Thursday 18 January 2018

Messi pulls the strings to put Barcelona back on top

Barcelona 3 Malaga 0

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring their second goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring their second goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey

Lionel Messi failed to score himself but played a part in goals for Pedro and Alexis Sanchez as a 3-0 win over Malaga at Camp Nou sent champions Barcelona top of the table on goal difference.

Defender Gerard Pique lashed in the first on 40 minutes after the visitors failed to deal with a corner before Messi set up Pedro for Barca's second after the break.

Alexis Sanchez made sure of the points with half an hour to play as Pedro and Messi combined again.

Second-placed Atletico Madrid had briefly gone clear after Turkey playmaker Arda Turan struck twice in a 4-2 victory at second-bottom Rayo Vallecano.

A Jonathan Viera penalty was first on the scoreboard for Atletico before Arda made it 2-0 on the half hour after good work from Diego Costa and Jose Sosa.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 22nd La Liga goal of the season in Real Madrid's laboured 2-0 victory over Granada at the Bernabeu. Madrid lie third, a point behind Barca and local rivals Atletico.

France forward Karim Benzema was also on target as Carlo Ancelotti's side moved on to 53 points from 21 matches.

In Italy, Fernando Llorente's second-half equaliser gave 10-man Juventus a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Lazio on Saturday and put them nine points clear at the top of Serie A despite their 12-match winning streak coming to an end.

Champions Juve moved on to 56 points from 21 games after Spanish centre forward Llorente met Stefan Lichtsteiner's cross to score with a smart, looping header on the hour, cancelling out Antonio Candreva's 27th-minute penalty.


The spot-kick was given after goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was sent off for crashing into Miroslav Klose after the striker had knocked the ball around him.

"These things go for and against you," said Juve coach Antonio Conte, "but I think a penalty is already enough of a punishment, and I think a penalty and a booking should have been the maximum punishment handed out."

A late Felix Klaus goal saw Freiburg inflict a 3-2 defeat on Bayer Leverkusen and deny them the chance to close the gap on Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munch, as the league returned in Germany.

Lars Bender gave the visitors the lead for the first time in the fourth minute, but Admir Mehmedi levelled for the hosts.

Simon Rolfes put Leverkusen back in front 10 minutes before half-time before Jonathan Schmid equalised shortly after the interval.

Klaus netted in the last minute of the game to earn the Baden-Wurttemberg side three much-needed points, which lifts them out of the bottom three.

Leverkusen, however, lie 10 points off top spot despite being the nearest challenger to Bayern.

Borussia Dortmund moved up to third in the standings but it was hardly an afternoon to celebrate as they recorded a 2-2 draw at home against Augsburg.

Irish Independent

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