Thursday 27 April 2017

Messi rescues Barcelona as rampant Real equal record

Real Madrid player Isco
Real Madrid player Isco

Jamie Holland

Lionel Messi rescued a 1-1 draw for Barcelona at Villarreal with a sensational late free-kick last night but could not prevent the champions finishing the weekend third in the La Liga table, five points behind leaders Real Madrid - who have a game in hand.

Messi bent a stunning free-kick into the top corner in the 90th minute after Villarreal's Italian forward Nicola Sansone finished off a breakaway to open the scoring in the 50th as the Yellow Submarine looked set to record a first home win over Barca in 11 years.

Barcelona have 35 points from 17 games, one behind Sevilla and five adrift of a Real side who beat Granada 5-0 on Saturday, are unbeaten in all competitions this season and have a game in hand.

Real equalled Barcelona's Spanish record of 39 games unbeaten in all competitions by crushing struggling Granada. Spain midfielder Isco set Real on their way to an easy victory by latching on to a pass from Karim Benzema and squeezing the ball underneath Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa in the 12th minute.

Benzema tapped in the second goal in the 20th minute after Ochoa failed to hold a shot from the lively Luka Modric and top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo struck his 11th league goal of the season by nodding in a cross from Marcelo.

Isco turned in a cross from Modric to stretch Real's lead in the 31st minute and defensive midfielder Casemiro scored his first goal of the season by stabbing in a free-kick from James Rodriguez in the 58th.

Elsewhere, Antoine Griezmann scored his first league goal in more than three months as Atletico Madrid won 2-0 at Eibar.

Pounced

Sevilla bounced back from their 3-0 Copa del Rey defeat at Real by thrashing Real Sociedad, thanks to a masterclass from Wissam Ben Yedder, who struck his first hat-trick in La Liga and provided an assist.

Griezmann ended his La Liga goal drought by netting Atletico's second goal against Eibar, exchanging a pass with French compatriot Kevin Gameiro before blasting into the net in the 74th minute.

Saul Niguez had broken the deadlock on a freezing cold pitch in the 54th minute by glancing in a Filipe Luis cross after a short corner routine.

Atletico withstood plenty of pressure from the home side and sealed the points with Griezmann's first league strike since he scored against Valencia in October.

In Italy, Roma stayed in touch with Serie A leaders Juventus thanks to a 1-0 win at Genoa secured by Armando Izzo's first-half own goal.

Elsewhere, England goalkeeper Joe Hart began the year with a clean sheet as Torino drew 0-0 at Sassuolo.

Serie A leaders Juventus returned from their winter break to underline their title credentials with a 3-0 dismantling of Bologna.

Gonzalo Higuain reached 12 league goals for the season by scoring in each half, with Paulo Dybala celebrating his first start since a lengthy injury lay-off with a penalty just before half-time.

Irish Independent

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