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Soccer PIX: Messi gives new Barca coach debut win

January 20, 2020 08:52 IST

Images from the football matches played across Europe on Sunday

Lionel Messi

IMAGE: Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their first goal. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

Barcelona may have a new coach but Lionel Messi remains their unquestionable talisman after guiding the Spanish champions to a nervy 1-0 win at home to Granada in La Liga on Sunday in Quique Setien’s first game in charge of the club.

The Argentine struck the only goal in the 76th minute, firing into the bottom corner to complete a well crafted team move shortly after the visitors had defender German Sanchez sent off.

 

“Messi did what he has done his entire life,” said Setien of Barca’s all-time top scorer, who proved the difference on a blustery evening at Camp Nou.

“He has done this so many times in games like this, games when you cannot find a way through, things aren’t going for you and you are lacking inspiration, but he always conjures up something special.

“We made a few moves like this in the first half but it didn’t come off but when the ball falls to Messi you know there’s a very high chance it will go in.”

The victory took Barca back to the top of La Liga on 43 points after 20 games, ahead of second-placed Real Madrid on goal difference.

Barca, who sacked Ernesto Valverde last week despite being La Liga leaders and winning the last two titles by considerable margins, enjoyed 82% of possession and made a staggering 1005 passes in their first game under Setien.

The former Real Betis coach is known for his devotion to the possession-based style of play Barca became renowned for under Johan Cruyff and perfected under Pep Guardiola, but Granada, who beat Barca 2-0 in September, proved stubborn opponents.

The visitors even came close to taking the lead when Cameroonian Yan Brice Eteki struck the post in a rare foray forward but they eventually caved in after Sanchez picked up a second yellow card and was dismissed for hauling down Messi.

Messi had come closest to scoring for Barca with two powerful yet inaccurate shots either side of halftime but he made no mistake when Arturo Vidal dragged the ball into his path in a slick passing move engineered by substitute Riqui Puig.

Twenty-year-old Puig was rarely given a look in by Valverde but he was given his first league appearance of the season by 61-year-old Setien, who has pledged to honour the club’s tradition of giving young, home-grown players a chance.

“He did very well, he came on when we were in a good situation with an extra man and he read the game perfectly,” added the coach.

“I’m very happy because we only conceded two shots in the game, we did many things well and I hope that little by little we’ll get more fluid and get sharper in front of goal.”

Ronaldo double fires Juventus four points clear with Parma win

Cristiano Ronaldo

IMAGE: Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after the match. Photograph: Massimo Pinca/Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo struck twice to continue his sensational scoring run and help move Juventus four points clear at the top of Serie A with a 2-1 win over Parma on Sunday.

The 34-year-old’s deflected shot opened the scoring in the first half, but Juve were pegged back after the break when Andreas Cornelius headed in from a corner.

Ronaldo restored the home side’s advantage just three minutes later with a low strike that took his tally for the season to 16 league goals, 11 of which have come in his last seven appearances.

“We knew that Inter drew and Lazio won, so it was important to build an advantage,” Ronaldo told Sky Sport Italia.

“They were two important goals, it was a tough game as Parma are very organised and difficult to beat, but we fought hard and got the victory.”

Maurizio Sarri’s side sit on top of the table with 51 points, four clear of second-placed Inter Milan following their draw at Lecce earlier in the day, while Parma are seventh on 28 points.

Ronaldo lit up an uneventful first half with the game’s first goal two minutes before halftime by cutting inside and firing in a finish, aided by a deflection off Parma defender Matteo Darmian.

The goal made the former Real Madrid star the first Juve player to score in seven consecutive Serie A appearances since David Trezeguet in December 2005.

Parma drew level on the 56th minute when Cornelius guided in a header from a corner, but Ronaldo responded with his second of the night just two minutes later when he fired in from a Paulo Dybala pass.

The visitors pushed forward in search of a late equaliser, but it was Ronaldo who went closest in the closing stages as he forced a save from Luigi Sepe before firing a shot wide as he searched in vain for a hat-trick.

Sarabia strikes late to send PSG through in French Cup

PSG

IMAGE: Paris St Germain's Pablo Sarabia celebrates scoring their first goal. Photograph: Stephane Mahe/Reuters

Pablo Sarabia struck late to give a reshuffled Paris St Germain a 1-0 win at Ligue 2 side Lorient in the last 32 of the French Cup on Sunday.

Midfielder Sarabia found the back of the net to send the Ligue 1 leaders through along with Angers, Dijon, Montpellier and holders Stade Rennais, who were 2-0 winners at Athletico Marseille.

PSG, who have won the Cup a record 12 times, started at the Moustoir stadium, where they have often struggled, without Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and first-choice keeper Keylor Navas.

Sarabia, however, headed home from Thiago Silva’s cross 10 minutes from fulltime after the visitors had been on the back foot in a poor first half.

Earlier, holders Stade Rennais wrapped up victory in the first half at Marseille’s other club, Athletico, who play in the fifth division, with goals by Hamari Traore and Raphinha.

Fellow Ligue 1 teams Olympique Lyonnais, St Etienne, Lille and Olympique de Marseille also qualified for the next round over the weekend.

Girondins de Bordeaux were the round’s major casualties, losing 3-2 after extra time at third division Pau on Thursday.

The last 16 will be played on Jan. 28-29.

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