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Rediff.com  » Sports » Euro football: Liverpool down Rovers, Barca close in on Real

Euro football: Liverpool down Rovers, Barca close in on Real

Last updated on: April 11, 2012 15:35 IST

Euro soccer: Reds down Rovers, Barca close in on Real

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Andy Carroll's ninth goal since joining Liverpool over a year ago gave 10-man Liverpool a 3-2 win at relegation-threatened Blackburn Rovers in a game including a sending-off, two penalties and some comical goalkeeping.

Carroll, under fire for his lack of goals since his 35 million pound move from Newcastle United in January last year, headed home from six metres out with only three minutes on the clock to worsen their opponents' plight.

Blackburn remained in the bottom three on 28 points from 33 games, level on points with 17th-placed Queens Park Rangers and Wigan Athletic who have both played one fewer match, while Liverpool stayed eighth on 46 points.

The visitors started brightly and were two goals clear after Argentine Maxi Rodriguez clinically dispatched chances in the 13th and 16th minutes.

Image: Liverpool's Andy Carroll celebrates scoring the winning goal against Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday
Photographs: Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

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Jones dedicates win to son

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The game, and Liverpool's week with an FA Cup semi-final against neighbours Everton to come on Saturday, was disrupted nine minutes later when stand-in goalkeeper Doni conceded a penalty and was shown a red-card for a foul on Yakubu Aiyegbeni.

First choice keeper Pepe Reina will miss the weekend Wembley outing after he was given a three-match ban for a red card at Newcastle on April 2, leaving Liverpool with only one goalie in Brad Jones.

The Australian's first action was to save Yakubu's tame spot kick and then point emotionally to the sky in honour of his son Luca, who died of leukaemia late last year aged five.

"The supporters have been brilliant. It's been a difficult 18 months with my son passing away. That was for him," Jones said.

Yakubu pulled one back for Blackburn with a header on 36 minutes while in the second half Jones went from hero to villain, conceding Liverpool's second penalty in calamitous fashion when he palmed a charged-down clearance straight to the striker.

Jones then pulled former Middlesbrough teammate Yakubu down and could have seen red but escaped with a yellow card and was powerless to stop the Blackburn marksman's drilled penalty just after the hour.

Image: Liverpool 'keeper Brad Jones points to the sky in celebration as he saves the penalty off Yakubu during their match against Blackburn on Tuesday
Photographs: Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

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'We all believed we were going to get a winning goal at the end'

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With the game meandering towards a draw Liverpool defender Daniel Agger's header into the path of Carroll gave the out-of-sorts England man a glorious chance to score which he duly took for the three points, a result he felt was never in doubt.

"We all believed we were going to get a winning goal at the end. Coming off a few defeats that shows the fire we've got," Carroll told Sky Sports.

"I think we've been unlucky and the luck will come back."

Second-from-bottom Wigan host leaders Manchester United (79 points) on Wednesday when second-placed Manchester City (71) play mid-table West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal (61), in third, travel to bottom club Wolverhampton Wanderers.


Image: Liverpool's Alexander Doni brings down Junior Hoilett of Blackburn Rovers to concede a penalty
Photographs: Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

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Barca close on the heels of leaders Real

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Chile striker Alexis Sanchez scored twice as Barcelona swept to a 4-0 home win over Getafe that moved them to within a point of La Liga leaders Real Madrid on Tuesday.

Alexis curled in the opener after 13 minutes and the World Player of the Year Lionel Messi netted his 39th league goal and 61st in all competitions this season before the break.

Alexis and Pedro headed in two more within three minutes of each other in the second half.

Champions Barca, who were 10 points adrift of Real just over three weeks ago, cranked up the pressure with a 10th straight win and moved to within one point on 78 from 32 games.

Jose Mourinho's men, who have drawn three of their last five, travel to play city rivals Atletico Madrid at the Calderon on Wednesday.

"We are coming back from a large disadvantage and we feel like cyclists, the most difficult part is the last kilometre and passing the person in first place," Barca sports director Andoni Zubizarreta said.

Osasuna kept up their push for a place in Europe next season when Raul Garcia scored a brace in a 2-0 home win over Espanyol, who finished the game with nine men.

Osasuna were sixth with 46 points. Ninth-placed Espanyol have 42 points, while Real Sociedad and Real Betis edged further away from the relegation places with a 1-1 draw.

Image: Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez (left) and Xavi Hernandez celebrate a goal against Getafe on Tuesday
Photographs: Albert Gea / Reuters

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Fans show support to Abidal

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Pep Guardiola sent out an attacking line up with three defenders, but without Gerard Pique and Dani Alves who had been struggling with strains, or the suspended Cesc Fabregas.

Messi's chested lay-off for Alexis made the space for the in-form Chilean to tear towards the area and curl a shot inside the far post, and the chances stacked up for the hosts.

Xavi had a lob cleared off the line, which looked like it had entered the goal, and in the 22nd minute the whole stadium started chanting and applauding Eric Abidal.

The French international defender, who wears the number 22 with Barca, was undergoing a liver transplant on Tuesday having being diagnosed with a tumour on the organ last year.

"We thank everyone for the emotional applause in this minute," Zubizarreta added.

"We still don't know anything about the operation yet."


Image: Barcelona's Pedro (17) heads the ball to score against Getafe
Photographs: Reuters / Gustau Nacarino

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Messi, Iniesta crafty moves fox Getafe defenders

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Ruben Perez had a shot deflected wide off the post for Getafe, one of only two teams to have beaten Barca this year, after a 1-0 home triumph back in November, but it was a rare foray forward.

Barca's best of the game came just before halftime when Messi worked a one-two with Andres Iniesta, the Spain midfielder backheeling into the path of the Argentine, who ripped a shot into the top corner.

During the second half, Barca eased off and controlled possession until Alexis powered in a header from Isaac Cuenca's cross in the 73rd. Pedro flicked on Messi's freekick for the fourth soon after.


Image: Barcelona's Lionel Messi (right) and Andres Iniesta celebrate a goal against Getafe
Photographs: Albert Gea /Reuters

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Milan pull themselves out of the doldrums

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AC Milan overcame a glut of suspensions and injuries to win 1-0 at Chievo on Tuesday to pull themselves out of the doldrums after a miserable eight days and put the pressure back on Juventus in the Serie A title race.

Ghana forward Sulley Muntari rifled in a 30-metre shot early in the game as Milan bounced back from their shock 2-1 home defeat by Fiorentina on Saturday and their Champions League exit at the hands of Barcelona a week ago.

Tough-tackling midfielder Gennaro Gattuso started his first match since September, when he suffered a serious eye condition which led to speculation that he may have to end his career.

Image: AC Milan's Sulley Muntari (left) celebrates with his teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic after scoring against Chievo Verona
Photographs: Reuters

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Milan played a hard game

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Milan showed their gritty side as they ground out a win on a wet night in Verona, their attitude symbolised by defender Mario Yepes who insisted on continuing with an injury which left his nose splattered in blood in stoppage time.

The Fiorentina defeat had cost Milan the Serie A lead but Tuesday's win took the Serie A champions back to the top, at least until Juventus host Lazio on Wednesday.

Milan have 67 points from 32 games while Juve have 65 from 31.


Image: Clarence Seedorf of AC Milan (right) and Luca Rigoni Chievo Verona compete for the ball
Photographs: Reuters

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'They were already preparing our funeral'

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"The criticism was excessive after our defeat," coach Massimiliano Allegri said in a television interview.

"Even though we were still alive and kicking in the title race, they were already preparing our funeral.

"We knew that if we did not win here we could have been definitively out of the race for the scudetto. We haven't played well but this showed that this squad is not just about technique."

Milan had Massimo Ambrosini, Alberto Aquilani and Daniele Bonera suspended while Urby Emanuelson and Philippe Mexes were only considered fit for the bench.

Mark van Bommel, Ignazio Abate, Luca Antonini, Thiago Silva, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Alexandre Pato and Djamel Mesbah were ruled out altogether.


Image: AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (left) and Chievo Verona's Francesco Acerbi are involved in an aerial challenge
Photographs: Reuters

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Muntari long-ranger gives Milan right start

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Fortunately, they got the perfect start when Muntari scored with a characteristic long-range drive.

Both teams had chances before halftime, Robinho coming the closest for Milan when his shot was turned away for a corner by Stefano Sorrentino. Alberto Paloschi had the ball in the net for Chievo but it was disallowed for offside.

Milan had the game more under control in the second half as leading scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic finally began to see some of the ball, however it was anything but a vintage performance.

Image: Stepahn El Shaarawy of AC Milan goes down as Dario Dainelli (left) of Chievo Verona vies for the ball during their Serie A match
Photographs: Claudio Villa / Getty Images

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