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Rediff.com  » Sports » Football Briefs: Barca survive Celta fightback to stay unbeaten

Football Briefs: Barca survive Celta fightback to stay unbeaten

April 18, 2018 08:20 IST

News of all that's transpired on and off the football field

Barcelona

IMAGE: Celta Vigo's Jonny in action with Barcelona's Paco Alcacer.Photograph: Miguel Vidal/Reuters

Runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona held on to draw 2-2 at Celta Vigo on Tuesday with a much-changed side as they survived having Sergi Roberto sent off late in the second half to preserve their unbeaten league record this season.

 

Barca lead the standings on 83 points after 33 games, 12 ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid, who visit Real Sociedad on Thursday, while Real Madrid, a further four points back in third, host Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

France forward Ousmane Dembele struck his first goal in the Spanish top flight to give Barca the lead against the run of play in the 36th minute but Celta got a deserved equaliser just before halftime when Jonny Castro struck from close range.

Paco Alcacer restored Barca's lead in the 64th minute but Celta, who had beaten the Catalans 4-3 and 4-1 at home in the previous two seasons, continued to pour forward and caused the visitors' inexperienced defence problems.

Substitute Roberto was given a straight red card in the 71st for halting a surging run from Iago Aspas and the Spain striker levelled in the 82nd minute, bundling the ball in with the help of his arm and scoring his 20th league goal this season.

With the King's Cup final against Sevilla coming up on Saturday, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde made eight changes to the team that beat Valencia at the weekend, leaving out most of his regular starters including talisman Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique and captain Andres Iniesta.

The wholesale changes meant it was the first competitive game in 16 years in which Barca started without a player who had come through their academy and the lack of experienced personnel saw 24-year-old keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen named as captain.

Celta dominated the final part of the game, despite Messi having come on earlier in the second half, but Barca clung on for the draw, staying on course to become the only team to finish a Liga season without losing.

Barca's King's Cup final opponents Sevilla, who are seventh, were held to a 0-0 draw at relegation-threatened Deportivo earlier on Tuesday, while sixth-placed Villarreal beat Leganes 2-1 as they battle for a Europa League qualifying spot.

Stellar Bayern crush Leverkusen to reach German Cup final

Bayern Munich reached the German Cup final by thrashing Bayer Leverkusen 6-2 away thanks to a Thomas Mueller hat-trick after an early Robert Lewandowski double on Tuesday to stay on track for a treble of titles this season.

Bundesliga champions Bayern, who face Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals next week, enjoyed a sensational start and completely overran their opponents, scoring twice through Lewandowski in the opening nine minutes.

The Poland forward flicked in a powerful Javi Martinez shot to put the visitors ahead in the third minute and then added another goal with a fine volley from a Franck Ribery cross.

Leverkusen pulled a goal back in the 16th with a Lars Bender header and came agonisingly close to levelling minutes after the restart as they battled to get back into the match.

Bayern keeper Sven Ulreich repeatedly came to the rescue to keep the visitors ahead and the home side's hopes of a comeback in the semi-final were killed off when Thiago Alcantara picked out Mueller to score Bayern's third.

The Spain international then slotted in the fifth after Mueller had scored again from close range before he grabbed his hat-trick in the 78th minute.

The Germany forward completed his treble after Leverkusen substitute Leon Bailey had pulled another goal back for the hosts with a whipped free kick.

Bayern, who have won the German Cup a record 18 times and also clinched the treble in 2013, will face the winners of Wednesday's semi-final between Eintracht Frankfurt and Schalke 04 in the final in Berlin on May 19.

Inter end goal drought and boost Champions League hopes

Inter Milan ended a three-match goal drought and boosted their hopes of ending a six-season absence from the Champions League by thumping Cagliari 4-0 on Tuesday.

The win lifted Inter to third in Serie A with 63 points, two ahead of AS Roma and Lazio who both play on Wednesday. The top four qualify for next season's Champions League group stage.

The only sour note for Inter was that midfielder Roberto Gagliardini pulled up clutching his thigh in the first half and was taken off on a stretcher with what appeared to be a serious injury.

In a move likely to shock traditionalists, Inter's shirts carried their players' social media handles instead of names to celebrate what the club described on Twitter as #InterSocialNight.

Joao Cancelo got Inter off to a flying start by scoring from a free kick which evaded everyone in the penalty area and landed in the net after three minutes.

Inter missed a host of chances before Mauro Icardi fired in from Rafinha's layoff four minutes after halftime, the Argentine's 25th league goal of the season.

Marcelo Brozovic curled in the third on the hour and Ivan Perisic blasted the fourth in the last minute.

Cagliari, who barely threatened, are 14th with 32 points, five clear of the relegation zone.

Toronto lament poor goals as Guadalajara win first leg 2-1

Mexico's Deportivo Guadalajara earned a 2-1 win over Toronto FC in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final on Tuesday, denting the home side's hopes of becoming the first Canadian team to be crowned continental champions.

Mexican sides have dominated the competition in its current format, winning every edition since 2008, and if Toronto are to end that run and claim a place in the FIFA Club World Cup they will need to produce something special on April 25 in the return leg at Guadalajara Estadio Akron.

With Toronto in the grip of a spring ice storm, Guadalajara sent a chill through the home BMO Field crowd when an unmarked Rodolfo Pizarro slotted home in just the second minute.

The home side got back on level terms when Jonathan Osorio stabbed home the equaliser in the 19th minute but Mexico's Alan Pulido grabbed the winner 18 minutes from time when he curled in a long-range free kick.

The winner of the CONCACAF Champions League qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup, which features the six continental club champions and a team from the host nation. This year's tournament will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates from Dec. 12-22.

Source:
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