Alan Browne, Kevin Long and James Collins all scored their first international goals as Republic of Ireland eased to a 3-1 friendly win over Bulgaria.

In a match where all the goals came in the second half, Browne put Ireland ahead when he slotted into an empty net after Ronan Curtis' initial shot was spilled.

Bulgaria equalised through Ivelin Popov's spot-kick after John Egan, who captained Ireland for the first time, gave away a penalty.

But a Long header and a close-range finish from Collins gave the hosts a comfortable victory in Dublin.

The result means Ireland remain unbeaten in Mick McCarthy's second stint as manager.

McCarthy made 10 changes from the side which drew 1-1 with Switzerland in their last Euro 2020 qualifier and awarded first caps to five players.

Goalkeeper Mark Travers and midfielder Josh Cullen started while midfielder Jack Byrne, striker Collins and goalkeeper Kieran O'Hara all came on in the second half.

A low-key first half saw just one attempt on target from both sides with Bulgaria posing the greatest threat from set-piece situations.

The home side took the lead 11 minutes into the second half when Curtis' long-range strike was fumbled by Hristo Ivanov and Browne tapped home.

Bulgaria equalised from the penalty spot after Cyrus Christie got himself in a tangle and Egan brought down Bozhidar Kraev.

Popov confidently struck his effort high into the net, giving Travers no chance. However, Ireland rallied and sealed the victory with two late goals from substitutes.

Long headed in Byrne's corner and then Enda Stevens' low cross was turned in by the sliding Collins.

 

What does it mean? After eight for McCarthy 

After a dramatic late equaliser against Switzerland, this match might have been something of an anti-climax for Ireland.

Against a Bulgaria side who have not won a game for 11 months, Ireland were typically disciplined before a late flourish put a gloss on the scoreline.

McCarthy will be happy he got the chance to take a look at some players on the fringes of his squad and increased his unbeaten run since returning to manage Ireland to eight games.

Hourihane comfortable at left-back

With Stevens suspended for next month's qualifier in Georgia, McCarthy switched Conor Hourihane from midfield to left-back. The Aston Villa man slotted into the position with ease which solves one of McCarthy's selection worries for the trip to Tbilisi.

Ivanov's international career over after one cap?

Journeyman Bulgaria goalkeeper Ivanov won his first cap at the age of 37, but it may well prove to be his only appearance. The grey-haired shotstopper should have saved Curtis' initial shot which allowed Browne to score and flapped at a cross for Long's header.


What's next?

Ireland travel to Georgia for a crunch Euro 2020 Group D qualifier on Saturday 12 October and then face Switzerland the following Tuesday

Bulgaria are also in qualification action with an away trip to Montenegro in Group A on Friday 11 October before hosting England in Sofia three days later.

Brazil coach Tite rued not giving Vinicius Junior his international debut in Friday's friendly against Colombia, owing the decision to Neymar displaying "perfect" body language upon his return.

Real Madrid talent Vinicius has long been tipped to make the breakthrough at senior level for Brazil, having sparkled in his fledgling career with Flamengo and then last season in Spain.

Injury denied him a first cap in March after he was called up for matches against Panama and Czech Republic, while he failed to make the cut for Tite's Copa America squad.

Tite planned to let the 19-year-old feature as Brazil drew 2-2 with Carlos Queiroz's Colombia, but instead opted to keep Neymar – playing his first match for club or country in three months – on the pitch in an attempt to maximise the Paris Saint-Germain star's fitness.

"Vinicius was ready to enter," Tite told reporters. "The idea was to for him to come on, but circumstances change.

"He will have his chance. Of course, he will be used as a left winger. Playing in the national team is already complicated, the yellow shirt weighs on anyone.

"So, in the case of Vinicius, I will put him in his natural position, where he is accustomed and feels comfortable.

"The plan was not that Neymar played 90 minutes, he came from more than three months without playing, and I was about to take him off three times during the second half, but he was improving technically and physically as the minutes passed.

"I was talking with Dr. Rodrigo Lasmar and our physio during the match and we decided to leave him on the pitch.

"I don't think he expected me to play him for 90 minutes, I saw him look at the bench a couple of times, but his body language was perfect, he was not tired and there was no point in taking him out.

"The level of the game was so high and I saw the team at such a good pace that I didn't want to make any more changes."

Neymar scored Brazil's second goal, after a Luis Muriel brace had cancelled out Casemiro's headed opener.

Brazil are next in action against Peru on Wednesday.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) has confirmed a planned friendly with Madagascar is off after the opposition pulled out.

Madagascar were hastily lined up for Saturday's game at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg after Zambia pulled out of the scheduled fixture for safety reasons.

But the Madagascar Football Association (MFA) announced on Thursday they are also withdrawing from the game.

"After having consulted with the various national institutions of Madagascar, particularly concerning the security of the team of Madagascar and its Malagasy nationals in South Africa, it was found essential and judicious to decline the invitation," a statement read.

"The Madagascar Football Association apologises to the South African Football Federation for their efforts to organize this match, and also to the Malagasy fans who were looking forward to the match."

The decision to call off the game comes amid civil unrest in Johannesburg and Pretoria, with both cities having been the scene of looting and violence targeting foreigners.

 

Aaron Ramsey said he was "very proud" after making his debut for Juventus in a friendly match against Triestina.

Ramsey made his first appearance for Serie A champions Juventus since leaving Arsenal on a free transfer at the end of 2018-19 – the Wales midfielder coming off the bench in Saturday's 1-0 win.

The 28-year-old had been sidelined with a hamstring injury since April, but Ramsey replaced Federico Bernardeschi 20 minutes from the end at Stadio Nereo Rocco, where Paulo Dybala's 38th-minute stunner settled the game.

"I feel good. I have had a good rehab so hopefully now I can stay fit and healthy and help the team as much as I can," Ramsey said.

"I am really excited to be a part of it [Italian football] and experience the Italian league. We start now on Saturday, so I am looking forward to that and playing my first competitive match. I am really looking forward to it.

"This was a very proud moment for me to put on this famous jersey. I am happy that I got a few minutes out there tonight. I have been working hard to get back fit and hopefully now I can stay fit. I am naturally quite good physically.

"I have been working hard, and I know I haven’t had the minutes on the pitch, apart from tonight, but I feel good physically. It will take a few games to get there.

"I think I have had a good pre-season. We have got a new coach who has given us his own ideas. We have been adapting to that. I think the team is in good shape and hopefully now we can have a very successful season.

"We have been working hard on certain tactics and I think he wants to do good to the team, and we have put that into practice a few times. We are feeling quite confident."

Gareth Bale returned to the Real Madrid team from the bench as Los Blancos lost 5-4 on penalties after a 2-2 friendly draw with Roma in their final pre-season match on Sunday.

Bale had not featured in any of Madrid's past three friendlies, missing the defeat to his former club Tottenham and the wins over Fenerbahce and Salzburg.

Officially, his absence for the Spurs game was due to an illness, though he was spotted playing golf the same day as the match and reportedly missed out due to his state of mind after a transfer to Chinese club Jiangsu Suning fell through.

He was left out again for the Salzburg game, though no explanation was given by coach Zinedine Zidane.

By the time he was introduced in Rome on Sunday, the match had already seen four goals – Marcelo opening the scoring for Madrid early on, producing a fine right-footed finish after a flowing move.

Diego Perotti levelled just past the half-hour mark, tapping in after excellent work from Nicolo Zaniolo, but Casemiro restored Madrid's lead soon after, heading in from Marcelo's delivery.

Edin Dzeko levelled a minute later – latching on to Cengiz Under's sublime throughball and clinically finishing first-time into the top-right corner.

Bale replaced Karim Benzema in the 61st minute but, aside from one outside-of-the-foot effort from the Wales star, his impact was minimal as the match finished level, leading to a shoot-out.

The first nine penalties – including Bale's – were immaculately taken, but Marcelo's kick crashed against the crossbar and bounced the wrong side of the line, ensuring Roma won the Mabel Green Cup, a friendly competition set up to raise awareness of environmental preservation.

Roma captain Alessandro Florenzi received the trophy - essentially a large bonsai tree - from Indian actress and environmentalist Esha Gupta.

Zinedine Zidane named Gareth Bale in his squad for the first time in four matches, but there was still no place for James Rodriguez as Real Madrid flew to Italy ahead of their clash with Roma.

Bale's last appearance for Madrid came as a substitute in the second half of a 7-3 defeat to rivals Atletico Madrid in the International Champions Cup on July 27, shortly before a proposed transfer away from the Spanish club fell through.

The Wales international had been expected to join Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning but the deal collapsed, with reports suggesting Madrid were unhappy with the transfer fee being offered.

There was also speculation that Bale rejected the move over family reasons.

Bale did not feature in friendlies against Tottenham, Fenerbahce and Salzburg, but was named in the squad to face Roma along with fellow forwards Eden Hazard, Karim Benzema, Luka Jovic and Vinicius Junior.

The absence of James from the Madrid squad means the Colombia international's future remains unclear, with Napoli and Atletico Madrid both reportedly interested in signing him.

James has not featured for Madrid this pre-season following his return from a two-year loan spell at Bayern Munich.

Meanwhile, a hamstring injury keeps close-season signing Ferland Mendy on the sidelines as Madrid play their last pre-season fixture before Saturday's LaLiga opener at Celta Vigo.

Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti said an intense month of pre-season training and friendlies had left his players "tired" in their 4-0 defeat to Barcelona, but he insisted his squad is ready for the new Serie A season.

Second-half goals from Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, along with a brace from Luis Suarez after the break, earned Barcelona a convincing win in Michigan, though Ancelotti claimed the opening two strikes should not have stood.

Suarez buried the rebound after a Griezmann shot was saved in the 48th minute, and the Frenchman scored himself eight minutes later after a pass from Jordi Alba, who appeared to be in an offside position.

Ancelotti defended his side's performance, telling reporters: "We played well in the first half but then we were affected by those two offside goals at the start of the second half.

"We were up against a magnificent team and afterwards they took control, but those two goals shouldn't have been given and they changed the match.

"I think we were also a little tired due to the heavy training loads after a month of intense work. I don't see any problems other than that."

Napoli travel to Fiorentina for their Serie A season opener on August 24 having won three, lost three, and drawn one of their pre-season friendlies.

Despite their mixed form and relatively modest activity in the transfer market, with three of their six major signings being goalkeepers, Ancelotti remains optimistic about Napoli's chances of improving on their second-placed finish in 2018-19.

"My general impression is good after these two matches with Barcelona," he said, reflecting on Saturday's defeat and the 2-1 reverse in their previous outing against the Blaugrana.

"We'll build on this as we continue to work towards the start of the season.

"I'm happy with the work we've done both on our training camp and in these international friendlies we've played. We have a top-quality squad and I'm sure we can have an excellent season.

"I've seen a lot of things I like from the lads and the overall feeling is positive. We'll be ready when the season begins on 24 August."

A stylish second half from Barcelona saw them sweep aside Napoli in Michigan to claim a 4-0 friendly win on Saturday.

Antoine Griezmann got his first goal for the club since his €120million move from Atletico Madrid, in between strikes from Luis Suarez.

Ousmane Dembele added a fourth against Carlo Ancelotti's side, who lost the first friendly meeting in Miami 2-1 on Wednesday and were simply no match for the Catalans here once they fell behind.

It was an encouraging display from Ernesto Valverde's Barca, without the injured Lionel Messi, ahead of their LaLiga opener at Athletic Bilbao on Friday.

Griezmann dragged a clear chance wide and Dembele also fluffed his lines as Barca failed to capitalise on their first-half openings.

Suarez was denied by Alex Meret, but Fabian Ruiz went within inches of giving Napoli a lead at the break.

Griezmann spurned another chance three minutes after the break, firing straight at Meret, but Suarez was on hand this time to side-foot home the rebound.

Barca turned on the style for their second eight minutes later. A passing move starting from the back four ended with Carles Alena sliding a superb throughball to Jordi Alba – perhaps fortunate not to be flagged for offside – who squared for Griezmann to bury an easy finish.

It got worse for Napoli just two minutes later, as Dembele picked up Suarez's pass from a loose ball and teed up the Uruguay star for a stunning curling strike that flew past Meret from the edge of the box.

Dembele marked a strong second-half showing by driving into the penalty area and drilling a right-foot strike into the bottom-left corner, ensuring Barca will head into the new season in positive fashion.

Lucas Hernandez said he is feeling "100 per cent" after making his long-awaited debut in Bayern Munich's 23-0 win over local side FC Rottach-Egern.

Bayern prised World Cup-winning France international Hernandez from Atletico Madrid in an €80million deal that was announced in March.

Hernandez missed pre-season fixtures against Arsenal, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Fenerbahce, Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund after his 2018-19 campaign was cut short due to knee surgery.

But fans got their first glimpse of Hernandez in action as Bayern crushed Rottach-Egern at their training camp in Tegernsee on Thursday.

After coming off the bench for the second half, Hernandez said: "I feel very well, I'm at 100 per cent. I have no discomfort, I feel physically very well and I'm ready to compete 100 per cent."

Hernandez could make his official debut on Monday when defending champions Bayern travel to Energie Cottbus in the DFB-Pokal first round.

"I work, as I said before, to be able to play my first official match with Bayern and hopefully I can arrive in time for Monday," he said.

Bayern, who lost to rivals Borussia Dortmund in last week's DFL-Supercup, are eyeing their eighth consecutive Bundesliga title this season.

The German giants, meanwhile, have not won the Champions League since 2012-13 following their last-16 exit last term.

"My personal goal is to win it all," the 23-year-old added. "Everything we play, I want to win. I come here to win titles and I hope that this year we can win as much as possible."

Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez were both left out of Real Madrid's squad for Los Blancos' friendly against Salzburg on Wednesday.

Unsettled forward Bale was on the verge of a move to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning last month, but the proposed deal collapsed.

Bale did not feature in Madrid's last pre-season friendly – a 5-3 win over Fenerbahce on July 31 – having been left out of their squad for the Audi Cup due to illness.

The 30-year-old was spotted golfing, however, while Madrid were in action against his former club Tottenham a day earlier.

It does not appear a transfer is imminent for Bale, with agent Jonathan Barnett previously telling Omnisport his client will remain at Santiago Bernabeu despite a clear breakdown in his relationship with Zinedine Zidane.

Although seemingly being fit for selection, Bale has not been included in Madrid's 20-man squad for the meeting with Austrian champions Salzburg.

Bale is not the only big name to miss out, with James – who has not featured at all in Madrid's pre-season after two campaigns on loan at Bayern Munich – also not included.

Napoli and Atletico Madrid have both declared their interest in the Colombia playmaker, though no breakthrough has yet been made in a deal with either club.

Close-season signings Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Eder Militao do feature, though Ferland Mendy is out with a hamstring injury.

Lionel Messi expects to be out of action for "a little while" after suffering a calf injury during Barcelona training on Monday.

The Argentina star sustained a grade one strain to his right calf muscle in his first session back with LaLiga's champions after his post-Copa America holiday.

The 32-year-old will miss Barca's pre-season trip to the United States while he recovers from the problem.

Although Barca have not put a timeframe on his recovery, Messi does not seem to think the injury will keep him sidelined for long.

"I was looking forward to starting and unfortunately I had an accident in the first training session that will leave me out for a little while," he wrote on Instagram.

"I'm grateful for all your messages and displays of affection, I wanted to be with the team and with the people who follow us in the USA.

"It wasn't to be this time, but we'll see each other again soon. A hug to everyone."

Barca face Napoli in Miami and Ann Arbor this week in the final stretch of their pre-season duties.

They begin their league title defence away to Athletic Bilbao on August 16.

Lionel Messi will not travel to the United States with the Barcelona squad this week after sustaining a calf injury.

The Argentina star suffered a grade one strain during training on Monday and will stay in Catalonia to recover.

It was Messi's first training session since his return from holiday following the Copa America in Brazil.

Barca confirmed in a statement that Messi "withdrew from the session due to discomfort in his right leg. Tests carried out have diagnosed a Grade 1 calf strain for the Argentine."

There is no time frame for his recovery but it is unlikely he will be definitively ruled out of Barca's LaLiga opener against Athletic Bilbao on August 16.

Ernesto Valverde's side, who beat Arsenal 2-1 in the Joan Gamper Trophy match on Sunday, travel to the USA this week for two matches against Napoli.

The first is in Miami on Wednesday and the second in Michigan on Saturday.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku would "do each other good" according to Belgium legend Enzo Scifo, who indicated he feels Juventus would be the right destination for his compatriot should he leave Manchester United.

Lukaku could be on his way to Turin if United can reach a deal with Juventus that may see Argentina playmaker Paulo Dybala move in the opposite direction.

Scifo, who played for Inter and Torino during a career that saw him earn 84 caps for Belgium, believes Lukaku needs to be at a club that builds a team around him, but does not see Ronaldo's presence at Juventus as an obstacle.

He told Gazzetta dello Sport: "One does not exclude the other. Real Madrid had Karim Benzema alongside him and he scored a lot thanks to Ronaldo.

"I see a similar situation: Cristiano would play 'for' Romelu, take the pressure of him, and then in the area Lukaku would engage the defenders. They would do each other good.

"Lukaku has the quality to be a super striker, but on one condition: the team has to play for him. Make the most of his features: I think Juve would do it."

Scifo was asked whether his former club Inter might be still be in the running to sign Lukaku, but the 53-year-old, who spent just one season at the Nerazzurri in 1987-88, thinks it would be an inferior move for the striker.

"I don't get into negotiations, but at this moment Juve are a step above, although Inter are growing," said Scifo.

"Someone like Antonio Conte can change a club. You need someone with his ferocity to get close to Juventus.

"The cities are different, too. Turin is placid, relaxed, people let you just get on and live your life. Romelu would really like living there, whereas it's more difficult to play in Milan, even if the city is just as beautiful."

Romelu Lukaku has again been left out of Manchester United's squad to face AC Milan in a pre-season friendly, with his move to Juventus reportedly edging closer.

Belgium international Lukaku is yet to feature for United during the close season, with the official line from the club claiming fitness problems as the reason.

But strong links with Italian side Inter coincided with his absences initially, as they looked to replace Mauro Icardi.

Inter confirmed their interest in Lukaku and that they have bid for him, though club CEO Giuseppe Marotta revealed their "fair and important" offer was rejected.

Juve have since seemingly emerged as the front-runners, with reports indicating a swap deal involving Paulo Dybala is just awaiting the Argentina forward's approval before completion.

Lukaku's continued absence from United's squad will further fuel the speculation regarding a likely departure, with the Belgian not travelling to Cardiff with his team-mates.

New United signings Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Wales international Daniel James are among those involved, as are youngsters Axel Tuanzebe, Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood.

Jurgen Klopp is convinced the 2019-20 Premier League campaign will not be another two-horse race but still believes Manchester City are the team to beat.

Liverpool ran City close last term, finishing just a point behind the eventual champions, who accumulated a total of 98.

The Reds' impressive form was not for nothing, however, as they managed to win the Champions League, making up for their final defeat the season before.

Their pre-season exploits have left a bit to be desired, as Klopp's men have won two of six matches and those victories came against lower-league opposition Tranmere Rovers and Bradford City.

Following defeats to Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla and a draw with Sporting CP, Liverpool were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by Napoli on Sunday, and Klopp recognises an improvement is necessary ahead of what he expects to be a tough season.

When asked if the Premier League will be following a similar pattern to 2018-19, the Liverpool manager said: "Of course not.

"It became a two-horse race last year, but unfortunately there are too many good clubs in this competition. I think even City see it like this.

"They are the big favourite, and all the others try to beat them - and we are one of these teams.

"At least we should give it a try, but we have to play better football, and we will play better football, I know."

Sunday's match was not all bad for the Reds, however, as 16-year-old Harvey Elliott made his first appearance on the same day his signing from Fulham was confirmed.

The winger showed promising flashes at Murrayfield, and Klopp is excited by him.

"That's why he is here," Klopp said. "I could say so many positive things about the boy.

"We signed him, he came here, he decided [to play] for us and could have gone pretty much everywhere, but he wanted to be part of Liverpool.

"The stories with the boy start early, and already he is the youngest ever Premier League player and has broken quite a few records because of his talent.

"Now he is here, so let's work with him. He needs game time, we will see where he gets that, but he is obviously a fine, fine footballer and that's why we were really interested."

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