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Rediff.com  » Sports » Soccer briefs: Messi to Barca's rescue; easy for Real Madrid

Soccer briefs: Messi to Barca's rescue; easy for Real Madrid

Last updated on: April 01, 2018 10:42 IST

Lionel Messi

IMAGE: Lionel Messi celebrates scoring Barcelona's second goal as Sevilla's Ever Banega looks on dejected. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters

Lionel Messi came off the bench to preserve Barcelona's unbeaten run in La Liga with a sensational late equaliser in a thrilling 2-2 draw at Sevilla on Saturday as the runaway leaders came back from two goals down in the space of a minute.

Champions Real Madrid eased to a 3-0 win over lowly Las Palmas with goals from Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema despite missing six regular starters, including top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo and captain Sergio Ramos.

Franco Vazquez opened the scoring for Sevilla from close range in the 36th minute and Colombia international Luis Muriel doubled the home side's lead by smashing in on the rebound five minutes into the second half.

Messi had began the game on the bench due to continued muscle discomfort which caused him to miss Argentina's friendlies against Italy and Spain and the league's top scorer was called into action in the 58th minute, replacing Ousmane Dembele.

Barca were instantly lifted by the Argentine's arrival and shortly after coming on Luis Suarez rattled the near post but Sevilla continued to pour forward and Vazquez and Muriel each missed clear chances to strike again and put the game to bed.

Barca looked on course for a first league defeat since losing at Malaga last April but Suarez pulled one back with an acrobatic finish in the 88th minute and Messi whipped in the equaliser in the 89th with a venomous left-foot strike.

The goal stretched the Catalans' unbeaten run in the league to 37 games and if they avoid defeat next week at home to Leganes they will equal Real Sociedad's Liga record of 38 games without defeat, which has stood since 1980.

Barca top the standings on 76 points but if second-placed Atletico Madrid beat Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday their advantage at the top will be cut to nine. Real are third on 62.

Bale exhibited his phenomenal pace and power to race on to an exquisite through ball from old Tottenham Hotspur team mate Luka Modric and fire in the opening goal for Real against Las Palmas in the 26th minute.

Madrid's stand-in captain Benzema doubled the advantage from the penalty spot after Lucas Vazquez was fouled before Bale won and converted another spot-kick six minutes into the second half to put Madrid further at ease.

Real defender Nacho Fernandez had to be substituted in the first half with a thigh strain and the Spaniard was seen crying as he sat on the sidelines with the injury likely to rule him out of Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg at Juventus.

Zidane left Ronaldo, Marcelo and Toni Kroos at home for the trip to the Canary Islands and was without Isco and Ramos due to injury and Dani Carvajal through suspension, meaning his squad will be well rested for the trip to Turin for a re-run of last year's Champions League final.

Mbappe shines as PSG win fifth straight French League Cup

IMAGE: Paris Saint-Germain's Thiago Silva hoists the trophy as his team celebrates winning the French League Cup. Photograph: Regis Duvignau/Reuters

Kylian Mbappe played chief tormentor as Paris St Germain beat Monaco 3-0 to claim their fifth French League Cup title in succession on Saturday in a game where video refereeing played its part on Saturday.

PSG, who have now won their last 40 games in the French Cup or League Cup, prevailed through an Edinson Cavani double and a goal by Angel Di Maria, but it was France international Mbappe who caught the eye at the Matmut Atlantique.

The 19-year-old, who is set to be one of France's key players at the World Cup, won PSG's early penalty and set up both the other goals in a man-of-the-match performance.

It is PSG's second final victory against Monaco after they beat them 4-1 last year, but it will do little to erase the bad memories from another early exit in the Champions League after they were eliminated in the last 16 this season.

Portugal might sweat over midfielder Joao Moutinho's fitness ahead of the World Cup after he was carried off the pitch on a stretcher with a suspected knee injury.

Clement Turpin, who will be one of the referees at the World Cup in Russia, used the video assistant referee (VAR) technology to award PSG an early penalty after Kamil Glik had brought down Mbappe.

Cavani converted it to put PSG ahead on eight minutes, underlining Ligue 1 leaders PSG's superiority over the likely runners-up.

The Parisians were clearly a cut above and on a lightning-quick counter-attack, Mbappe's delightful pass found Di Maria, who coolly slotted the ball past Danijel Subasic in the 21st minute.

Monaco had promising ideas but Thomas Lemar, Youri Tielemans or Rony Lopes were too clumsy in the box.

After being sent through behind the back of the PSG defence, Lopes's chip shaved Kevin Trapp's left-hand post 10 minutes before the break.

Monaco thought they had pulled one back in the 37th minute through Radamel Falcao, but Turpin disallowed the goal after VAR showed that the Colombia striker was offside when he headed past Trapp.

Leonardo Jardim beefed up Monaco's frontline for the second half, replacing Tielemans with Stevan Jovetic.

But PSG were still the more dangerous side as Julian Draxler repeatedly unsettled the Monaco defence, although the visitors had a great chance when Lopes's powerful shot bounced off the crossbar.

Mbappe was a constant threat to the Monaco back four, setting up Cavani for another offside "goal".

Monaco continued to push but Cavani beat Subasic from close range after collecting Mbappe's through ball five minutes from time to ensure PSG remained unbeaten in national cups since early 2014.

PSG, who lead Monaco by 17 points in Ligue 1, play the French Cup semi-finals at Caen on April 18.

Bayern crush Dortmund but title has to wait

Robert Lewandowski

IMAGE: Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring Bayern Munich's sixth goal to complete his hat-trick. Photograph: Michaela Rehle/Reuters

Treble-chasing Bayern Munich demolished hapless Borussia Dortmund 6-0 with Robert Lewandowski scoring a hat-trick on Saturday but they will have to wait another week to clinch the Bundesliga title.

In a whirlwind first-half performance top scorer Lewandowski struck twice and James Rodriguez, Thomas Mueller and Franck Ribery were also on target for the Bavarians, who face Sevilla in the Champions League last eight next week.

Lewandowski, who confirmed his fine form with his third goal of the afternoon in the 88th minute to put the seal on a one-sided game, had also put them ahead after five minutes as Bayern scored virtually at will.

Before Dortmund's defence had any time to recover Bayern scored twice more, through Rodriguez and Mueller, to deflate opponents who are battling for a Champions League spot.

Lewandowski and Ribery scored within minutes of each other to complete their first-half demolition before they eased off after the break.

Bayern moved to 69 points, 17 ahead of second-placed Schalke 04 with six matches remaining. Dortmund who lost for the first time in the league under coach Peter Stoeger, remained third on 48.

"We are bitterly disappointed," said Stoeger. "We offered far too little resistance. Bayern took advantage of every mistake we made. We are at the moment a long way away from Bayern Munich."

But Heynckes' side will have to wait a little longer to clinch the title.

Earlier on Saturday, Schalke beat 10-man Freiburg 2-0 to delay Bayern's title celebrations.

RB Leipzig worked their way back into Champions League contention with a nervous 3-2 victory at Hanover 96 that lifted them to 46 points and fourth place, a point ahead of Bayer Leverkusen, who managed only a goalless draw against Augsburg.

The top four teams qualify automatically for the Champions League group stage next season.

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