Rediff.com  » Sports » PIX: Messi seals La Liga for Barca; Ronaldo hits 600

PIX: Messi seals La Liga for Barca; Ronaldo hits 600

Last updated on: April 28, 2019 11:17 IST

Lionel Messi

IMAGE: Lionel Messi celebrates with the La Liga trophy after Barcelona's victory over Levante at Camp Nou, Barcelona, on Saturday. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

Lionel Messi fittingly sealed Barcelona's 26th La Liga title on Saturday by coming off the bench to score the goal in a 1-0 win over Levante in front of a jubilant Nou Camp crowd, who celebrated a remarkable eighth league crown in 11 years.

 

Barca's captain decided the game and the title in the 61st minute as he received a header from Arturo Vidal, effortlessly freeing himself from two defenders with his right foot before using his left to plant the ball into the far bottom corner.

He had started on the bench along with Sergio Busquets as Ernesto Valverde had one eye on Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first leg at home to Liverpool.

Lionel Messi scores

IMAGE: Lionel Messi scores Barcelona's all-important goal. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

But the coach inevitably turned to his talisman with the game goalless at half-time, despite the best efforts of Philippe Coutinho, who had numerous attempts on goal and clanged the crossbar before being withdrawn for Messi.

The Argentine needed just over a quarter of an hour to have the desired effect, lighting up the stadium with his 34th league goal of the season in 32 appearances.

With 13 assists to his name as well he has his footprints on more than half his side's 86 goals.

"Messi was always ready to come on and I always knew he was going to play but we also have a game on Wednesday. He has to stay active and he scores goals everywhere he goes and he has won us this title," Valverde told reporters.

"It is very difficult to win this title, without the amount of teams we are competing with, especially with this margin.

"We have done it two years in a row and it's fantastic to see the fans celebrate the title like this at home. Now we want to go and celebrate it."

Cries of "champions" rang out from the 91,000 supporters crammed into the Nou Camp but Barca's players dropped their concentration and Jose Luis Morales should have levelled for the visitors but blasted over the bar.

Levante also hit the post in the final stages as Barca were left clinging on to their narrow advantage deep into stoppage-time but relief came when they cleared a corner and the final whistle sounded.

"They turned us upside down and I think that was down to nerves. They had a few chances but it was incredible when they hit the post," Valverde added.

"We couldn't kill the game off and they started to believe while we get more nervous but luckily we were able to see out the win."

IMAGE: Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets celebrate winning La Liga with family and friends. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

Messi, who became the first player to win 10 La Liga crowns with Barca and only the third player from any club to do so, hoisted the trophy into the sky before joining his team mates and their children on a lap of honour.

"Eight out of 11 titles will be very difficult to repeat because La Liga is so difficult, it has the best teams, the ones that are always fighting for European trophies so what we have done is historic," said midfielder Busquets.

Barca lead the standings on 83 points after 35 games, an unassailable nine clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid with three matches left because they have a superior head-to-head record this season.

Valverde's side have now taken the first step in their bid to win a third treble in a decade.

After their Champions League semi-final against Liverpool when they will be bidding to reach the final of Europe's premier club competition for the first time since 2015, Barcelona play Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on May 25.

"The players and the fans should enjoy this night without going over the top," added Ivan Rakitic.

"When we wake up tomorrow we have to prepare for what comes next, we have to think about Liverpool, who have an incredible team and a brilliant coach."

Ronaldo hits 600th club goal as Juventus hold Inter Milan

Cristiano Ronaldo

IMAGE: Cristiano Ronaldo scores with a left-footer to draw Juventus level against Inter Milan. Photograph: Daniele Mascol /Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the 600th goal of his club career to earn Italian champions Juventus a 1-1 draw away to Inter Milan in Serie A on Saturday.

The Turin club wrapped up an eighth successive league title last weekend but found themselves behind early on to a wonder-strike from Inter midfielder Radja Nainggolan.

However, the Portuguese responded with a powerful finish in the second half to hit 20 league goals for the season, moving within two strikes of Serie A's leading scorer, Fabio Quagliarella of Sampdoria, in the process.

"I have Cristiano Ronaldo and I'm happy," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri told DAZN.

"Having a player like him is important, as after making a mistake he was very angry and went on to play a different match."

Inter remain in third place on 62 points, four ahead of AS Roma below them, while Juventus, who dropped points for just the sixth time in 34 games this season, move up to 88.

"In the first half we suffered on dead ball situations, we could've gone 2-0 behind, but then we had a great second half," Allegri said.

"Inter is a strong team, fighting for the Champions League. It wasn't easy, we were down to the bare bones. We've got to compliment the lads, as we ended on a high."

This fixture, known as the 'Derby d'Italia', is one of the country's fiercest rivalries. The home fans taunted the visitors with a pre-match mosaic of placards featuring the Champions League trophy alongside the words 'Game Over', referencing Juve's quarter-final exit to Ajax Amsterdam in April.

The home support were left delighted just seven minutes in when Nainggolan latched onto Matteo Politano's dipping pass and unleashed a swerving volley from 25 yards out that flew past Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny into the corner.

Ronaldo drew Juventus level after 62 minutes, exchanging passes with Miralem Pjanic before drilling a left-footed finish into the bottom corner.

It was the 600th goal of the 34-year-old's club career, with 450 having come at Real Madrid, 118 at Manchester United, 27 at Juventus and five at Sporting Lisbon.

The Portugal international is narrowly ahead of Lionel Messi, who scored his 598th goal for Barcelona to help them win the Spanish La Liga title with a 1-0 win over Levante on Saturday.

Rennes stun PSG to win French Cup on penalties

IMAGE: Stade Rennes players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Coupe de France. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters

Stade Rennes rallied from two goals down to stun Paris St Germain 6-5 on penalties in the French Cup final after a 2-2 draw on Saturday as the Ligue 1 champions' season heads for a gloomy finale.

Thomas Tuchel's side, French Cup winners for the last four years, were 2-0 up after 22 minutes following goals by Dani Alves and Neymar, only for Presnel Kimpembe to score an own goal before Mexer equalised to send the game into extra time.

PSG's France striker Kylian Mbappe was sent off two minutes before the end of the extra period, depriving his team of a key asset for the shootout.

Christopher Nkunku missed his spot-kick to hand Rennes their first Cup title since 1971 and a spot in next season's Europa League, leaving PSG with only the Ligue 1 trophy at the end of a season in which they exited the Champions League at the last-16 stage and lost their League Cup crown.

A week after making his comeback from a three-month injury layoff, Brazil forward Neymar was a constant threat as he gears up for the Copa America, but his team mate Mbappe lost his nerve after a disappointing night at the Stade de France.

Rennes, who eliminated Lille and Olympique Lyonnais en route to the final, looked out of sorts after conceding two early goals but Kimpembe's own goal put them back into contention and proved a turning-point in an entertaining game.

"It's an outstanding performance, the fans had been waiting for this for such a long time," said Rennes striker Mbaye Niang.

"We showed character, it's a deserved win."

Tuchel struggled to understand the loss.

"It's hard to explain, I have no explanation. We lost our concentration," he told a news conference after PSG failed to win multiple trophies in a season for the first time since 2012-13.

"It's too soon to assess our season, I need a few days to think about it."

PSG choked in key moments this campaign, knocked out of the Champions League by Manchester United after building a two-goal advantage at Old Trafford and thrashed 5-1 at second-placed Lille on a night they were hoping to seal the Ligue 1 title.

PSG made the perfect start when Alves’s volley from 20 metres put them ahead in the 13th minute and Neymar doubled the lead with a fine lob after being played through by Angel Di Maria.

But Rennes, 11th in Ligue 1, pulled one back five minutes before the interval when Kimpembe deflected Hamari Traore's cross into his own net.

It was the first goal PSG had conceded in the competition this season and they let in another 21 minutes into the second half when Mexer headed home at the near post from Clement Grenier's corner.

PSG missed several chances through Neymar and Mbappe and Tuchel brought Edinson Cavani on for Julian Draxler in extra time.

Eight minutes into extra time, Mbappe collected a through ball from Neymar but his attempt crashed on to the far post, prompting a protest from Cavani who was unmarked in an ideal position to tap in a potential cross.

Mbappe was shown a straight red card for stamping on Damien Da Silva's knee.

He was in the locker-room when Nkunku skied his spot-kick over the bar after his team mates, including Neymar, had converted their penalties.

Source: source
© Copyright 2019 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
SHARE THIS STORYCOMMENT