Saturday 23 June 2018

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Barca fight back to stay undefeated

Luis Suarez scored twice. Photo: Reuters
Luis Suarez scored twice. Photo: Reuters

Jamie Holland

Barcelona are the only unbeaten side left in Europe's top five leagues after they laid their Anoeta hoodoo to rest with a come-from-behind 4-2 victory at Real Sociedad.

Having seen Manchester City finally beaten earlier in the day, Barca trailed 2-0 thanks to Willian Jose's header and Juanmi's deflected strike at a stadium where they had not won in 11 years.

Paulinho pulled one back prior to the break and Luis Suarez then grabbed a brace - the first a tremendous floated finish - which put the visitors ahead before Lionel Messi curled in a free-kick from distance five minutes from time.

Barca are now nine points clear at the top of La Liga after 19 games and remain unbeaten in the Spanish top flight since losing to Malaga last April.

Sevilla slipped to a fourth defeat in their past five La Liga games as Manu Garcia's second-half winner earned Alaves a 1-0 win.

Having lost just four of their opening 14 games in the division, Sevilla have now accrued only one point since beating Deportivo La Coruna on December 2.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane refused to criticise his players after they suffered the "hammer blow" of a second consecutive home on Saturday.

Zidane's struggling side lost 1-0 to Villarreal, with Pablo Fornals applying a sublime finish to an 87th-minute counter-attack for the Yellow Submarine, who are now just a point behind Real and had goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo to thank for a number of vital saves.

"It is hard to explain. We tried everything," Zidane said "We had clear chances, but the ball would not go in. There is no explanation.

"This is a bad run that won't stop and it is not good for my players, but I can't criticise them. This is simply a bad moment and a tough defeat to take because we didn't deserve that.

"We have done everything possible to win but this is what we're left with.

"The ball didn't want to go in. We tried as best we could and I can't really offer any explanation.

"We have games still to come and we can turn this around. We have gone through good times but now we are up against it and we know that. We must focus and keep working hard."

Real had an early header from Gareth Bale correctly ruled out for offside, while Asenjo saved superbly from Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo (twice) in the first half.

In France, St Etienne gave their survival hopes a boost by claiming their first Ligue 1 win since October over relegation rivals Toulouse.

Clinched

Robert Beric's first-half penalty and Assane Diousse's late effort clinched a 2-0 victory for Jean-Louis Gasset's side.

Liverpool-bound Naby Keita was among the scorers as RB Leipzig moved above Schalke and into second place in the Bundesliga with a 3-1 home victory.

Simon Terodde made a dramatic homecoming by scoring in the fifth minute of stoppage time to give Cologne a dramatic 2-1 Bundesliga win over local rivals Borussia Monchengladbach.

Making his first appearance since returning to the club after a six-year absence, Terodde crashed home the winner with the last kick of the match to give his side only their second league victory of the season.

Cologne's win gives them a ray of hope in their unlikely battle for survival, lifting them to within six points of second-bottom Hamburg.

Irish Independent

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