Friendlies: Falcao returns to Monaco; Xavi scores in Barca draw

Radamel Falcao made his return from six months out with a torn ACL against Valencia while Xavi netted the equaliser in Barcelona's draw with Nice on Saturday.

Radamel Falcao came on as a substitute for AS Monaco on Saturday in his first live football action in six months following a torn ACL. Matt Dunham / AP / August 2, 2014
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Monaco 2, Valencia 2

AS Monaco striker Radamel Falcao made his first appearance for over six months as a second-half substitute in his side’s 2-2 friendly draw against Valencia in London on Saturday.

The 28-year-old Colombia international had not played since rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a Coupe de France (French Cup) game against amateur side Chasselay on January 22.

The injury cut short his debut season at the big-spending Ligue 1 club and prevented him from appearing at the World Cup, where Colombia reached the quarter-finals.

Falcao replaced Dimitar Berbatov with 18 minutes to play at the Emirates Stadium, taking up a central role alongside Valere Germain in a 4-4-2 system, but did not manage any attempts on goal.

“Falcao played for 20 minutes to help him overcome his anxiety, which is natural when you come back after six months without playing,” said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim.

“He played well. It was important for him to play a bit, so tomorrow (Sunday, against Arsenal) he can play from the beginning.

“Let’s see tomorrow if he can play for 60 minutes or just 45.”

Falcao later took to Twitter to say “Simply thank you!!!” He added: “Thanks to God for consoling me and giving me encouragement over the last six months...Thanks to everyone for a simple message of encouragement.”

He has been linked with a move to Real Madrid, who have already signed his international teammate James Rodriguez from Monaco in a deal worth around 80 million euros (Dh396.6m).

But Jardim said: “At this moment, regardless of what people say, Falcao is with us. He’s in the final stages of his recovery. I count on him for this season.”

The match was the opening game of the Emirates Cup pre-season tournament, which also features hosts Arsenal and Benfica.

Monaco took the lead in the 30th minute when Joao Moutinho’s left-wing corner was met by Aymen Abdennour and flicked into the net off Ruben Vezo for an own goal.

A Ricardo Carvalho own goal six minutes later levelled the scores and Valencia went in front 20 minutes from full-time when substitute Paco Alcacer tapped in a low cross from Aly Cissokho.

But after Falcao had made his entrance from the bench, Lucas Ocampos struck an 80th-minute equaliser for Monaco, running from deep and planting a shot in the bottom-left corner from outside the box.

Monaco, runners-up to Paris Saint-Germain last season, open their Ligue 1 campaign at home to Lorient a week on Sunday.

Valencia’s season does not begin until August 23, when they visit Sevilla in La Liga.

Inter Milan 2, AS Roma 0

Nemanja Vidic and Yuto Nagatomo scored and Inter Milan beat AS Roma 2-0 Saturday.

Inter broke a scoreless tie just moments before halftime. On a free kick from the left outside of the box, Dodo’s left-footed service found Vidic at the center of the penalty box and his deflected header ticked off the fingertips of goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski into the upper right corner.

Roma almost tied it in the 48th minute, but Mattia Destro’s header barely missed. Nagatomo provided insurance in the 69th minute as he collected a loose ball in the right side of the box and buried it past Skorupski in the top right corner.

Inter finished their group games in the pre-season International Champions Cup with six points, behind group winners Manchester United.

Barcelona 1, Nice 1

A familiar face came on and helped new-look Barcelona draw 1-1 with Nice in a friendly in southern France on Saturday.

The veteran Xavi Hernandez was introduced at half-time with the Catalans trailing 1-0 to the Ligue 1 club at the Allianz Riviera stadium.

And he equalised from the penalty spot midway through the second half after Romain Genevois was adjudged to have fouled young forward Munir El Haddadi.

Earlier, Argentine striker Dario Cvitanich had put Nice in front from the spot after he himself had been brought down by Gerard Pique.

New Barcelona coach Luis Enrique handed starts to summer signings Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Jeremy Mathieu, while Ivan Rakitic and Alen Halilovic were among a raft of players brought on as substitutes.

Barca’s next friendly will be against Napoli on Wednesday. Their opening game in La Liga will be against Elche on August 24.

Olympiakos 2, Manchester City 2

Dimitrios Diamantakos scored twice in regulation and Roberto Jimenez Gago made two saves in a shootout to help Olimpiakos beat Manchester City 5-4 on penalty kicks Saturday after a 2-2 tie in the International Champions Cup game.

The biggest concern for the clubs coming in was the condition of the grass field that had been installed by the tournament promoter over the artificial turf at TCF Bank Stadium, home of the University of Minnesota football team. Although seams in the sod were clearly visible, the players avoided injury on a day when temperatures climbed, requiring a water break midway through the second half.

“We think the field was terrible, the conditions were terrible, it was very hot today, but our team didn’t care about this,” Olympiakos coach Michel said through an interpreter. “They wanted to play and that’s what we did. For us it was very important that we participate and play against teams of this level. The fact that we had the opportunity to win, even if it was on penalties, we enjoyed it.”

In the shootout, Avraam Papadopoulos had a chance to give Olympiakos the win in the fifth round but Manchester City keeper Joe Hart made a remarkable kick save on a ball that stayed in the middle of the goal as he dived to the right.

However, two rounds later, Micah Richards of Manchester City missed high, and Anastasios Papazoglou steered a shot into the lower left corner to give Olympiakos the victory.

Aleksandar Kolarov put English Premier League champions Manchester City up 2-1 in the 53rd minute on a penalty kick after David Silva was tripped in the Olympiakos box.

But Diamantakos tied it in the 65th minute when he took a feed at the top of the box, made a move to get past goalkeeper Joe Hart and blasted it into the open net.

Man City opened the scoring on a Stevan Jovetic goal in the 35th minute. Jovetic took a pass from Samir Nasri, dribbled past one defender, then split two others with a right-footed shot that beat a flat-footed Jimenez Gago.

Two minutes later, Diamantakos levelled for Olimpiakos. Giannis Maniatis got behind the defence in the City box, then passed back to Diamantakos, who was open near the penalty spot. Diamantakos took one dribble to the left, then fired back across his body and past Hart.

The outcome, however, wasn’t as important to the teams as the chance to face elite competition leading up to the start of league play later this month.

“It’s been extremely useful and the team’s been very professional, like in the first half against Liverpool,” Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini said of his club’s showing in the tournament. “The positives will be the quality of these games and the level that was achieved in each of these games. The negatives will be the travelling distances, and that obviously stops the team from training more.”

Michel, whose club made the last 16 of the Uefa Champions League last year before losing to Manchester United, concurred.

“We are preparing ourselves for our national league in Greece but we are also preparing ourselves to participate in the Champions League,” he said. “This was a great experience for us in preparation. We played like we want to play in the Champions League.”

After the game Pellegrini confirmed that former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard is returning to the English Premier League with Manchester City on a six-month loan from MLS expansion club New York City FC.

“From next week, on Wednesday, he’ll start working with our team,” Pellegrini said. “At the moment, he will start working with our squad because he is a member of the squad. He will be in the fight for a position. We have a very good team. He is one player more. We have a lot of competition, especially in the Champions League, so he is very important to our team.”

Lampard signed a two-year contact with the New York club – owned by Manchester City and the New York Yankees – last month. The MLS team are scheduled to begin play next year.

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