• The Canadian Press

    Ilicic leads Atalanta to 2-0 win over Liverpool in CL

    LIVERPOOL, England — Eight months after his spectacular four-goal show in last season’s round of 16, Josip Ilicic was back on the scoresheet in the Champions League for Atalanta and leading the Italian upstart to another memorable win in the competition.Atalanta consigned Liverpool to a rare loss at Anfield on Wednesday, beating the six-time European champions 2-0 to revive its hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage for the second straight season.Ilicic set the visitors on their way to victory with a 60th-minute strike that was the Slovenia international’s first goal for Atalanta since March, when he netted four times in a 4-3 win at Valencia to secure his team a place in the quarterfinals against all the odds.Since then, Ilicic contracted the coronavirus during lockdown and reportedly became depressed, meaning he missed the rest of the season — including Atalanta’s loss to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League’s last eight — when soccer resumed in June.He only started playing again for the first team last month, and showed his joy at getting back among the goals against Liverpool by letting out a roar and clenching his fists inside an empty Anfield.Robin Gosens added a second goal in the 64th minute and Atalanta held on surprisingly comfortably to gain a measure of revenge for its 5-0 thrashing by Liverpool in the first match of their double-header three weeks ago.With Ajax also winning on Wednesday, Atalanta joined the Dutch club in moving two points behind Liverpool in Group D with two games remaining. Liverpool hosts Ajax next week.Needing a win to secure progress to the last 16, Liverpool’s players were strangely out of sorts. They didn’t manage a shot on target despite having star forward Mohamed Salah back in the team after recovering from contracting the coronavirus, while their injury problems in defence caught up with them.“A deserved defeat in a difficult game,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said.It was only Liverpool’s fourth loss at home in all competitions since the start of the 2017-18 season, which includes the extra-time defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League’s round of 16 last season.Both of the goals came from deliveries from Atalanta’s left, with Ilicic sliding in at far post to turn the ball home from Alejandro Gomez’s cross.From another cross to the back post, Hans Hateboer headed the ball back into the middle for Gosens, Atalanta’s other wing back, to sidefoot in from eight meters.Depleted amid injuries to centre backs Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez as well as to right back Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool also chose to rest regular left back Andrew Robertson and its makeshift defence \-- featuring youngsters Neco Williams and Rhys Williams -- looked exactly that at times.Klopp looked frustrated after the final whistle, especially since he has to pick his players for another match in less than three days — at Brighton in the Premier League.“You ask us to go Saturday at 12:30 p.m., which is nearly a crime,” Klopp said of the quick turnaround.___More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsThe Associated Press

  • The Canadian Press

    Lens misses out on top-6 place after drawing 1-1 with Nantes

    PARIS — Lens missed the chance to move into the top six places in the French league when it was held to a 1-1 home draw by Nantes on Wednesday.Former Chelsea starlet Gael Kakuta turned in Simon Banza's cross from 10 metres out to put northern side Lens ahead in the 27th minute.Nantes improved after the break and equalized in the 81st when midfielder Abdoulaye Toure beat goalkeeper Jean-Louis Leca from the penalty spot.Lens was playing one of its two games in hand from the opening 11 rounds, while Nantes caught up by completing its 11th game.The draw leaves Lens in eighth place while Nantes is in 14th.___More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsThe Associated Press

  • The Canadian Press

    Porto closes in on last 16 as Marseille sets losing record

    MARSEILLE, France — Porto won 2-0 at Marseille to close in on the knockout stage of the Champions League on Wednesday and condemn the French side to a record 13th straight defeat in the competition.Left back Zaidu Sanusi scored the opening goal in the 39th minute and midfielder Sergio Oliveira added a penalty with 20 minutes left as both sides finished with 10 players at Stade Velodrome.Another shoddy performance moves Marseille one beyond Belgian side Anderlecht, the previous co-holder of the record for straight defeats with 12. Marseille is also the only club in the current competition yet to score and has conceded nine goal in four games — a poor return for the only French side to win the competition, back in 1993.Porto’s win left it with nine points and second in Group C behind Manchester City on 12 points. City reached the last 16 for an eighth straight season after winning 1-0 at Olympiakos.Third-place Olympiakos is six points behind Porto but has a thin chance of qualifying since it still has to face Porto.Marseille only has the Europa League to aim for.A minute's silence was held before the game in memory of Argentina great Diego Maradona, who died on Wednesday. Marseille's then-president Bernard Tapie tried to sign Maradona from Italian club Naples in the summer of 1989.Valere Germain almost put Marseille ahead with a downward header from a free kick in the 15th, but goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin made a fine save from close range.Porto did not threaten until the 37th, when Sanusi's shot from outside the penalty area was batted away by veteran goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.From the ensuing corner, Marseille defended very poorly, allowing Sanusi space to have two shots from near the line, beating the veteran France No. 2 Mandanda with the second.Marseille coach Andre Villas-Boas made changes on the hour in a bid to unsettle the club he coached from 2010-11, bringing on playmaker Dimitri Payet and striker Dario Benedetto.Marseille was given some hope when central midfielder Marko Grujic was sent off for a second yellow card in the 67th after fouling Benedetto.Just three minutes later, Marseille centre half Leonardo Balerdi saw red after fouling striker Moussa Marega, and captain Oliveira converted from the spot for the two-time European champions.___More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsThe Associated Press