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Rediff.com  » Sports » Football Briefs: Pique silences critics; Higuain scores hat-trick

Football Briefs: Pique silences critics; Higuain scores hat-trick

February 04, 2018 22:17 IST

Pique silences Espanyol critics to keep Barca unbeaten

Gerard Pique

IMAGE: Barcelona’s Gerard Pique in action. Photograph: FC Barcelona/Twitter.

Gerard Pique headed home a late equaliser for Barcelona against Catalan rivals Espanyol to earn his side a 1-1 draw in Cornella and maintain their unbeaten La Liga record on Sunday.

 

The defender, whistled throughout after making provocative comments which upset Espanyol fans after Barcelona knocked their rivals out of the King's Cup in January, buried Lionel Messi's free kick.

Ernesto Valverde had started the Argentine on the bench as he rotated his side but threw Messi on in the second half as Barcelona struggled to break down a stubborn Espanyol on a waterlogged pitch in driving rain.

Gerard Moreno headed home Sergio Garcia's inch-perfect cross in the 66th minute to give Espanyol hope of repeating their King's Cup first-leg win over Barcelona but Pique had the final say to move his side provisionally 12 points clear at the top of the table.

NorthEast United hold FC Goa to 2-2 draw in ISL

NorthEast United came from behind to hold FC Goa to a 2-2 draw in an Indian Super League match.

Mandar Rao Dessai (42nd minute) and Ferran Corominas (53rd) scored for FC Goa, while Mario De Souza Greogorio Junior (45th) and substitute John Jairo Mosquera (71st) were the goal getters for the visitors.

The draw enabled FC Goa to reach 20 points, the same as Kerala Blasters but due to better goal difference, the Goan outfit are placed fifth.

NorthEast United are placed ninth with 11 points from 12 matches.

Both the teams made one change to their starting eleven.

Incidentally, both right backs, FC Goa's Seriton Fernandes and NorthEast's Nirmal Chetri were suspended for this game.

Jonathan Cardozo and Robert Lalthlamuana were their replacements.

After their double loss against Mumbai City, FC Goa needed a win today to climb to the fourth place.

The hosts started cautiously but suffered early set back when Brandon Fernandes limped off with an ankle injury with Manvir Singh coming in his place.

Coach Sergio Lobera made a tactical change pushing Manvir upfront in place of Coro, who dropped down to assist Lanzarote and Goa found their bearing as they controlled the midfield.

Kallon's strike takes NEROCA to the top

NEROCA FC defeated Gokulam Kerala FC by a solitary goal to jump to the top of the 2017-18 Hero I-League, in Imphal.

Liberian defender Varney Kallon Kiatamba scored two minutes before half-time which was enough for the newly-promoted side to register all three points at their home ground and unsettle Minerva Punjab FC at the top.

Gift Raikhan decided not to disturb NEROCA's winning combination which defeated Churchill Brothers in their away game earlier this week.

Bino George, on the other hand, made three changes in the starting eleven which defeated Shillong Lajong in the previous game. Kivi Zhimoni, Santu Singh and Daniel Addo made way for Arjun Jayaraj, Henry Kisekka and Balwinder Singh.

The visitors received an early blow when Laldampuia had to leave the field with an injury in the ninth minute of the game. George introduced Kivi Zhimoni in place of the injured winger.

Kiatamba Kallon broke the deadlock in the 43rd minute from Nedo Turkovic's pass. The defender took advantage of a fumble from Bilal Khan and put the ball into the back of the net at the stroke of halftime.

NEROCA deservingly went into the break with a one goal lead after dominating proceedings in the first 45 minutes.

While Gift Raikhan would have been a content man as his side leapfrogged Minerva Punjab FC to go top of the standings, an injury to Glen Aryn Williams will be a concern but with three upcoming home matches, there will be some respite for the club who now have 27 points from 14 games.

Gokulam, meanwhile, remain rooted to the bottom of the table with 10 points to show from their 12 outings.

NEROCA will now host Northeastern rivals Aizawl FC on February 10 whereas the Kerala outfit will travel to Kolkata to lock horns with Mohun Bagan two days later.

Higuain scores second-half hat-trick in Juve's seven-goal rout

Juventus forward Gonzalo Higuain scored a second-half hat-trick as the titleholders routed hapless Sassuolo 7-0 in Serie A on Sunday.

Alex Sandro gave Juventus a seventh-minute lead, then two goals in three minutes from Sami Khedira put the Turin side three goals up and Miralem Pjanic added a fourth before halftime.

Higuain then burst onto the scene with a hat-trick between the 63rd and 83rd minutes.

Juve's seventh consecutive league win took them top of Serie A, at least for a few hours, with Napoli away to Benevento in the evening game. Juve have 59 points to Napoli's 57.

AS Roma ended a six-game winless run in the league when Cengiz Under scored after 43 seconds, winning possession and then firing home from outside the area, to give them a 1-0 win at relegation-threatened Verona.

Fifth-placed Roma held out despite having Lorenzo Pellegrini given a straight red card six minutes after halftime for a late, reckless tackle on Ryder Matos.

AC Milan were held 1-1 at Udinese after having a player sent off and then conceding an own goal.

Suso rifled Gennaro Gattuso's team ahead in the ninth minute with a 30-metre shot but the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Davide Calabria was sent off for a second booking in the 68th minute.

Udinese equalised eight minutes later with a Kevin Lasagna shot which deflected off a defender before goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma tipped it into his own goal.

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