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Football PIX: Messi shines for Barca; Ronaldo rallies Juve to victory

Last updated on: January 28, 2019 11:46 IST

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

An insatiable Lionel Messi scored for the eighth game in a row in all competitions as La Liga champions Barcelona saw off a gutsy Girona side 2-0 in a Catalan derby on Sunday to go five points clear at the top of the standings.

 

Portuguese fullback Nelson Semedo struck with his weaker left foot to send Barca into the lead in the ninth minute of the game, which was played on a rain-swept afternoon at Girona's Montilivi stadium after La Liga's ambitious plan to stage it in Miami fell through.

Girona missed a double chance to equalise shortly before the break, with Barca defender Gerard Pique clearing a shot off the line, and the home side's striker Cristhian Stuani was thwarted by the feet of German keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen early in the second period.

Girona, who had held Barca to a 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp earlier in the season, had defender Bernardo Espinosa sent off in the 51st minute for a second booking.

IMAGE: Lionel Messi scores Barcelona's second goal past Girona goalkeeper Bono. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

Even with 10 men, they continued to cause problems for Barca's backline, with Ter Stegen again denying Stuani, who later appealed for a penalty after going down from a challenge from Jordi Alba.

Barca struck a fatal blow midway through the second half with a quick counter-attack which led to La Liga's top scorer Messi lofting the ball over keeper Bono to net his 19th league goal of the season, taking Barca on to 49 points after 21 games, five points ahead of nearest challengers Atletico Madrid.

Messi, who was rested for Barca's 2-0 defeat to Sevilla in a Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg on Wednesday, has now scored at every La Liga ground he has played at, with the Argentine still to visit Huesca later in the campaign.

"I think they caused us more problems with 10 players than they did with 11; they are a great side, one of the most attractive teams in the league and this win will really boost our confidence," said Barca's Alba.

"This was a tight game which we won thanks to small details, especially the quality we have in attack. Messi never lets us down."

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said his side were worthy winners, even though they had to withstand some hairy moments.

"We can't deny that for a few minutes after the sending-off they put us under a lot of pressure but it was only a matter of time before we scored again," he said.

"You are always worried in a game like this as you know the other team will create chances so you need to finish the game off. In the end we made some more chances of our own and saw the game out."

Madrid get third win in a row with victory at Espanyol as Bale returns

Gareth Bale marked his return from injury with a goal as Real Madrid continued their impressive turnaround in results by thrashing Espanyol 4-2 away on Sunday, racking up a third consecutive win in La Liga.

Third-placed Real usually fare well on trips to Espanyol and they got off to a flying start on this visit when Karim Benzema scored in the fourth minute on the rebound, beating former Real goalkeeper Diego Lopez who had parried a shot from Luka Modric.

Captain Sergio Ramos headed home a cross from Modric in the 15th minute to score his fourth goal in January and put Madrid further at ease, although Espanyol pulled themselves back into contention with a strike from Leo Baptistao 10 minutes later.

Santiago Solari's side restored their two-goal advantage when Benzema struck again just before halftime, playing a one-two with Vinicius Jr and curling the ball into the bottom corner after a delightful backheel from the Brazilian teenager.

Madrid had a setback at the end of the half as Ramos was forced off with an injury and was unable to continue, although Solari said the defender only had a knock and would not be sidelined for long.

Bale came off the bench midway through the second half after more than three weeks out injured and the Wales forward scored within three minutes of his return, collecting a pass and escaping from two defenders with a drag of the heel before smashing into the net.

Madrid were reduced to 10 men later in the game when Raphael Varane was given a straight red card for blocking a goalscoring chance with a foul, and Espanyol pulled back another goal with a wonderful strike from Venezuelan Roberto Rosales.

"We played with great intensity and pace and we were always looking to score, and we had the game under control until the sending-off," Solari told reporters after a fifth win from six games in all competitions.

Madrid are third on 39 points, 10 behind leaders Barcelona who beat Girona 2-0 earlier on Sunday, while Espanyol dropped to 15th.

"We've scored four goals but the most important thing is how we played. Our hard work is coming off," added Madrid winger Lucas Vazquez.

"The key thing for us has been our intensity. When we play with this much intensity, we are an entirely different team."

Juve hit back to beat Lazio with late Ronaldo penalty

Cristiano Ronaldo

IMAGE: Cristiano Ronaldo scores the second goal for Juventus from the penalty spot. Photograph: Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo converted a penalty two minutes from time as Serie A leaders Juventus came from behind to win 2-1 at Lazio and go 11 points clear at the top on Sunday.

Lazio dominated the first hour and went ahead with an Emre Can own goal in the 59th minute before Joao Cancelo levelled for Juve in the 74th, four minutes after coming on as a substitute.

The Portuguese also won the penalty which allowed his compatriot Ronaldo, who missed a spot-kick against Chievo in his last game, to score his 15th league goal of the season.

Juventus, chasing an eighth successive league title, have 59 points out of a possible 63, while second-placed Napoli are on 48 after their 0-0 draw at AC Milan on Saturday.

Lazio are seventh after continuing their dismal run against Serie A's so-called big teams -- Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, AS Roma and Napoli. They have taken only one point in seven games this season against sides from that group.

"It was the worst Juventus performance of the season for the first 60 minutes but, paradoxically, we found the motivation to win after we fell behind," said defender Giorgio Chiellini.

"(Goalkeeper) Wojciech Szczesny kept us standing and we were lethal at the end."

Szczesny beat away a Luis Alberto shot and denied Marco Parolo with an excellent one-handed save while the visitors' Daniele Rugani cleared a Ciro Immobile lob off the line as Lazio dominated the first half in Rome.

The hosts went ahead when Luis Alberto drove his corner into the heart of the Juve area and unfortunate German midfielder Can stooped to head the ball into his own net.

Shortly afterwards, Immobile fired over the bar after being set free and it proved the turning point.

Juve had offered little threat until Paulo Dybala's low shot was parried by Thomas Strakosha and Cancelo drove home the rebound.

With time running out, Juve's Federico Bernardeschi sent a low ball into the area and Cancelo tumbled over as Bosnian Senad Lulic made contact with his arm in an off-the-ball incident.

After desperate Lazio protests, Ronaldo blasted his penalty into the roof of the net to secure the victory.

"We did not deserve the defeat but we can take satisfaction from the way we played," said Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi.

"I hugged my players one by one at the end of the game. The only negative was the result, our key failing was not to have scored the second goal."

Willian double helps Chelsea to Cup win on Higuain debut

IMAGE: Chelsea's players celebrate after Willian scored the first goal. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Chelsea's Willian struck twice and Callum Hudson-Odoi was also on target as the FA Cup holders enjoyed a 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday to reach the fifth round on Sunday with new signing Gonzalo Higuain making his debut.

Brazil international Willian struck with a delightful side-footed volley from distance seven minutes from time to double his tally after converting a first-half penalty.

Hudson-Odoi, a reported transfer target of German giants Bayern Munich, had earlier collected a long pass from the left and cut in beautifully to slot home in the second half.

"I thought we did well," Hudson-Odoi told the BBC. "It was a great team performance. We did very well in training and worked really hard. That's one of my highlights. It was nice to top it off with a goal."

Asked if it was his last game for Chelsea, with the transfer window closing on Thursday, the 18-year-old added: "I don't know, I can't say. I'll keep working hard and you never know what will happen."

Sheffield Wednesday had been awarded a penalty in the 22nd minute after Chelsea midfielder Ethan Ampadu appeared to bring down the advancing Joey Pelupessy, only for the video assistant referee (VAR) to overturn the original decision.

The referee pointed to the spot at the other end two minutes later as Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta was taken out by Sam Hutchinson, with VAR confirming that the defender was fouled.

After a chat with Higuain, who joined Chelsea on loan from Juventus this week, Willian sent Wednesday's Keiren Westwood the wrong way to give Chelsea the lead after 26 minutes and added his second goal late on after Hudson-Odoi scored in the 64th.

The 31-year-old Higuain looked sharp with some intelligent runs before coming off for Olivier Giroud with 10 minutes to go.

"We're pleased with Higuain's performance, he was trying to find the space and get on the ball. It wasn't easy as they had a lot of players around him," Chelsea assistant manager Gianfranco Zola said of the Argentina striker's contribution.

"It's a good result, we're very happy. We know how difficult these cup ties can be. Everyone made a really good effort."

Tottenham knocked out of FA Cup by plucky Palace

IMAGE: Connor Wickham celebrates with team-mates after scoring the first goal for Crystal Palace. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur went out of their second domestic cup competition in four days as first-half goals by Connor Wickham and Andros Townsend sealed a 2-0 FA Cup victory for Crystal Palace in a thrilling fourth-round clash on Sunday.

Tottenham, beaten by Chelsea in a shootout in the League Cup semi-finals on Thursday, had their woes compounded in a dismal opening period when Kieran Trippier shot wide from the penalty spot after Patrick van Aanholt had brought down Juan Foyth.

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, already missing striker Harry Kane and midfielder Dele Alli through injury and with South Korean forward Son Heung-min on his way back from the Asian Cup, chose to rest Christian Eriksen among a raft of other changes from last weekend's Premier League win against Fulham.

The hosts took the lead against the run of play in the ninth minute as Wickham, whose Palace career had stalled due to a serious knee injury suffered in 2016, tapped in from close range on his first start for the club in 792 days.

The 25-year-old forward was in the right place at the right time to capitalise after Jeffrey Schlupp glided past Tottenham's defenders only to have his shot from the right parried away by goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.

Palace doubled their lead from the penalty spot in the 34th minute through Townsend, who sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, after defender Kyle Walker-Peters had inexplicably handled a high ball to concede the spot kick.

Goalkeeper Julian Speroni, who had kept Palace in the game with a fine double save to deny Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, continued his solid showing in front of goal after the break to help manager Roy Hodgson's team secure a famous victory.

Defeat extends Tottenham's wait for their first silverware under Pochettino and their first trophy since beating Chelsea in the 2008 League Cup final.

Bayern beat Stuttgart to stay six points off Dortmund

IMAGE: Bayern Munich players celebrate after Serge Gnabry scored the second goal against VfB Stuttgart. Photograph: Andreas Gebert/Reuters

Champions Bayern Munich had to work hard for more than an hour before beating VfB Stuttgart 4-1 in the Bundesliga on Sunday for their seventh straight league win and stay six points off leaders Borussia Dortmund.

The Bavarians, who face Liverpool in the Champions League last 16 next month, took the lead with their first shot on goal, Thiago Alcantara firing in from 12 metres.

But instead of a comfortable afternoon, the hosts were made to work hard.

"We started well, scored the goal but then were absent for 35 minutes," said Bayern coach Niko Kovac, who fielded the same starting lineup as in their win over Hoffenheim last week.

"We were too slow, too many players behind the ball and struggled to break the Stuttgart defence. We did it better after the break, we were faster, sharper. We can tick this game off, we stayed in touch (with Dortmund) and on we go."

Stuttgart snatched a 26th minute equaliser through Tasos Donis' superbly curled effort before Christian Gentner's 55th minute own goal, a deflection of Serge Gnabry's shot, gave Bayern a renewed lead.

The visitors refused to give up and hit the woodwork with Nicolas Gonzalez on the hour.

Bayern forward Robert Lewandowski sent his 65th minute penalty onto the post but Leon Goretzka settled the hosts' nerves, heading in with 20 minutes to go for his fifth league goal of the season.

Lewandowski then made amends for his earlier miss in the 84th as Bayern completed their win to move up to second on 42 points.

Dortmund are on 48 after crushing Hanover 96 5-1 on Saturday. Borussia Moenchengladbach are third on 39, having beaten Augsburg 2-0.

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