Sociedad comeback stuns Real Madrid

Real Sociedad produced a great fightback to beat European champions Real Madrid 4-2 as Barcelona made it two wins in as many games under Luis Enrique with a late winner at Villarreal on Sunday.

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Madrid were without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo and departed Angel di Maria and Xabi Alonso, but still looked on course for a comfortable evening when they flew into a 2-0 lead inside the opening 11 minutes thanks to goals from Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale.

However, Inigo Martinez and David Zurutuza levelled for the hosts before the break and Zurutuza and Carlos Vela sealed a much-needed win for under-fire Sociedad boss Jagoba Arrasate.

Sociedad had lost their opening game at newly-promoted Eibar and been dumped out of the Europa League by Russian side FK Krasnodar in midweek and appeared down on their luck after another slow start.

Ramos rose highest to power home Toni Kroos’ corner to open the scoring before Bale left Gorka Elustondo trailing with a neat nutmeg and slotted into the bottom corner.

Enaut Zubikarai then had to make fine saves to prevent Marcelo and Kroos putting Madrid out of sight.

But it was the hosts who crucially got the third goal as Martinez slammed home at the far post from Xabi Prieto’s flick on.

Zurutuza then levelled four minutes before the break as he powered home Alberto de la Bella’s pinpoint cross from the left.

Iker Casillas produced a fine save to turn Imanol Agirretxe’s header behind as Sociedad started the second period the stronger.

And they got their reward 25 minutes from time when Zuruztuza again timed his run into the box perfectly to connect with Prieto’s low cross to the near post.

Madrid’s humiliation was complete 10 minutes later when substitute Carlos Vela appeared to control the ball with his hand before spinning to fire into the top corner.

It was a happier evening for Barcelona as they were 1-0 victors at Villarreal thanks to 19-year-old Sandro Ramirez’s debut goal eight minutes from time.

“It is gratifying to see the young guys score, but the most important thing is the victory,” said Enrique.

“We kept going until the end. Villarreal defended very well and waited for the counter-attack to cause us problems.

“In the end we resolved things well and it reinforces what we have already seen in training.”

Johnson running, on target for AFL return

Steve Johnson is running, with confidence rampant at Geelong that the game-breaking star will return against Hawthorn on Friday night.

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Johnson has missed three AFL games due to a foot injury.

That stretch includes the Cats’ loss to Hawthorn in round 22, with coach Chris Scott expecting he’ll be able to unleash the trump card in week one of the finals.

“There’s the potential that things could change, but right as it stands at the moment – all of our people including Steve are very confident,” Scott said on Monday.

“We know a little bit more now than we did four or five days ago,” he added, saying Wednesday’s training session will be Johnson’s deadline to prove he’s ready.

Many players would struggle to adjust to the intensity of an AFL final in their first game back, but Scott said Johnson wasn’t one of them.

“I don’t think confidence will be his problem,” he said.

“He’s proven it before.

“He knows he’ll need to (perform somewhere near his best).”

Johnson ran well on Monday, the first time the 31-year-old has hit the track since starting to experience pain in his right foot after the Cats’ win over Fremantle on August 9.

Johnson, renowned for his effervescence on and off the field, has been on crutches and no doubt bored during his time on the sidelines.

But Cats captain Joel Selwood suggested the crafty playmaker has always remained upbeat.

“He’s worked with our physios and doctors through it and always been eyeing off that first final,” Selwood said.

Scott said first-choice ruckman Hamish McIntosh and speedsters Steven Motlop and Allen Christensen should all return for the qualifying final after being rested.

Shane Kersten (hamstring) is also expected to be fit, leaving Scott with a difficult decision on his forward line.

Josh Walker and Mitch Brown both laid claims to be Tom Hawkins’ sidekick in the side’s last-start win over Brisbane, a role Kersten had performed prior to his injury.

“We’ve got options. That’s better than being stuck,” Scott said.

Hawkins came of age in the 2011 grand final, snatching seven contested marks and leading the Cats to victory after James Podsiadly suffered a shoulder injury.

The 26-year-old’s goal-kicking has since become more clinical, while he is playing with more confidence and aggression.

“Sky’s the limit, isn’t it,” Scott said of what Hawkins might be capable of in the finals series.

“At his best he’s as dominant a key forward as there is.

“But we also think we play a style of game that doesn’t depend on him absolutely dominating.”

Dockers finally find partner for Pavlich

Splashing the cash failed to fix Fremantle’s forward-line conundrum, but a bargain buy appears to have done the trick.

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For the best part of a decade Fremantle have been on the lookout for another key forward to provide Matthew Pavlich with a perfect partner in crime in attack.

Former Magpie Chris Tarrant arrived as a bona fide forward, but struggled so badly in the role he was sent back to defence.

Luckily for Tarrant, the switch was such a success he was able to revive his career before moving back to Collingwood.

More recently, Jack Anthony proved to be an expensive flop, while the gamble on Scott Gumbleton appears doomed due to more injury woes for the ex-Bomber.

In between Anthony and Gumbleton, Fremantle’s attempt to lure the likes of Jack Riewoldt, Harry Taylor, Travis Cloke, Jesse White and Mitch Clark west on big-money deals all fell flat.

But the Dockers have unveiled a new ace up their sleeve in recent weeks – former rookie Matt Taberner.

Taberner was snapped up by Fremantle with pick No.11 in the 2013 rookie draft, and the 21-year-old Victorian has showcased his potential in recent weeks.

The 197cm forward tallied 22 possessions and kicked a goal against Brisbane a fortnight ago, while he put in a pivotal first-half display against Port Adelaide last week to help Fremantle secure fourth spot and a vital double chances.

Taberner’s athleticism and marking ability takes the pressure off Pavlich, who for so long has been forced to battle as the sole key forward in attack.

And with goalsneaks Hayden Ballantyne, Michael Walters and Chris Mayne all able to cause havoc up forward, Fremantle hope they now possess the attacking mix capable of taking them all the way to this year’s flag.

Taberner has only played 11 AFL games, but coach Ross Lyon is confident he’ll be able to stand up under the heat of finals football, starting with Saturday’s qualifying final against Sydney at ANZ Stadium.

“He’s got enormous work ethic, so he’s been able to harness his talents,” Lyon said.

“It’s really good for us. He probably should have been in a bit earlier to be fair.”

The Dockers will welcome back star midfielder Nat Fyfe from suspension this week, while the Swans are set to be boosted by the returns of Lance Franklin (knee), Josh Kennedy (hamstring), Ben McGlynn (calf) and Mike Pyke (illness).

NSW top cop calls for ice action plan

Australia needs a national approach to combat the epidemic of the drug ice, says the NSW police commissioner.

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“We’ve got to stomp on this problem,” Andrew Scipione told Macquarie Radio on Monday.

“The more we talk about it, the better off we’ll be – you cannot over-communicate in a (nationwide) crisis.   “This filthy drug doesn’t discriminate.

“It treats everyone equally and it’s just as devastating no matter who you are or where you come from – with life-changing consequences.”

He said methylamphetamine, or ice, was destroying families and communities all over the country through its “creeping death”.

Police have discovered and dismantled more than 100 ice labs in NSW in the past 12 months.

Mr Scipione said the highly addictive drug was “the worst of the worst of the worst”.

It brings on “big problems” such as paranoid schizophrenia, psychotic disorder, hallucinations and aggression.  

“We need to fight this insidious business, we need to continue to do the raids,” he said.

The best way to combat its spread was to stop the drug coming into the country, Mr Scipione said.

“The police are working very closely with the federal government to stop the importation of the base chemical that’s used to make ice.”

He said most of it originated in China.

Mr Scipione praised the NSW police force for last February’s largest ever national seizure of ice, which recovered more than 500kg of the drug from China in Sydney, with a street value of around $450 million.

He urged parents to call the police if they suspected their child was taking the drug.

Guardians muscle way back to No.1

The Guardians of the Galaxy have muscled their way back to No.

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1 at the Australian box office, reclaiming the hotly contested throne from The Inbetweeners 2.

The Marvel space opera starring Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana rocketed back into first place over the weekend with $1.894 million, according to the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia.

It was enough to shove the Australian-filmed Inbetweeners sequel into second, which took $1.568 million, while foodie flick The Hundred-Foot Journey remained steady in third.

If I Stay, the latest tear-jerking novel adaptation from Hollywood, debuted in No.4, pushing Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson, into fifth.

Another new entry, Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight opened in sixth place, while Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables 3 slipped two rungs into seventh.

Australian films Predestination, starring Ethan Hawke, and Joel Edgerton’s crime thriller Felony debuted in eighth and ninth spot.

Meanwhile Begin Again, starring Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley, slipped three places, but hung onto the ladder in tenth.

TOP 10 FILMS FOR THE WEEKEND OF AUGUST 28-31:

1. Guardians of the Galaxy – $1.894 million (Walt Disney)

2. The Inbetweeners 2 – $1.568 million (Roadshow)

3. The Hundred-Foot Journey – $1.302 million (Walt Disney)

4. If I Stay – $1.088 million (Warner Bros)

5. Lucy – $822,618 (Universal)

6. Magic in the Moonlight – $761,593 (Entertainment One)

7. The Expendables 3 – $463,639 (Roadshow)

8. Predestination – $201,560 (Pinnacle Films)

9. Felony – $185,429 (Roadshow)

10. Begin Again – $162,359 (Roadshow)