Daily Archives: January 9, 2017

Messi dazzles to rescue Barcelona from consecutive defeats

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Lionel Messi scored a sublime last-minute free-kick to rescue a point for FC Barcelona and deny Villarreal a famous win on Sunday.

With the entire team looking sluggish for lengthy periods, Luis Suarez and Neymar wasted good chances, and as the visitors were caught out at the back Villarreal scored with a slick counter from Nicola Sansone – who fired the hosts ahead with a low angled from Alexandre Pato’s threaded pass.

Messi found the woodwork and Barca were denied a penalty when Bruno handled a shot by the Argentina forward. The Catalans searched desperately for an equalizer to no avail before Messi’s brilliant set-piece goal.

Villarreal, who remained fifth in La Liga with the 1-1 result, had full-back Jaume Costa sent off close to full-time after a second yellow card.

Despite Messi’s late heroics, this was a damaging result for Barcelona in their first league game after the winter break. Fresh from the midweek Copa del Rey first-leg defeat Athletic Bilbao, the draw at Villarreal leaves Barcelona third in the table, a point behind Sevilla and five off in form-Real Madrid, who also have a game in hand.

While Athletic were held to a goalless draw by Alaves, Real easily swept aside Granada by 5-0 the day before, equalling Barca’s own 39-match unbeaten record set last season.

Furthermore, Suarez remains on 99 goals for Barca after a frustrating match in which he was presented with several chances to score the landmark goal.

Villarreal were getting ready to celebrate a first win in nine years against their opponents when Messi, who had been fouled by Bruno, found the top corner with an exquisite finish to rescue a point.

Roma stays on Juve trail with Genoan own goal

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Roma had managed to keep the pressure on Serie A table leaders Juventus by beating Genoa 1-0 at the Marassi – but needed a first-half own goal from Armando Izzo to finish the job.

With Giallorossi last victory outside of Rome being in last October, Luciano Spalletti’s side started the day four points behind Juve, and was without forward Mohamed Salah, who was playing in the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt.

They needed Wojciech Szczesny to make a good early save from Diego Laxalt.

Genoa then lost keeper Mattia Perin to injury, as he made a brilliant reaction stop to deny Roma’s top scorer Edin Dzeko. It brought more frustration for the goalkeeper, who was making his first start since returning from suspension after being sent off against Palermo.

Things went from bad to worse when Genoa fell behind, with Izzo diverting in a Bruno Peres shot into his own net.

It was the defender’s second Serie A own goal of the season, having also scored a winner at the wrong end when Genoa lost to city rivals Sampdoria in October.

Later in the day, Juventus cruised to a 3-0 victory – an almost routine dismantling of Bologna on Sunday night.

Roma’s narrow but vital victory at Genoa had slashed the gap to first place to a single point earlier in the day, but Massimiliano Allegri’s men are once again four points out in front with a game in hand – on again displaying their scudetto credentials.

Gonzalo Higuain drilled Juve ahead with a wonderful volley from Miralem Pjanic’s clip over the away defence, while Paulo Dybala doubled their lead shortly before half-time, drilling in a penalty after Bologna’s Marios Oikonomou clumsily bundled over Stefano Sturaro.

Higuain then completed the scoring as he nodded Stephan Lichtsteiner’s right-wing cross in after the break.

 

Resolute Plymouth holds Liverpool to goalless draw

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A resolute Plymouth Argyle managed to hold Liverpool to a goalless draw in their FA Cup third-round tie at Anfield.

The hosts fielded the youngest starting XI in the club’s history.

With a forward line comprising of Ben Woodburn, Ovie Ejaria and Sheyi Ojo bringing the average age to 21 years and 296 days, but even as they claimed 80.3% possession of the ball in the first half they still struggled to break down the Pilgrims.

Sheyi Ojo failed to take Liverpool’s best chance when he missed a header from close range, while Divock Origi also had a goal disallowed for a foul on Gary Miller.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp then brought on first-team regulars Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino in a vain search for a breakthrough.

Sturridge sent a 25-yard shot just wide, looped a header over and fired into the side-netting – but the Reds find themselves unable to break down an organised and disciplined Plymouth.

Manchester United had been the only team to keep a clean sheet at Anfield this season before Plymouth’s visit – and now a team with designs on the Premier League title and the EFL Cup final must travel to the south coast for a replay on 17 or 18 January.

Meanwhile, Chelsea captain John Terry was sent off on his first start since October as the Premier League leaders easily overcame League One team Peterborough in the FA Cup by 4-1.

The Blues already had 20 shots by half time, with Pedro’s curled finish and a drilled Michy Batshuayi effort giving them a two-goal cushion, before Willian drove in from 18 yards after the break.

Terry saw red for bringing Lee Angol down as the last man and Tom Nicholls prodded in from six yards for a buoyed Posh, only for Pedro to restore a three-goal advantage from the edge of the box.