Godin hands Atletico the edge
A first-half header by Diego Godin gave holders Atletico Madrid a 1-0 victory in their Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg at home to Athletic Bilbao on Thursday. Godin nodded in a cross from midfielder Koke after 41 minutes in a repeat of the 2011-2012 Europa League final, also won by Atletico. Bilbao will fancy their chances of overturning the deficit in the second leg, especially as they have yet to lose at the San Mames Barria this season. Bilbao put out a strong side at the Vicente Calderon, with Kike Sola given a chance in attack ahead of the misfiring Aritz Aduriz. Atletico rested a number of first-choice players and the visitors went close to an early goal when Ander Herrera fired wide in the 10th minute. The hosts carried more of a threat in attack and goalkeeper Iago Herrerin had to produce a fine save to thwart Diego Costa. Herrerin also denied Adrian Lopez when he was clean through on goal, before Godin finally put Atletico in front. Costa and Koke then went close in the second half, but Atletico had to make do with a slender one-goal advantage.
Fiorentina to face Udinese
ACF Fiorentina ground out a 2-1 victory over second-tier AC Siena to reach the Coppa Italia semi-finals on Thursday. Marvin Compper headed home a corner 15 minutes from time to book Fiorentina a two-leg tie against Udinese, who beat AC Milan on Wednesday. Josip Ilicic gave Fiorentina the lead in the 20th minute, shrugging off his marker to control the ball, before slotting under diving Siena goalkeeper Simone Farelli. Guillermo Giacomazzi leveled on the hour mark with a glancing header from Francesco Valiani’s free-kick. Siena almost equalized immediately after Fiorentina’s opener, but Neto pulled off a fantastic save to fingertip Michele Paolucci’s effort away from his top-left corner. Neto pulled off another good save in stoppage-time to keep out Alessandro Rosina’s swerving strike.
Blues sign Mohamed Salah
Chelsea have already covered for the imminent departure of Spain international playmaker Juan Mata to Manchester United by signing winger Mohamed Salah from Swiss team Basel in a big-money deal. “The move is subject to the Egypt international agreeing personal terms and completing a medical,” the London club said on their Web site on Thursday. “The winger scored against us twice in the [UEFA] Champions League earlier this season and impressed against the Blues in last season’s Europa League semi-final,” the club said. Chelsea beat Basel over two legs in the Europa League, before going on to defeat SL Benfica 2-1 in the final in Amsterdam in May last year. The transfer fee for Salah was undisclosed, but media reports speculated that he could cost up to ￡16 million (US$26.6 million).
Anelka to fight FA charges
Nicolas Anelka on Thursday denied making a controversial goal salute which was condemned as anti-Semitic and vowed to fight charges which could see him banned from the sport. Anelka, 34, was widely criticized for the “quenelle” gesture, which was popularized by French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, but described by critics as an inverted Nazi salute. The West Bromwich Albion striker said he would fight Football Association (FA) charges, which could carry a five-match suspension. Anelka has denied he is anti-Semitic, but the team shirt sponsor, Zoopla, has opted against renewing a commercial agreement at the end of the season in the wake of the incident.