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By Sports Desk December 17, 2021

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  • Almeria 1-2 Real Madrid: Alaba's stunning first touch seals opening day win for champions Almeria 1-2 Real Madrid: Alaba's stunning first touch seals opening day win for champions

    Substitute David Alaba scored a stunning free-kick with his first touch as Real Madrid started their LaLiga title defence with a 2-1 turnaround win over Almeria on Sunday.

    Carlo Ancelotti's side started poorly at the Power Horse Stadium in Andalusia, and fell behind inside the opening 10 minutes courtesy of a clinical finish from former Manchester United youth player Largie Ramazani.

    Madrid struggled to find a way past an inspired Fernando Martinez in the Almeria goal, before Lucas Vazquez, who had an effort ruled out in the first half for offside, eventually pulled Madrid level shortly after the hour mark.

    Alaba replaced Ferland Mendy in the 74th minute and with his first touch curled a sumptuous free-kick past Fernando from 25 yards to seal all three points.

    Madrid's defence was caught out in just the sixth minute when Ramazani latched onto Inigo Eguaras' superb ball over the top and fired past Thibaut Courtois from just inside the penalty area.

    At five minutes and 50 seconds, that was the quickest goal Madrid have conceded on the opening day of a league season since Sergio Aguero scored against them for Atletico Madrid in August 2007.

    Los Blancos had a whopping 17 shots before the interval, yet a combination of smart goalkeeping from Fernando and uncharacteristically wasteful finishing from Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior prevented them from finding a leveller.

    Fernando continued to frustrate Madrid after the break, denying Benzema with a fine save, but he was eventually beaten in the 61st minute when Vazquez slammed home after the Almeria goalkeeper had kept out Vinicius' effort. 

    Alaba then ensured Madrid went back to the capital with maximum points, whipping past a helpless Fernando immediately after entering the action.

    What does it mean? Madrid bounce back to deny plucky hosts

    Almeria had won just one of their 12 games against Madrid in LaLiga prior to Sunday's clash, but they looked like they might earn a famous victory thanks to Ramazani's early strike and some inspired goalkeeping from Fernando.

    Vasquez and Alaba had other ideas, though, as Los Blancos stretched their unbeaten run on the opening day of LaLiga to 14 games.

    Alaba's instant impact

    Alaba did not need to settle into the action before dispatching a glorious free-kick past Fernando with his first touch. That goal meant he is one of only two players, alongside Real Betis' Nabil Fekir, to have scored two goals from free-kicks in LaLiga since the start of last season.

    Fantastic Fernando

    Fernando can consider himself exceptionally unlucky to have finished on the losing side. The 32-year-old made an incredible 13 saves to frustrate the visitors, but there was little he could do about Madrid's two decisive strikes.

    What's next?

    Madrid are away at Celta Vigo on Saturday, while Almeria visit Elche two days later. 

  • Bengals QB Burrow returns to training after surgery Bengals QB Burrow returns to training after surgery

    Four weeks to the day before the Cincinnati Bengals open their 2022 season, Joe Burrow was back on the practice field for the first time since undergoing surgery to remove his appendix 2 and a half weeks ago.

    It's uncertain how much work Burrow did during Sunday morning's walkthrough, though the 25-year-old quarterback returned from the practice field in his jersey while carrying his helmet.

    Prior to the Bengals' Sunday afternoon practice, the team tweeted out a short video of Burrow in shoulder pads and a practice jersey to tease fans of his return.

    A return to the practice field appeared imminent after he took part in some pre-game sprints ahead of the Bengals' preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night.

    Sidelined since his appendectomy on July 26, Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor had just said last week Burrow was feeling better but didn’t want to put a timetable on when he would return.

    The Bengals open the season on September 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the team has always indicated Burrow would be healthy enough to start the opener.

    After a knee injury cut short his 2020 rookie season, Burrow is coming off a sensational 2021, in which he led the Bengals to their first Super Bowl appearance since the 1988 season, while ranking second in passer rating (108.3), sixth in passing yards (4,611) and eighth in touchdown passes (34).

    He's baaaaack pic.twitter.com/vAGuTxEU4z

    — Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 14, 2022
  • Tottenham must improve to catch Chelsea, says Conte after ill-tempered London derby Tottenham must improve to catch Chelsea, says Conte after ill-tempered London derby

    Antonio Conte says Tottenham need to improve further if they are to reach Chelsea's level after a fiery 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

    Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg cancelled out Kalidou Koulibaly's superb opener for the Blues, but Thomas Tuchel's men restored their lead when Reece James burst through to score.

    A dramatic conclusion followed though, as Harry Kane was on hand to head home in the 96th minute and spark wild celebrations from Conte, before both he and Tuchel were promptly sent off amid a touchline clash.

    That followed an earlier argument between the pair after Hojbjerg's strike, with Tuchel furious the goal had not been ruled out for offside against Richarlison.

    The result meant Tottenham have won just one of their last 38 away matches against Chelsea in all competitions (D13 L24), a 3-1 win in April 2018 in the Premier League.

    Conte did not want to discuss the specifics of his clash with Tuchel, instead choosing to highlight that his side needs to improve if they are to enjoy the kind of success Chelsea have in recent seasons.

    "It's not so important [the clash with Tuchel]," he said in a press conference.

    "The most important thing is football and to speak about football. It was an intensive game. This game was really tough for us. You know that they are a really good team here.

    "I have to be honest, today Chelsea were better than us. Compared to last season we did better, but if we want to create problems for Chelsea [in the table] we have to be better.

    "We can do better, but at the same time we scored twice. In the last three games [against Chelsea] we didn't score.

    "We got a point and we showed, in my opinion, character and personality and my players wanted to stay in the game. We can do better."

    Tuchel and Conte have both received a card in three different Premier League games since the start of last season, the most of any two managers in the competition.

    The Italian, however, rejected suggestions that he can go overboard on the touchline, and believes Spurs fans want to see that he cares.

    "You have to show passion every time because the result can be positive or negative but you have to love your job and your work and show your passion," he added.

    "If the fans see this, it's good. You can take big achievements if you have a big passion in your job.

    "You can understand the situation. I think this game is an important game for both clubs."

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