Sport Soccer

Saturday 25 January 2020

Messi turns on magic to keep 10-man Barca on track

Pete Jenson

WITH Barcelona’s Gerard Pique sent off for a wild and late challenge on Getafe defender Rafa midway through the first half, this looked like being the day Real, who hammered Espanyol 3-0, closed the five-point gap at the top of La Liga, but Lionel Messi, Xavi, and Andres Iniesta played second-half keep-ball and so Barca made it 21 games unbeaten this season, prevailing 2-1.

Messi had already put them ahead after eight minutes with another ridiculously good goal – a shot that seemed to curl its way around the entire Getafe defence before swerving just inside goalkeeper Jordi Codina’s near post.

Messi made the second on 67 minutes, breaking away, drawing in the enemy and then releasing team-mate Xavi to score.

Real Zaragoza climbed out of the bottom three after a crucial 2-1 defeat of Sevilla at La Romareda. Matteo Contini put Zaragoza ahead after 31 minutes but Sevilla hit back three minutes later, Fredi Kanoute bagging an equaliser for the visitors.

However, an Alvaro Negredo own goal after 42 minutes put the home side ahead again and Negredo’s evening got even worse eight minutes from the end when he received a red card. In a frantic finale Perez Adrian Colunga walked for Zaragoza as did Sevilla’s Marius Stankevicius. Real Mallorca went fourth thanks to a 1-0 win over Villareal, Nunes’ header earning the victory.

Henry ‘promoted’ at Barca The France captain Thierry Henry can be thankful his national team coach Raymond Domenech does not share Fabio Capello’s obsession with his players playing week-in, week-out. Henry, who watched last week’s 1-0 win over Sporting Gijon from the bench, was all set to watch Barcelona’s victory over Gefafe from the stands before an injury in the warm-up to defender Dani Alves meant Henry was ‘promoted’ to the bench as one of Barca’s seven subs.

Robben on song for Bayern During his injury-plagued two years at Real Madrid Arjen Robben never played more than eight consecutive matches. The Dutch winger is now just one game from equalling his best run at Real without getting injured and helped elevate Bayern Munich to the summit of the Bundesliga. Robben scored in his side’s 3-1 away win over Wolfsburg, leaving them level on points with Bayer Leverkusen.

Bordeaux run comes to an end French champions Bordeaux lost their first game since November 21 as Montpellier closed the gap at the top of Ligue 1 to just three points. After seven wins and two draws in their last nine games, Laurent Blanc’s side lost 4-2 against Rennes and Rene Girard’s team beat Boulogne 2-0.

Juventus slide further As Liverpool moved into a Champions League spot in England, Juventus – who are courting Rafa Benitez – slipped further from the European places in Serie A. Juventus drew 0-0 with Livorno, leaving caretaker coach Alberto Zaccheroni still searching for his first win.

Inter Milan moved 10 points Messi turns on magic to keep 10-man Barca on track Pete Jenson Lionel Messi steered Barcelona to a 2-1 win over Getafe, scoring an early goal and then setting up Xavi for a second clear of city rivals AC Milan at the top of the table with a convincing victory over inform Cagliari at the San Siro. Winter signing Goran Pandev gave them the perfect start after five minutes' play with Argentinian duo Walter Samuel (20) and Diego Milito (47) wrapping the game up for Jose Mourinho's men.

AC Milan produced another uninspiring display in a goalless draw at Bologna.

At the other end of the table Catania claimed a crucial 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Lazio to move themselves out of the relegation zone. Maxi Lopez grabbed the only goal of the game at the Stadio Olimpico to heap yet more pressure on Lazio coach Davide Ballardini.

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