Sunday 17 December 2017

Messi on song as Barca get off to best start in La Liga history

European round-up

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona made the best start in the history of the Spanish league with a 5-1 win over Athletic Bilbao.

Barcelona's 13 wins and a draw in the opening 14 rounds surpassed Real Madrid's 12 wins and two draws to begin the 1991-92 campaign.

Barcelona led 3-0 by half-time, with the goals coming from Gerard Pique, Messi and Adriano. Cesc Fabregas and Messi completed the rout.

Messi's 11th double of the season left him one goal shy of Gerd Muller's record of 85 for club and country in a calendar year, set in 1972.

The 25-year-old, who could become the first player to win the FIFA world player of the year award four times, has scored 28 times this season, including a league-leading 21 goals.

Real, meanwhile, extended their dominance over Atletico Madrid with a 2-0 victory, keeping alive a run of not losing to their city rivals in 24 straight games, dating back to 1999.

Atletico went into the game after their best start to a season with 11 wins in 13 rounds. But any hopes of ending 13 years of misery were crushed when Cristiano Ronaldo scored an exquisite free kick in the 16th minute.

Atletico remain in second place after their second loss of the campaign. But Barcelona are six points clear, as third-place Madrid closed to within five of their derby rivals.


In the Serie A, Juventus extended their lead by beating 10-man Torino 3-0 in the Turin derby on Saturday.

Claudio Marchisio scored twice either side of Sebastian Giovinco's strike to prolong Torino's dismal derby record.

Torino played more than 50 minutes at a numerical disadvantage after Kamil Glik was sent off following a horrific challenge, with the score still 0-0.

Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo blazed a penalty over the bar at the end of the first half.

Meanwhile, in Germany, Mario Goetze equalised for Borussia Dortmund, who face Manchester City this week, against Bayern Munich on Saturday.

Goetze levelled in the 74th minute, when he controlled Marco Reus' corner with his chest and struck the dropping ball sweetly inside the far post.

Toni Kroos broke the deadlock after a period of concerted Bayern pressure in the 67th minute, eluding Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic on the edge of the area before striking the ball perfectly with his left boot to send it beyond the helpless Roman Weidenfeller in goal. The latter made three outstanding saves to save the point late in the game.

Bayern defender Holger Badstuber was carried off in the first half with damaged cruciate ligaments in his right knee.

Irish Independent

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