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PIX: Record-breaking Messi lifts Barca to big win; Ibrahimovic makes history

Last updated on: March 23, 2021 09:55 IST
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Lionel Messi

IMAGE: Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring the fourth goal for Barcelona in their La Liga match against Real Sociedad, at Estadio Anoeta in San Sebastian, on Sunday. Photograph: Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Lionel Messi celebrated becoming Barcelona's highest appearance maker of all time by scoring twice as his rampant side crushed Real Sociedad 6-1 away in La Liga on Sunday with a stunning team display.

 

Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring by netting against his old club in the 36th minute and right back Sergino Dest stretched Barca's lead shortly before halftime after latching on to a sweeping pass from Messi.

Dest struck again early in the second half before Messi controlled a sumptuous pass from Sergio Busquets and scored to mark a night on which he overtook Xavi Hernandez as Barca's record appearance maker, with 768 games for the club.

Ousmane Dembele struck his side's fifth goal of the night in the 71st minute after a brilliant solo run while Sociedad's Ander Barrenetxea hit arguably the best goal of the game to give his side a rare moment of joy.

Messi, however, had the final say, finishing off a flowing team move in the 89th minute to score his 23rd league goal of the season, increasing his lead at the top of the scoring charts.

Lionel Messi

IMAGE: Lionel Messi scores the fourth goal for Barcelona. Photograph: Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

The victory took Barca above Real Madrid into second place in the standings on 62 points, four behind leaders Atletico Madrid with 10 games left to play.

"This is a difficult place to come, Barca always used to struggle here but we came flying out of the blocks," said Griezmann.

"We worked very hard, we won the ball lots of times deep in their half and reacted well every time we lost it. It was a great Barcelona performance."

Barca used to dread facing Sociedad away from home, failing to beat them in San Sebastian for more than a decade, and even though they ended up hammering the Basques they did not get off to the best start.

Sociedad forward Alexander Isak should have given the hosts an early lead from close range but could only shoot straight at keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who denied the Swede again moments before Dest doubled Barca's lead.

"This wasn't our best game and they were clearly better than us and overwhelmed us," said Sociedad forward Mikel Oyarzabal.

"They were more ruthless than us; we went into halftime feeling bad as they scored all their chances while we couldn't convert ours and the second half was very different as a result. But no-one likes to lose like that."

Ibrahimovic makes history as AC Milan edge Fiorentina in thriller

IMAGE: Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores the opening goal for AC Milan during the Serie A match against ACF Fiorentina at Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence. Photograph: Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Zlatan Ibrahimovic marked his return to the AC Milan starting line-up with a goal in a thrilling 3-2 win at Fiorentina on Sunday, narrowing the gap to Serie A leaders Inter to six points.

The strike made him the oldest player to score 15 goals in a Serie A season, at 39 years and 169 days, and sounded the starting gun to a frantic encounter in Florence.

The Swede needed only nine minutes to fire home the opener after springing the offside trap in his first league appearance since picking up a muscle injury against AS Roma on Feb. 28.

Erick Pulgar and Franck Ribery struck either side of the break to put the hosts in front, but goals from Brahim Diaz and Hakan Calhanoglu swung the contest back in Milan’s favour.

"The more time passes, the younger I feel," Ibrahimovic told Sky Italia.

"After a defeat and going out of the Europa League, the league title is what remains. We wanted to win at all costs, we showed character and need to continue like this."

Milan moved up to 59 points in second place, six behind Inter, but the league leaders have a game in hand after their match against Sassuolo was postponed following a cluster of positive tests for COVID-19.

Fiorentina remain 14th with 29 points, seven clear of the relegation zone.

Milan manager Stefano Pioli challenged his side to win their remaining 11 league games after they were eliminated from the Europa League by Manchester United on Thursday.

They got off to the perfect start when Ibrahimovic latched on to a ball over the top of the defence to fire in, but the Viola were soon level through a curling Pulgar free kick.

Fiorentina captain German Pezzella came close to a sensational goal when his backheel volley rebounded off the bar, before Ibrahimovic’s dinked finish also struck the woodwork.

The hosts went ahead early in the second half when Ribery fired home, but Diaz levelled six minutes later when he latched on to a knock-down from a corner to finish from close range.

Calhanoglu completed the comeback with a well-placed finish into the bottom corner, and Milan held out for their 12th away win of the season in Serie A, a joint record for the club despite still having five more away games to come.

Leicester thrash United to enter FA Cup semis

IMAGE: Leicester City's players celebrate after Kelechi Iheanacho scored their first goal against Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-final at The King Power Stadium in Leicester, on Sunday. Photographs: Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Leicester City's Kelechi Iheanacho scored two poacher's goals as they beat Manchester United 3-1 in their FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday to set up a last-four clash against Southampton.

The Foxes took the lead following a horrendous error from Manchester United's Fred, whose backpass became a through-ball for Iheanacho. The Nigerian collected it and rounded the keeper before firing home in the 24th minute.

United struck back seven minutes before halftime as Mason Greenwood rifled Paul Pogba's centre into the net, but they never got to grips with Leicester in midfield and they went behind again early in the second half.

Youri Tielemans surged at United's soft centre, bursting through and brushing off a less-than-convincing challenge from Fred before firing a low shot into the bottom corner.

Jamie Vardy could have brought his seven-game goal drought to an end but he pulled his shot just wide of the near post when clean through on goal. His selfless running, however, was instrumental in creating space for his Leicester team mates.

IMAGE: Kelechi Iheanacho, right, scores the third goal for Leicester City. Photographs: Oli Scarff/Reuters

United's woeful defence was exposed again in the 78th minute as Iheanacho was left completely unmarked at the far post to head home Marc Albrighton's free kick, sealing the victory and sending his side into the semis.

"We worked really well in training to get ready for this game, tactically we worked hard. We really felt ready to go and we passed the ball very well and got in open spaces and got the runs and the goals," Iheanacho told the BBC.

"I am really happy playing alongside Jamie (Vardy), it's helping me a lot, creating space and getting the shot in behind, so I hope we can keep working hard together," he added.

Chelsea will take on Manchester City in the other last-four tie, and both semi-finals will take place at Wembley on the weekend of April 17-18.

Arsenal roar back to draw 3-3 at West Ham

IMAGE: Alexandre Lacazette, left, celebrates with his teammates after scoring Arsenal's third goal against West Ham United. Photograph: Justin Tallis/Reuters

Alexandre Lacazette's late header completed a stunning Arsenal comeback as they recovered from a nightmarish start to grab an unlikely 3-3 draw away to West Ham United in a rip-roaring Premier League derby on Sunday.

In the end a point was no more than Arsenal deserved even though they had looked on course for a humiliating drubbing when they conceded three times in the opening 32 minutes.

West Ham, at that point, looked certain to gain the win that would have taken them level on points with fourth-placed Chelsea thanks to goals by Jesse Lingard, Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek.

But Lacazette's shot that deflected in off Soucek in the 38th minute began the Arsenal revival and they swarmed all over the hosts in the second half.

Craig Dawson's own goal just past the hour turned up the heat on the Hammers and in a pulsating finale Michail Antonio wasted a gilt-edged chance to put West Ham 4-2 ahead before Lacazette levelled the score.

Either side could have won the game at the death but West Ham will rue an opportunity to improve their record against Arsenal which now reads two wins in their last 29 meetings.

It was the third time this season in the Premier League that a team leading 3-0 had ended up drawing 3-3, with West Ham having experienced it the other way around earlier in the campaign after trailing 3-0 at Tottenham Hotspur.

West Ham stay in fifth place with 49 points from 29 games, two below Chelsea. Arsenal moved up a place into ninth spot before Aston Villa's clash with Tottenham Hotspur later on Sunday.

"I'm very disappointed because I cannot accept my team to play the way we did in periods in the first half," Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said. "I expect we play at the level we did afterwards. We got close to winning and I think we deserved to win it but the first part really worried me."

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Indian Premier League - 2021

Indian Premier League - 2021