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Real buoyed by Morata performance
Real Madrid assistant manager Aitor Karanka was delighted with the contribution of 20-year-old striker Alvaro Morata after its 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.
But he called into question the judgment of referee Jose Luis Paradas Romero after he sent off Sergio Ramos after just 18 minutes.
Morata (pictured) and Ramos had already given the host a commanding 2-0 advantage inside the opening 12 minutes, but the home fans were left furious after Ramos was shown a second yellow card for hand ball and Rayo's Lass Bangoura escaped the same punishment for a similar offense in the second period.
Paradas Romero was also at the center of a controversial encounter between Villarreal and Madrid last season when he sent off Ramos, Mesut Ozil and sent Jose Mourinho from the technical area, and Karanka was far from impressed with the official's display.
"It doesn't surprise anyone, we already have experience with this referee," he said. "It was a very entertaining match to start with as Rayo were showing what they are capable of and we had started well in scoring the two goals before the red card came and spoiled the spectacle for the fans. The situation with what constitutes a yellow card for hand ball is confusing for everyone. It would be better for the players, fans and coaches to know how the rule is interpreted than have this confusion."
Napoli striker Hamsik robbed at gunpoint
Napoli forward Marek Hamsik (pictured) was robbed of a luxury Rolex watch by three masked men at gunpoint, according to Italian media on Sunday.
ANSA news agency said Hamsik escaped uninjured from the attack which happened on Sunday following his side's scoreless home draw against Sampdoria in Italy's Serie A.
The report said Hamsik had momentarily stopped in his BMW X6 car on the motorway as he drove his wife to the airport after the game at the San Paolo stadium, and was approached by three masked men on scooters.
They smashed his car window before taking Hamsik's luxury watch after threatening him with a gun.
The wife of the Slovakian international fell victim to robbers several years ago, and the player is not the first from the club to be targeted by criminals. The club's star striker, Uruguayan Edinson Cavani, and Swiss defender Valon Behrami have both been robbed in recent years while the partner of former Napoli forward Ezequiel Lavezzi - now at Paris Saint-Germain - was also mugged.
On Sunday, Hamsik had one of the best chances in the game to score for Napoli, which ultimately spurned the chance to close the gap on leader Juventus to two points.
Juve, on 55 points, now leads Napoli (51) by four points with Lazio a distant third on 44.
In the United States
Donovan to return to Galaxy in late March
Landon Donovan will rejoin the defending Major League Soccer champion Los Angeles Galaxy in the last week of March, the club said on Sunday, but the striker's US national team status remains unknown.
Donovan requested a leave of absence from the team after helping the Galaxy with its fourth MLS crown last December and has not played for the US team since then either as he ponders his future a year before the World Cup.
"After a series of collaborative discussions between Landon, his representative and our key club leaders, we've agreed to allow Landon to remain on an extended leave of absence and return to training with the team during the final week of March," Galaxy general manager and coach Bruce Arena said.
"We understand this arrangement is not ideal, but we are confident it will allow Landon the time he needs to be both mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming season. We remain focused on our preparation for the start of the 2013 season and look forward to Landon rejoining us next month."
Donovan, 30, is the all-time Galaxy leader with 92 goals and has also set up 79 others over 194 appearances in eight seasons for Los Angeles. He ranks third in MLS history with 124 career goals over 12 seasons.
Stuttgart ends losing streak with a 1-0 win
VfB Stuttgart snapped a five-game losing streak by beating lackluster Hoffenheim 1-0 on Sunday to climb to 12th place in the Bundesliga and leave its opponent anchored in the relegation playoff spot.
Austrian Martin Harnik headed in Ibrahima Traore's cross in the third minute as the visitors got off to a flying start, with Hoffenheim, missing half a dozen players through injury, defending poorly and lacking any attacking ideas.
Traore and former Hoffenheim striker Vedad Ibisevic came close again in the first half for Stuttgart, which bounced back after conceding a last-gasp equalizer in its midweek 1-1 draw against Racing Genk in the Europa League round of 32.
Hoffenheim, with only one victory in its past 12 matches, put up little resistance apart from a brief spell in the second half as it slumped to its third loss in four games.
In the other match on Sunday, Hanover 96 failed to close in on the Europa League spots after conceding a stoppage-time equalizer in a 2-2 draw at Nuremberg.
AFP - Reuters
(China Daily 02/19/2013 page22)