Friday 27 April 2018

Messi rescues Barcelona in debut victory for Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho warms up before making his La Liga debut for Barcelona last night. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images
Philippe Coutinho warms up before making his La Liga debut for Barcelona last night. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

Jamie Holland

Philippe Coutinho's Barcelona league debut ended in victory as his new side came from behind to beat Alaves at the Nou Camp last night.

Former Manchester City forward John Guidetti beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen after racing clear to give the visitors a surprise lead.

Lionel Messi had a free-kick touched on to the post by Alaves keeper Fernando Pacheco before Luis Suarez equalised. Messi then secured the points for the La Liga leaders late on with a sublime free-kick.

Barca's win came after Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice from the penalty spot on Saturday as Real Madrid saw off Valencia to ease the pressure on boss Zinedine Zidane.

The manager was in an upbeat mood after his side's first league away win since October 14.

"This was a big game in a big stadium and we played with great character," Zidane said.

"It shows we are still here and that we are ready to fight. There's a long way top go in the league and we will do our best possible."

Ronaldo converted from the spot after being fouled in the box and added a second before half-time. Valencia's Santi Mina pulled one back, before Marcelo added a third for Real.

Toni Kroos then put the game beyond the hosts with a superb long-range strike for Zidane's side one minute from time.

Antoine Griezmann, Fernando Torres and Thomas Partey were on target as Atletico Madrid were made to work for their 3-0 win over lowly Las Palmas.

Recovered

In Italy, Dries Mertens scored twice as Napoli recovered from falling behind after just 24 seconds to beat Bologna 3-1 and return to the top of Serie A.

Rodrigo Palacio gave the visitors the lead before Ibrahima Mbaye scored an own goal. Mertens then put Napoli ahead from the penalty spot. Belgium forward Mertens sealed victory with a cracking finish. The 30-year-old has scored 13 league goals this season.

On Saturday, Sami Khedira and Gonzalo Higuain scored as Juventus beat nine-man Chievo.

In Germany, Arsenal target Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started for Borussia Dortmund for the first time since December 16 as they drew with Freiburg.

Elsewhere, Edinson Cavani became Paris Saint-Germain's all-time top scorer and Neymar signalled his return from injury with a double as the capital side extended their Ligue 1 lead to 11 points with a 4-0 home demolition of Montpellier.

The Uruguay striker, who joined the club in 2013, struck in the 11th minute as he tapped in from Adrien Rabiot's cross to move past the record of Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic with his 157th goal in his 229th game for PSG.

Irish Independent

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