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Rediff.com  » Sports » Football PHOTOS: Messi fuels Barca comeback; City win easy

Football PHOTOS: Messi fuels Barca comeback; City win easy

Last updated on: January 29, 2018 09:57 IST

Messi and Suarez fuel Barca comeback win

Lionel Messi

IMAGE: Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring the second goal for Barcelona. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

Lionel Messi scored a spectacular free kick to give Barcelona a 2-1 win over struggling Alaves on Sunday while Luis Suarez was also on target as the Catalans battled back from a goal down at halftime to stay 11 points clear at the top of La Liga.

Alaves were the only team to win at the Nou Camp in the league last season and looked set to overshadow Philippe Coutinho's first start for Barca when Sweden striker John Guidetti gave them a shock lead in the 23rd minute, falling over as he lashed the ball past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Suarez finally levelled for the Catalans in the 72nd minute, scoring for the eighth league game in a row after some impressive saves from visiting goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco had kept Barca at bay, while Messi's sumptuous free kick in the 84th gave them a seventh consecutive league win.

Atletico Madrid overcame the absence of injured striker Diego Costa to beat Las Palmas 3-0 while Sevilla were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Getafe due to a controversial equaliser in injury time.

Barca top the standings with 57 points, 11 above nearest challengers Atletico and 19 ahead of champions Real Madrid, who roared back from their miserable start to 2018 with an impressive 4-1 win at third-placed Valencia on Saturday.

Man City and Chelsea win in FA Cup

IMAGE: Manchester City players celebrate winning the match against Cardiff City. Photograph: Rebecca Naden/Reuters

Manchester City swept aside second-tier Cardiff City 2-0 with first-half goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling on Sunday to reach the FA Cup fifth round in their quest to win an unprecedented four trophies this season.

The only sour note in an otherwise routine victory for the visitors was an ankle injury to winger Leroy Sane, which is expected to keep him out for a few weeks.

Pep Guardiola's side began without a recognised striker but took just eight minutes to go ahead when midfielder De Bruyne rolled a clever free kick under the wall as the defenders jumped to block the expected direction of his shot.

"The wall was close so I thought it would be easier to hit it under rather than over," said Belgian De Bruyne.

IMAGE: Chelsea's Michy Batshuayi, right, tries to get the ball past Henri Saivet of Newcastle United. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Michy Batshuayi took advantage of a rare start to score twice as Chelsea eased past Newcastle United 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The Belgian's goals could not have been better timed with reports suggesting that Chelsea are close to signing a striker ahead of Wednesday's transfer deadline.

Batshuayi was one of four changes from the team knocked out of the League Cup in midweek and Antonio Conte's show of faith in his reserve striker was quickly rewarded when he got on the end of a slick move started by Pedro's probing pass to put Chelsea ahead on 31 minutes.

Although Batshuayi seldom gets game time in the Premier League, he remains the Italian's go-to man in the FA Cup, with no Chelsea player having scored more in the competition under Conte.

Another strike quickly followed although this time Batshuayi needed a huge slice of luck when, set free by Eden Hazard, his shot was deflected over the keeper by the diving Jamaal Lascelles just before the break.

Mertens brace puts Napoli top

IMAGE: Napoli's Dries Mertens, centre, celebrates scoring their second goal with his team mates. Photograph: Ciro De Luca/Reuters

A double from Dries Mertens took Napoli straight back to the top of Serie A with a 3-1 win over Bologna on Sunday while Inter Milan conceded a last-minute goal at SPAL to extend their winless run to nine games.

Third-placed Lazio lost 2-1 at AC Milan amid controversy as Patrick Cutrone appeared to use his arm to score the hosts' opener at San Siro and the goal stood despite the presence of the video replay system (VAR).

The VAR denied Crotone a last-minute winner at home to 10-man Cagliari, the game ending 1-1, and a bizarre miss by Genoa forward Luca Rigoni cost his team a point at home to Udinese as they lost 1-0.

Napoli, briefly dislodged by Juventus who played on Saturday and won 2-0 at Chievo, now lead with 57 points from 22 games, one ahead of the Turin side.

Juventus opened up a 10-point gap over third-placed Lazio while Inter are a further two points behind in fourth.

Napoli were stunned when Rodrigo Palacio took advantage of dreadful marking to give Bologna the lead after 25 seconds but they were gifted an equaliser by Ibrahima Mbaye who turned an attempted clearance into his own goal.

The hosts were then awarded a soft penalty which Mertens converted in the 37th minute but there was no question about the Belgian's second goal in the 59th when he cut inside a defender and curled an exquisite effort into the net.

"We aim for beauty, to enjoy ourselves and give enjoyment," said Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri, who was a bank worker before becoming coach. "If that produces results, so much the better. If I only wanted to work, I would have stayed at the bank."

Inter, leaders in early December, slipped further behind after a game in which both goals were scored by their opponents.

SPAL's Francesco Vicari turned Joao Cancelo's cross into his own net to gift Inter the lead and the visitors were on the verge of their first win in all competitions since Dec. 3 until Alberto Paloschi's diving header levelled the scores.

AC Milan went ahead after 15 minutes when Cutrone turned in Hakan Calhanoglu's free kick but television replays suggested the ball came off his arm. However, the referee did not ask to review the incident.

Adam Marusic levelled five minutes later but Giacomo Bonaventura headed in one minute before halftime to give Milan their third successive league win.

Source:
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