Sport Soccer

Monday 20 November 2017

In brief: Messi reaches half century

Lionel Messi's 50th goal of the season helped Barcelona beat Osasuna 2-0 to remain on course for a third straight Spanish league title.

Spain striker David Villa scored his 18th of the season and first in 12 games in the 24th minute after stabbing home Jeffren Suarez's perfectly curled cross at the far post.

Messi, who replaced Villa in the 58th minute, rolled home his league-leading 31st goal with three minutes to play to become the first Spanish league player to reach the half century mark in a season.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid followed their Copa del Rey victory with a 6-3 drubbing of third-place Valencia.

Gonzalo Higuain scored a hat-trick, Kaka scored twice and Karim Benzema added to the tally as Madrid returned to Mestalla Stadium three days after hoisting their first trophy in nearly three years with a 1-0 extra-time victory over Barcelona.

"Now let Barca win the league on points because we're not going to gift it to them," Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho said.

Barcelona maintain their eight-point advantage over Madrid with just five games to play.

Lennon focuses on Old Firm

Neil Lennon will at last turn his attention to today's Old Firm derby at Ibrox after the worst week of his short managerial career at Celtic.

The former Parkhead skipper has been at the centre of another security alert after it was revealed that parcels "designed to cause harm'' were sent to him and two high-profile figures linked to the club.

Celtic players responded to their gaffer's troubles with a 4-0 hammering of Kilmarnock in midweek and the Northern Irishman, who only took the job on a permanent basis last summer, hopes that the focus remains firmly on the football against Rangers.

"It has been my most difficult week but my team have been doing my talking for me,'' said Lennon. "My team are in great form, as are Rangers and it has all the ingredients for a fantastic game. I don't think the players need any extra motivation, I think they have it in abundance.''

As the title race enters the final few weeks, Celtic travel to Ibrox one point behind the reigning champions but with a game in hand.

Battling QPR almost there

QPR's promotion party remains on hold despite twice coming from behind to earn a 2-2 draw with Cardiff in the Championship.

Neil Warnock's side went into the encounter knowing victory would seal their return to the Premier League after a 15-year absence, but they can now do so with victory at home over Hull tomorrow.

For Cardiff, a draw was not really good enough and they now sit one point behind second-placed Norwich with just three matches remaining.

Two goals inside the opening 10 minutes, set the pattern for a pulsating afternoon. At the heart of it was enigmatic QPR skipper Adel Taarabt with two goals, the second of which came in the 71st minute to cancel equally impressive first-half efforts from City's duo Jay Bothroyd and Craig Bellamy.

Eagles steadies Burnley ship

Burnley put themselves back in the Championship play-off race with a 4-2 victory over Derby at Pride Park.

The Clarets twice fell behind to goals from Theo Robinson and Jamie Ward.

Chris Eagles equalised on each occasion -- the second came on the rebound after his penalty was saved by Brad Jones following Ward's sending-off -- before providing the cross for Wade Elliott to head Burnley in front. Chris McCann then put the seal on the win as Eddie Howe's side moved level on points with six-placed Forest.

Millwall, meanwhile, are just two points off a play-off place after a 4-0 victory over relegation-threatened Preston at the New Den.

Swans set for play-offs battle

Swansea's lingering hopes of automatic promotion were all but extinguished as they were held 0-0 by Portsmouth at Fratton Park.

The Swans now look set to fight it out in the play-offs and victory at home to Ipswich Town tomorrow, combined with results elsewhere, could clinch their top-six finish.

Inter move up to second

Inter Milan overcame the sending off of goalkeeper Julio Cesar to beat Lazio 2-1 and move second in Serie A.

Cesar was dismissed for bringing down striker Mauro Zarate midway through the first half. The Argentine then opened the scoring with a penalty before Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto'o scored to give Inter the win.

Lazio also finished the game with 10 men after captain Stefano Mauri received a straight red card for tripping Yuto Nagatomo in the 66th minute.

Inter go above Napoli, who lost 2-1 to Palermo.

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