only one of the quartet to manage a shot.

Former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp said Arsenal's display was "putrid", and Arteta would probably agree. This was their heaviest defeat at home against Liverpool in the league.

On the day Liverpool's reign as Premier League champions effectively ended – they cannot possibly catch Manchester City now this season – this was a reminder of how Klopp's men can roll over feeble opposition.

On they go now, to face Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday. The Spanish champions will know all about Alexander-Arnold, who would have made a phenomenal complement to Roberto Carlos back in the day. Now they simply have to stop him.

Real Sociedad have won their first Copa del Rey since 1987 after Mikel Oyarzabal's second-half penalty secured a 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in what was the first ever final between the two great rivals in their current guises.

Played 350 days later than initially scheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic, La Cartuja in Seville played host to one of the most significant finals in the competition's history and La Real came out on top in the long-awaited encounter.

In what was the first all-Basque Copa del Rey showpiece since 1927, it was perhaps fitting that someone who has played for both teams was central to the match's major moment of contention, as Inigo Martinez was sent off for the concession of a penalty, only to be hauled back on following a VAR check.

The former La Real captain's blushes were not completely spared, however, as Oyarzabal – wearing Los Txuri-Urdin's armband – dispatched the spot kick.

While Athletic desperately sought a late equaliser, Marcelino Garcia Toral's men lacked the invention to force extra-time, but they will have another bite at the cherry on April 16 when they face Barcelona in the 2020-21 final.

Establishing any form of control proved difficult for either side in a frenetic opening half that was exacerbated by the downpour in Seville.

It was not until the 33rd minute that either goalkeeper was forced into necessary action, as Athletic centre-back Martinez let fly from distance and saw Alex Remiro tip over in spectacular fashion – both players featuring against the teams whose academies they graduated from.

Athletic survived a scare at the other end soon after, with Yeray Alvarez managing to cut out Andoni Gorosabel's right-wing cross as Alexander Isak waited for a simple finish.

Martinez avoided conceding a penalty soon after the restart, with his handball deemed to be just outside the 18-yard box.

He did not get so lucky just past the hour, though, when Martinez clumsily tripped Portu as he looked to latch on to a throughball.

The red card flashed in his direction was soon overturned on review, but Oyarzabal was not as forgiving, lashing an emphatic penalty past the helpless Unai Simon.

There proved to be no way back for an Athletic side, who were generally toothless throughout.

Hansi Flick hailed his side's "mentality" after they moved seven points clear at the Bundesliga summit with a 1-0 win over RB Leipzig on Saturday. 

Leon Goretzka's third goal in his last four top-flight games proved the difference at the Red Bull Arena as Bayern took a significant step towards a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title. 

It marked the 62nd consecutive match in which Bayern have found the back of the net, setting a new record in Germany football since the Bundesliga was founded in 1963. 

Bayern did not have it all their own way against Leipzig, who had 14 shots to their nine, and Flick acknowledged his side had to use all of their mental strength to claim all three points against their second-placed hosts. 

"It was a top game and Leipzig showed why they are right up there," he told Sky. "We were on the trigger right from the start. 

"We didn't play forward as we would have wanted, but the goal was played out nicely. Leipzig caused us some problems, but the morale and mentality of my players is really excellent."

Goretzka's goal was created by Thomas Muller, who has now been involved in 11 goals in his last 10 Bundesliga games (four goals, seven assists). 

The 31-year-old has not played for Germany since November 2018 after being deemed surplus to requirements by Joachim Low.

However, there have been growing calls for him to be recalled for the rescheduled Euro 2020 at the end of the domestic season. 

Flick praised Muller for his "sensational" campaign, but said he did not want to influence Low, who he was assistant to between 2006 and 2014.

"I don't have to interfere," he added. "Thomas Muller is playing a sensational season. He can be important for other teams too, but in the end it has to be decided by Jogi. 

"He pushes his team-mates again and again, also in training. I am glad that we have such players in our ranks."

No side leading the Bundesliga by at least seven points after 27 games has failed to go on and win the title, but goalscorer Goretzka is refusing to get carried away.

"There are still 21 points to be awarded," he said. "It was a big step, but not the decisive one."

Bayern host Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday before welcoming Union Berlin to the Allianz Arena in the Bundesliga four days later.

Jorge Martin will start Sunday's Doha MotoGP on pole after stunning the field in qualifying but the rookie insists the race win will belong to someone else.

The Spaniard nudged Pramac Racing team-mate Johann Zarco into second place with a superlative display, with Maverick Vinales – who won the season-opening race in Qatar – in third.

It was a phenomenal result for Martin on just his second outing in qualifying for a premier-class event, but the 23-year-old refused to get carried away as he lowered expectations ahead of the race at the Losail International Circuit. 

"It's difficult to describe my feelings," he said of his first pole. "In the first run, I was behind [Joan] Mir and I felt super confident, I was catching him so fast, and I said, 'Okay, I need a faster bike [to follow]'.

"I was hoping to be behind Pecco [Francesco Bagnaia] but he wasn't improving at all, so I said, 'Okay, it’s my time to boost, my time to demonstrate who I am'.

"For sure, I didn't expect to make pole; I was expecting to be front four, front five.

"When I finished the lap and I was up there in first position, it's unbelievable. This is so great. Tomorrow – another day to learn because for sure it's not my day to win.

"If we can fight for a top six that'd be great and I will be super happy."

Martin picked up a point with a 15th-place finish last week, when Zarco and pole-sitter Bagnaia joined Vinales on the podium.

A best lap of one minute and 53.106 seconds saw Martin clinch pole this time around and Zarco admitted he was taken aback when he realised who had gone faster than him.

"I'm pretty happy, a low one minute 53 seconds was a good target to be on the first row," said the Frenchman.

"When I saw this one minute 53.2 seconds when I crossed the finish line I expected to be on pole.

"But when I understood it was the 89 on pole, my team-mate, I was a bit surprised.

"I'm happy anyway because it's all going too perfect for Pramac team – first and second and it's just happiness to take. It has been great."

Provisional classification

1. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) 1:53.106
2. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +0.157
3. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) +0.161
4. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) +0.197
5. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) +0.363
6. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) +0.548
7. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) +0.599
8. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) +0.639
9. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) +0.679
10. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) +0.688
11. Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) +1.118
12. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) +1.990

Diogo Jota had a big impact from the bench as his brace set Liverpool on their way to a precious 3-0 win at Arsenal on Saturday.

The defending Premier League champions closed to within two points of the top four with victory after Chelsea were remarkably thrashed 5-2 at home by West Brom earlier in the day.

It was a huge opportunity that looked like passing Liverpool by as they lacked imagination in the final third for the first hour.

But with Arsenal providing uninspiring opposition, Jurgen Klopp turned to his bench and Jota required just over three minutes after coming on to forge the breakthrough with a thumping header.

A swift second followed from Mohamed Salah and Jota was on target again for the third, ensuring the Reds moved firmly back into the race for Champions League qualification.

Liverpool had dominated from the outset but were restricted to shots from distance until the 35th minute when James Milner passed up a glaring opportunity.

Trent Alexander-Arnold reached the byline and cut a ball back to the unmarked stand-in Liverpool skipper, who pulled a firmly struck effort wide with Bernd Leno seemingly beaten.

A difficult first half for Arsenal ended with Kieran Tierney departing through injury, before the second period brought only marginal improvement in the home ranks.

Klopp sensed the opportunity, made an attacking change - replacing Andy Robertson with Jota - and was quickly rewarded as the substitute beat two defenders to a sublime Alexander-Arnold cross.

Salah, stifled until then, suddenly found space down the right and advanced to roll a finish under Leno to take the game away from Arsenal.

Leno produced a right-handed save from the same man soon afterwards, but an awful Gabriel Magalhaes pass let the visitors in again and Jota blasted past the goalkeeper.

Leaders Inter extended their advantage at the Serie A summit to eight points on Saturday, Romelu Lukaku scoring the only goal in a hard-fought 1-0 triumph away at Bologna. 

With second-placed Milan only able to draw at home to Sampdoria upon the resumption of the season following the international break, Antonio Conte's side were gifted the chance to tighten their grip on top spot.

They duly seized on the opportunity with a ninth successive league win, producing a solid display on the road to move a step closer to a first league title since the 2009-10 season.

Both teams had strong penalty claims prior to Lukaku's goal in the 31st minute, the striker on hand to tap in the rebound having seen his initial header kept out by a combination of goalkeeper and crossbar.

Federico Ravaglia reacted superbly to parry the attempt up into the air, only to see it loop onto the bar and then drop kindly for Lukaku to prod across the line for his 20th league goal of the season.

Andrea Ranocchia and Lautaro Martinez went close to adding to the advantage prior to the interval, while the latter hit the foot of Ravaglia's left-hand post with a curling effort from just outside the penalty area in the early stages of the second half.

Bologna made sure Inter never felt too comfortable so long as the lead remained at one, though too often the hosts failed to work Samir Handanovic when well positioned to do so.

The Inter captain had been fortunate to see an attempt from Jerdy Schouten go over the top after slipping from his grasp in the opening half, but he was only called on to make two saves throughout the contest.

While the visitors were wasteful themselves at times, managing to get just three of their 14 attempts on target, Lukaku could hardly have missed when presented with the opportunity from which he secured three more vital points for his side.

What does it mean? Inter on course to go the distance

Inter have impressively moved clear of the pack in the title race, aided by their rivals slipping off the pace. As well as Milan dropping points, reigning champions Juventus also faltered when returning to domestic duties, drawing 2-2 in an eventful Turin derby.

This current winning streak is the best for the Nerazzurri since setting a new competition record with 17 in a row in 2007. They still did not finish top at the end of that season, but all the signs this term suggest it is a matter of when, rather than if, Conte's squad are crowned champions.

Lukaku in illustrious company

With the closest of close-range finishes, Lukaku reached 20 league goals for Inter for a second successive season since his arrival from Manchester United.

The Belgium international is just the seventh player to hit that number in back-to-back campaigns for the club, joining a list that includes the legendary Giuseppe Meazza, as well as more recent Inter strikers in Christian Vieri and Mauro Icardi.

Hosts lack style to go with substance

Bologna were looking to win three on the spin in the league for a third time under Sinisa Mihajlovic, yet lacked a cutting edge when it mattered as they failed to score in a home game for only the second time in Serie A this term.

Key Opta Facts

- Inter are the third team in Serie A history to win each of the first nine games in the second half of the season, after Milan in 1989-90 (10) and Juventus in 2017-18 (9). 

- Inter have won five games in a row on the road in Serie A for the first time since November 2019, when they won their first seven away league games under Conte. 

- Inter have won 72 games against Bologna in Serie A, against no side they have won more matches in the competition. 

- Bologna failed to score in a home game for the second time in Serie A this term, also doing so against Napoli last November. 

What's next? 

Inter play their game in hand in midweek, hosting Sassuolo at San Siro on Wednesday. As for Bologna, they are not back in action again until next Sunday, Mihajlovic's side travelling to Roma.

Mats Hummels accepts it will be "difficult" for Borussia Dortmund to secure a top-four finish after losing 2-1 at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Andre Silva grabbed the winner in the 87th minute at Signal Iduna Park, pushing fourth-placed Frankfurt further clear of their hosts in the battle to qualify for next season's Champions League.

Dortmund sit fifth in the table but are seven points adrift. They have won just once in four Bundesliga outings and have now reached double figures for defeats in the competition this season.

With just seven games remaining, Hummels fears BVB have left themselves with too much to do during the run-in.

The centre-back - who scored just before half-time to cancel out an early own goal by team-mate Nico Schulz - felt the hosts paid the price for not taking their chances before losing control of the game.

"On the one hand, we clearly have to hold our hands up for our chance conversion. We had so many opportunities, especially situations that should be 100 per-cent chances," Hummels told Sky Sports in Germany after Dortmund had managed to get just five of their 19 attempts on target.

"In the second half, we never managed to get into central positions in front of goal or create a good situation. We also allowed the game to get really out of control.

"In that regard, there were parallels to the Cologne game [which ended in a 2-2 prior to the international break]. We were not precise, focused or just technically good enough on the ball. We obviously should have also made better use of the chances that we had.

"We now need to ensure that we pick up wins. Unfortunately, we've dug ourselves another big hole with our most recent games. Even with six or seven wins, it's going to be difficult to get fourth place.

"We need to put in the performances in the Bundesliga and then see where that gets us. In the cup competitions, we want to try to make it through."

Dortmund - who had won nine on the spin at home against Frankfurt prior to Saturday's meeting - face Manchester City next in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie.

The possibility of missing out on appearing in the competition again next season will raise questions over the club's ability to hang on to their prized asset in Erling Haaland, who has been linked with a host of Europe's leading clubs. 

Mino Raiola - the striker's agent - was in Spain this week to hold talks with Barcelona and Real Madrid, while he was reportedly set to do the same with a select number of Premier League teams on Friday, too.

However, Dortmund director Sebastian Kehl has made clear there is no cause for panic within the club, despite the consistent rumours surrounding Haaland's future.

"Our position is clear: we are planning with Erling," Kehl told Sky. "We are very relaxed about the situation."

City are one of those teams rumoured to be interested in Haaland - who has scored 10 goals in six Champions League games this campaign - but Pep Guardiola dismissed the possibility of signing the 20-year-old ahead of going up against him in Europe."

The Charlotte Hornets have lost another star player to injury after Gordon Hayward was ruled out for four weeks with a foot sprain.

Although the Hornets are going strong in the East, sitting fourth with a 25-23 record, they have been without leading Rookie of the Year contender LaMelo Ball for the past seven games.

Ball, the brother of New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo, was averaging 15.9, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals in his debut NBA season before he fractured his wrist.

The third overall pick faces a race to return this season, although a postseason run would boost his chances.

Charlotte's playoff hopes have now been hit further, however, with Hayward's setback confirmed following Friday's win over the Indiana Pacers.

"He will be reevaluated in approximately four weeks and further updates on his status will be provided as appropriate," a statement read on Saturday.

With Hayward tallying 19.6 points per game this season, it means the Hornets are missing their second- and third-highest scorers.

Terry Rozier leads the way on an average of 20.3 points, although Miles Bridges was Charlotte's top performer against the Pacers with 23 points off the bench in a dominant 114-97 success.

For Hayward, this is just the latest in a series of injury frustrations.

Having earned an All-Star selection with the Utah Jazz, the forward signed with the Boston Celtics in free agency in 2017.

But Hayward played just once in his first season in Boston due to a fractured ankle sustained five minutes into his debut.

He was then beset by a number of minor issues in his second year as a Celtic, averaging just 11.5 points as he played 72 games but started only 18.

The 2019-20 campaign brought a return to form, despite Hayward fracturing his hand, but a sprained ankle at the start of the playoffs limited him to five postseason games, scoring 10.8 points per game after 17.5 in the regular season.

Hayward's sorry stay with the Celtics came to an end ahead of the current season when he moved to Charlotte in a sign-and-trade.

Zinedine Zidane is waiting to learn if Eden Hazard will be fit to return for Real Madrid against Liverpool on Tuesday.

Madrid face a huge week in their season with the home leg of their Champions League quarter-final before a Clasico with Barcelona in LaLiga.

But head coach Zidane is hoping his side will receive a boost ahead of the first meeting with the Reds.

Hazard returned from injury shortly before the international break but then missed the European tie against Atalanta with a damaged hip flexor and was unable to go away with Belgium.

Red Devils boss Roberto Martinez could not even guarantee the €100million winger would make Euro 2020, although he was "very positive".

Hazard might be back in action as soon as Tuesday, with Madrid also looking to again bring Federico Valverde into the fold.

"Hopefully we can get Valverde and Hazard back," Zidane said on Saturday. "We will see tomorrow and the day after.

"Today it was not possible but I hope that on Tuesday they can be with us."

Hazard scored six goals against Liverpool in 16 games while with Chelsea.

But he has made just 36 appearances and 29 starts for Madrid since his signing in June 2019, scoring only four times and providing five assists from 38 chances created.

Hazard certainly was not missed as Los Blancos swept aside Eibar 2-0 at a stormy Estadio Alfredo di Stefano.

Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema scored in either half, while the Spain forward also hit the crossbar, opposing goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic made six saves and three of Madrid's four offsides saw goals disallowed.

"The first half, in general, was complete, with good feelings," Zidane said. "It's what I told the players.

"Then, with the storm, there were 20 difficult minutes to start the second.

"We have to recover well because we have a week with important games in the Champions League and the league. They will be entertaining.

"We must continue like this. There was a difficult moment in the season and now we have to take advantage of the current one, which is good."

Ahead of league leaders Atletico Madrid and fellow challengers Barca playing this weekend, Madrid moved up to second, three points off the summit.

That promising position means Zidane will prioritise neither domestic action nor their European exploits.

"We do not look at that," he said. "We are in the day-to-day. We are thinking about today's game, which we did very well.

"We are not going to think about one competition or the other; we are alive in both. Now you have to enjoy the moment. We have done nothing - we have to continue."

Thibaut Courtois, required to make four saves against Eibar but only really tested by an awkward Lucas Vazquez backpass, added: "We've fought all season to get to April, where everything is played for.

"Winning today put pressure on Atletico and Barcelona.

"In April, everything is played for and everything is decided; hopefully we will keep winning."

Benjamin Mendy was an unlikely goalscorer as Manchester City took another step towards the Premier League title with an authoritative 2-0 victory at Leicester City.

Pep Guardiola's side were dominant for long periods, Kevin De Bruyne hitting the crossbar, but had to wait until the 58th minute for left-back Mendy to find the breakthrough.

Both teams had seen goals ruled out for offside by that point, with Jamie Vardy frustrated in first-half stoppage time, although nothing approaching a repeat of Leicester's 5-2 early season triumph at the Etihad Stadium ever appeared to be on the cards.

A majestic De Bruyne throughball allowed substitute Raheem Sterling to tee up Gabriel Jesus for a game-sealing goal that put the leaders 17 points clear of Manchester United, albeit having played two games more than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men.

Manchester City captain Fernandinho drilled a 25-yard drive into the bottom corner but his fifth-minute effort was ruled out because Sergio Aguero jumped over the shot in an offside position.

De Bruyne went closer for the visitors, rattling the bar with a 23rd-minute free-kick, before Kasper Schmeichel saved with his boot to thwart former team-mate Riyad Mahrez and Jesus thrashed over before half-time.

Leicester's first shot belatedly arrived in the 48th minute, when Youri Tielemans treated Ederson to a routine stop.

Ruben Dias slid in to make a telling block from the Belgium midfielder moments later after Kelechi Iheanacho picked Fernandinho's pocket.

Mahrez stung Schmeichel's palms before the hour and Leicester failed to clear the danger – possession falling to Mendy, who stepped inside Marc Albrighton and slotted home right footed.

Sterling and Jesus threatened to undo De Bruyne's imperious work 16 minutes from time but held their nerve to seal victory as blue shirts darted back towards the goalmouth in vain.

Mahrez trudged off having come agonisingly close to scoring against his former employers, clipping a shot just wide after Jesus mugged a flagging Jonny Evans.

Cristiano Ronaldo salvaged a 2-2 Serie A draw for Juventus after Antonio Sanabria's double threatened to secure a shock derby win for struggling Torino. 

Federico Chiesa's 13th goal of the season put the champions in front, but Sanabria equalised before the break and struck again just 15 seconds into the second half at Olimpico Grande Torino.

Ronaldo denied Torino when he levelled 11 minutes from time with a goal that was initially ruled out, but a VAR checked showed he was onside.

Rodrigo Bentancur struck the post as fourth-placed Juve slipped up again following their shock loss to Benevento and they will be 12 points adrift of leaders Inter if Antonio Conte's side beat Bologna later on Saturday.

Franck Ribery made a public apology to his Fiorentina team-mates after the veteran French star was sent off for the seventh time in his club career.

The former Bayern Munich winger, who turns 38 on Wednesday, was dismissed by referee Fabio Maresca after going in studs-up on Davide Zappacosta during Saturday's Serie A clash away to Genoa.

That incident occurred in the 51st minute, with the teams locked at 1-1, and Fiorentina held on as the match finished without any further goals.

Fiorentina and Genoa lurk in lower mid-table, with both sides looking to banish the distant threat of relegation after the international break.

Ribery, who in 2012-13 beat Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win UEFA's Men's Player of the Year award, recognised he let down his Viola team-mates.

"Guys, I'm sorry I left you alone," he wrote on Twitter. "I didn't want to go in badly and I have already apologised. You fought to the end and you were very brave and careful. Keep going like this!"

Ribery joined Fiorentina on a two-year deal after being released by Bayern in 2019 and was sent off against Lazio early in his Serie A career. He had been dismissed four times for Bayern and once when playing for Marseille.

An ankle injury meant Ribery missed a large chunk of his debut season in Italy, when he scored three goals and had three assists in 21 games.

There have been flashes of his best in the current campaign, in which he has scored twice and had five assists in 23 appearances so far, also hitting the woodwork twice.

However, the number of chances he has created has dipped from 35 last season to 26 this term, despite spending 197 more minutes on the pitch, and his dribble success rate has also fallen, shrinking from 59.55 to 52.63 per cent.

Marco Asensio emphasised the importance of Real Madrid's 2-0 win over Eibar ahead of mammoth matches against Liverpool and Barcelona.

Madrid had 21 shots at Estadio Alfredo di Stefano but had been frustrated prior to the breakthrough strike from Asensio four minutes before half-time, with Eibar goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic in inspired form.

Dmitrovic finished with six saves, while three of Madrid's four offsides saw goals ruled out, yet Karim Benzema secured the points with a second-half header that extended his scoring streak to seven straight games.

Benzema has plundered nine goals in that time, while he has nine against Eibar in his LaLiga career - the most of any Madrid player.

Asensio is enjoying his own fine run, netting in three consecutive matches for Madrid for the first time, and now has his sights set on more important fixtures to come.

Liverpool visit in the Champions League on Tuesday before Madrid welcome rivals Barca next Saturday.

"I work for that [to score]," Asensio told Movistar. "In the end, it's about waiting for the moment and taking advantage of it.

"I'm happy for the goals, for the team and now comes the most important moment of the season.

"There are unfortunately a lot of injuries this season, but I think we all have to contribute and that's why we're a team."

Victory took Madrid up to second, at least until Barca play Real Valladolid on Monday.

Asensio said: "We knew we had to win to get good feelings and we took the three points, which is the most important thing.

"We have played a good match, creating chances, and in the end we have won well.

"Now we face a very important week with the match against Liverpool and then Barca to come. We have to live up to it as the Madrid we are."

Neymar was sent off on his first Ligue 1 start in two months as part of a dramatic finale to Paris Saint-Germain's 1-0 defeat to Lille in a barnstorming top-of-the-table clash.

The Brazilian forward injured his adductor as a substitute against Marseille at the beginning of February but was unable to inspire the champions in a game settled by Jonathan David's 20th minute goal on his return to the starting XI.

It was a frustrating day for Neymar who had missed two great chances before receiving a second yellow card and subsequent red for a shove on Tiago Djalo as frustrations boiled over in the closing stages.

Djalo was also shown red having already been booked but Lille moved three points clear of PSG, who have now lost three home games on the spin in Ligue 1 for the first time since October 2007.

 

 

 

Stunned Thomas Tuchel delayed a dressing-room debrief until Sunday after Chelsea deteriorated from a well-oiled machine to a "rusty" heap in a 5-2 thumping by West Brom.

The head coach had led Chelsea on a 14-game unbeaten run after succeeding Frank Lampard in January, but they were overrun at Stamford Bridge by Sam Allardyce's relegation battlers.

Christian Pulisic had given a slow-starting Chelsea the lead after 27 minutes, but a red card for Thiago Silva moments later led to the hosts going limp, and by the time their second goal arrived from Mason Mount, the Blues had conceded four times.

Matheus Pereira and substitute Callum Robinson both scored twice in the unexpected rout, with Mbaye Diagne also netting for the second-bottom Baggies. Robinson became the first player in Premier League history to score at least twice in home and away games against Chelsea in a single season.

Chelsea have a Champions League quarter-final first leg against Porto coming up in Seville on Wednesday, and Tuchel is determined for any personal response to his first defeat to be a measured one.

"We cannot lose our heads and we cannot take away the trust we have with these players," Tuchel said.

"It was the moment after the game to be honest but to be calm, and to breathe and tell everyone to breathe. It will be a hard afternoon and evening for everyone.

"We have to accept it now. It's our first loss together and it's important to find a way to deal with it together. There were some quick words to calm everyone down and delay the talks until tomorrow. Because now is too emotional, now is too much frustration, and this is not productive enough."

Tuchel felt Chelsea were off their game even from an early stage, complaining they missed "a lot of opportunities to finish this game" before West Brom began their hot streak.

They had 18 shots to West Brom's 14, but Chelsea would have been flattered by anything but defeat.

"We were not able to adapt to one man down," Tuchel said. "There is no need to concede five goals if you are one man down, with our quality.

"But our defending was clearly not on the level it used to be. It's hard to accept but there's no other solution than to accept it and move on forward."

As Allardyce savoured becoming the first manager to win away at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League with three different clubs (Bolton Wanderers, Crystal Palace and West Brom), Tuchel was left to consider what went so badly wrong.

The German coach was asked whether the result was a "wake-up call", but he suggested he had not considered his team in need of such a jolt.

"If we look at this game in four weeks hopefully we call it a wake-up call because that would mean we really woke up and started a new series [of unbeaten games]," he said.

"For me, it was not necessary. I did not feel an overconfidence, I didn't feel we were arrogant or without the effort. They started to defend very deep. We had high ball possession, we created good moments and had good ball recoveries up the pitch. But still at 11 against 11, we had crucial ball losses in our own half, which produced two set-pieces right around the box.

"I was a bit more concerned by our body positioning, our positioning for the build-up and everything seemed a bit rusty and more rusty than in training.

"And that's why I was surprised [by the early stages of the game]. But I could accept it, I did not have the highest expectations. I thought if it takes us a while to come into this match, I will accept it.

"But to give a red card away like this straight after a goal, maybe we did not feel the risk. I will talk to the players about it. But the attitude in defending was clearly not the same like we did before."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.