THE SOCCER REPORT

Ronaldo, Messi take the spotlight before international break

FC Cincinnati defeated the Portland Timbers in front of 32,250 present for their first MLS home match. Courtesy: FC Cincinnati.

Cristiano Ronaldo's hat-trick performance against Atletico Madrid to help Juventus advane to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and Lionel Messi's hat-trick in league play against Real Betis where the performances that stood out this week. Leagues around the world will now take a break for the International fixtures that will feature matches like USA vs. Chile next Tuesday in Houston.

UEFA Champions League

The Round of 16 concluded in Europe with no lead safe as Atletico Madrid became another side that fell apart in the second leg, much like Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain in the previous week. In the two series where everything was left to play for, it was Liverpool and FC Barcelona who prevailed at FC Bayern Munich and vs. Lyon, respectively.

Round of 16 - second leg results (updated):

  • Real Madrid 1-4 Ajax (3-5 agg.)
  • Dortmund 0-1 Tottenham (0-4 agg.)
  • Porto 3-1 Roma (4-3 agg.)
  • Paris 1-3 Manchester United (3-3 agg., Man Utd advance on away goals)
  • Manchester City 7-0 Schalke 04 (10-2 agg.)
  • Juventus 3-0 Atletico Madrid (3-2 agg.)
  • Bayern Munich 1-3 Liverpool (1-3 agg.)
  • FC Barcelona 5-1 Lyon (5-1 agg.)

The quarter-final draw happened on Friday, setting up the next round of matchups with Manchester United vs. FC Barcelona leading the headlines.

UEFA Europa League

Extra time was needed as Czech side Slavia Prague outlasted a potential Sevilla comeback to win their Round of 16 series at home. Besides that upset, Arsenal found it's way back from a 1-3 deficit against French side Rennes as the rest of the "favorites" march on to the next round.

English Premier League

Every goal from Premier League Matchweek 31 | NBC Sports www.youtube.com

Liverpool are back to the top of the standings, at least momentarily, as they pick up three points against Fulham. Manchester City did not feature in league play this week, instead advancing in the FA Cup with a 3-2 quater-final win against Swansea City. Mexican National Team star Javier Hernandez also took headlines this week with a brace to help West Ham to a 4-3 win over Huddersfield.

Top six: 1. Liverpool (76), 2. Manchester City (74), 3. Tottenham (61), 4. Arsenal (60), 5. Manchester United (58), 6. Chelsea (57)

Scoring leader: 18 - Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Assists leader: 11 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC)

Spain's La Liga

Highlights Real Betis vs FC Barcelona (1-4) www.youtube.com

FC Barcelona continue plowing through their La Liga competition as Messi put up three in the 4-1 win at Real Betis. The Argentine superstar commanded an ovation from the home fans thanks to his must-see goal in the hat-trick performance. Second-place Atletico Madrid lost 0-2 at Athletic Bilbao while Zidane's Real Madrid picked up a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo in the French Manager's comeback.

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (66), 2. Atlético Madrid (56), 3. Real Madrid (54), 4. Getafe (46), 5. Alaves (44), 6. Sevilla (43)

Scoring leader: 29 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 12 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. Bayern Munich (60), 2. Dortmund (60), 3. RB Leipzig (49), 4. Monchengladbach (47), 5. Eintracht Frankfurt (46), 6. Bayer Leverkusen (42)

Scoring leader: 18 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 12 - Jadon Sancho (Dortumund)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. Juventus (75), 2. Napoli (60), 3. Inter Milan (53), 4. A.C. Milan (51), 5. Roma (47), 6. Lazio (45)

Scoring leader: 21- Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria)

Assists leader: 9 - Dries Mertens (Napoli)

French Ligue 1

Top six: 1. PSG (77), 2. Lille (57), 3. Lyon (53), 4. Marseille (47), 5. Saint-Étienne (46), 6. Stade Reims (46)

Scoring leader: 24 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 10 - Angel Di Maria (PSG)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. PSV Eindhoven (67), 2. Ajax (62), 3. Feyenoord (47)

Belgian First Division A

Top three: 1. Genk (63), 2. Club Brugge (56), 3. Standard Liege (53)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Benfica (63), 2. Porto (63), 3. Braga (58)

Scottish Premier League

Top three: 1. Celtic (70), 2. Rangers (60), 3. Aberdeen (52)

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Concacaf Champions League

Only four teams remain in the Concacaf Champions League, three from Mexico and one lone USA team.

Quarterfinals - second leg results:


Major League Soccer

The story of Week 3 in MLS will be the first-ever home opener for new club FC Cincinatti, which drew a capacity crowd of 32,250 to Nippert Stadium. The home team sent fans happy with a 3-0 win over the Portland Timbers. Wayne Rooney had a hat-trick performance of his own this week to propel D.C. United to a 5-0 victory over Real Salt Lake and Alberth Elis took Team of the Week honors with Rooney after helping Houston Dynamo to a 3-2 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

East top seven: 1. D.C. United (7), 2. Columbus Crew (7), 3. Toronto (6), 4. Montreal (6), 5. NY Red Bulls (4), 6. Cincinatti (4), 7. NYCFC (3)

West top seven: 1. Seattle (9), 2. LAFC (7), 3. Houston (7), 4. Minnesota (6), 5. LA Galaxy (6), 6. Sporting KC (4), 7. FC Dallas (4)

Liga MX

The two biggest teams in Mexico faced off twice, in cup and league play, as Club America took both victories over rivals Chivas of Guadalajara. Leon continues top of the table, separated from Tigres UANL only on goal difference.

Top eight: 1. Leon (26), 2. Tigres UANL (26), 3. Monterrey (22), 4. Club America (19), 5. Club Tijuana (19), 6. Necaxa (18), 7. Cruz Azul (18), 8. Pachuca (17)

Scoring leader: 9 - Angel Mena (Leon) / Brian Fernandez (Necaxa)

Assists leader: 8 - Angel Mena (Leon)

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Copa Libertadores

Superliga Argentina

Top four: 1. Racing Club (55), 2. Defensa y Justicia (51), 3. Boca Juniors (47), 4. River Plate (42)

Scoring leader: 17 - Lisandro Lopez (Racing)

Assists leader: 9 - Walter Montillo (Tigre)

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Wednesday, Mar. 20

2:45 p.m. - [International Friendly] Germany vs. Serbia (ESPN3, Univision Deportes)

2:45 p.m. - [International Friendly] Wales vs. Trinidad & Tobago (ESPN3)

Thursday, Mar. 21

10:00 a.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Kazakhstan vs. Scotland (ESPN3)

1:00 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Kosovo vs. Denmark (ESPN3)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Belgium vs. Russia (ESPN2, Univision Deportes)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Netherlands vs. Belarus (ESPN3)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Croatia vs. Azerbaijan (ESPN3)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Austria vs. Poland (ESPN3)

7:00 p.m. - [International Friendly] U.S. Men's National Team vs. Ecuador (ESPN2/UniMas)

Friday, Mar. 22

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] England vs. Czech Republic (ESPNews)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Albania vs. Turkey (ESPN3)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Moldova vs. France (ESPN+)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Portugal vs. Ukraine (UniMas, Univision Deportes)

3:30 p.m. - [International Friendly] Argentina vs. Venezuela (beIN Sports)

9:00 p.m. - [International Friendly] Mexico Men's National Team vs. Chile (UniMas, Univision Deportes)

Saturday, Mar. 23

12:00 p.m. - [International Friendly] Brazil vs. Panama (beIN Sports en Espanol)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Spain vs. Norway (ESPNews)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Italy vs. Finland (ESPN+)

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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