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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Madrid held

BARCELONA — Real Madrid's woes in the Spanish league worsened on Sunday when they were held to a 2-2 home draw by relegation-threatened Espanyol. Madrid appeared set to record their seventh straight home win in league play after Cristiano Ronaldo scored to cancel out Sergio Garcia's opener before setting up Fabio Coentrao to put Madrid ahead three minutes after halftime. But substitute Juan Albin scored off of a poorly defended corner kick for a share of the points two minutes from time. Barcelona can add to its 11-point lead over the defending champion when it hosts second-place Atletico Madrid later. The blow to Madrid's already dwindling title defence hopes came just four days after it lost 2-1 at Celta Vigo in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie.

Drogba link

MILAN — Juventus coach Antonio Conte has rubbished claims the Serie A champions are on the verge of signing former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba. Juve extended their lead over title challengers Inter Milan to seven points on Sunday thanks to a 3-0 rout of Atalanta. But despite reports claiming the Bianconeri have been in talks with Drogba's representatives, Conte said Juventus — and indeed other major clubs in Italy — are in no financial position to sign top players. Asked if Drogba would fit Juve's search for a top striker, Conte was unequivocal. "Transfer talk seems disrespectful to the players in my team, especially at the current moment," said Conte, who returned to the touchline last week following a four-month ban from the sport for his role in a match-fixing affair. Speaking to Sky Italia, Conte added: "It's a critical time as far as the economy is concerned and it's the same for several other teams. "We won't be signing any top players because we're not in a position to. Neither us, nor other top teams in the Italian league."

Racial probe

WELLINGTON — Adelaide United have called in police after Wellington Phoenix striker Paul Ifill said he was racially abused by a section of the crowd during Sunday's A-League match at Hindmarsh Stadium. Ifill, among the A-League's elite players, was understood to have been repeatedly called a racially-derogatory term when substituted in the 61st minute of Wellington's 3-1 loss to Adelaide. A Phoenix spokesman said on Monday that the club would make no further comment on the issue after Adelaide called in police. Wellington coach Ricki Herbert refused to confirm the racial nature of the abuse. Ifill said via Twitter that a line was crossed when he was racially abused by spectators. "Bad times poor result and racist abuse from a very small minority of fans #nothappy," the English-born Barbados international posted. Adelaide United and Football Federation Australia are both investigating the incident.

Arsenal attack

LONDON — Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has spent the past few days launching attacks of his own, but on Monday night he will discover if his players can do the same on the pitch at Reading. That unleashed an avalanche of criticism towards the Emirates Stadium, with much of it directed at Wenger, who has not led Arsenal to a major trophy in seven seasons. Wenger embarked on a vigorous defence of his own position, claiming he was still "determined" and "hungry" to bring success to the club and silence the critics who feel his 16-year reign should be brought to an end. "My job is to be determined and give importance to what is important," he said.

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