Daily Archives: April 9, 2018

Barca on steady course to La Liga title after Madrid derby ends in draw

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FC Barcelona is on a steady course to win their 25th La Liga title after the match between their two closest rivals, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid ended in a 1-1 draw.

Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick for runaway leaders Barcelona as the Spanish giants equalled the La Liga record of 38 games unbeaten with a 3-1 victory over Leganes. The previous record by was held Real Sociedad, across 1978-79 and 1979-80 seasons, a record that Barca could yet break next week at home against Valencia.

Messi began the scoring when he curled home a stunning 30-yard free-kick before latching onto Philippe Coutinho’s through ball to make it 2-0.

Although Leganes winger Nabil el Zhar pulled one back Messi scored once more, this time from Ousmane Dembele’s pass to complete a 45th career hat-trick.

They are also just seven games from an unbeaten La Liga season, and were 12 points above Atletico Madrid for a brief moment.

Although Atletico could have reduced the deficit, the Madrid team were held to a stalemate against their neighbouring rivals Real.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored for a 10th consecutive match for Real when he volleyed home Gareth Bale’s left-wing cross for his 20th goal in 10 club appearances, but Atletico was able to respond through Antoine Griezmann, who equalised on the rebound after Vitolo’s shot was saved by Keylor Navas.

While it meant that Atletico would be four points above Real, they are eleven behind Barca.

It came as a surprise when Ronaldo was replaced by Karim Benzema for the final 26 minutes, perhaps with Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Juventus in mind.

“We’ve got a lot of games and from time to time he has to rest,” said Real coach Zinedine Zidane. “He’s clever and there are times when you have to rest. Nowadays he needs it and every time it does him good.”

“I’m happy with the match and how we performed because we clearly deserved more. It was a shame we didn’t get more from it but we could have even lost the game at the end.”

Bayern rallies at Augsburg to secure sixth straight Bundesliga title

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Bayern Munich rallied after going behind to wrap up their sixth consecutive Bundesliga title with a 4-1 win over Augsburg.

Jupp Heynckes’ team needed a win at the Bavarian derby win to become champions with five games to spare.

They had trailed through Niklas Sule’s own goal but Corentin Tolisso and James Rodriguez set them on their way towards a 28th German championship.

Arjen Robben then converted Rodriguez’s cut-back and Sandro Wagner headed a fourth that essentially sealed the game.

Bayern, on course for a treble, had rested a host of players with Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Sevilla in mind. Key players such as Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Thiago, Franck Ribery, Mats Hummels and Javi Martinez were all on the bench.

They had looked in trouble when Sven Ulreich’s parried save hit Sule and flew into their own net, but Tolisso headed in Joshua Kimmich’s cross and Rodriguez then smashed home from close range. Robben’s strong effort essentially sealed the game while Wagner finished the rout later.

The defending champions had been five points behind Borussia Dortmund when they lured Heynckes out of retirement in October — for his fourth spell as manager of the club — after sacking Carlo Ancelotti.

“I’ like to send my best wishes to Carlo Ancelotti in Italy,” said Heynckes. “This title is also for him. He is a fantastic coach.”

Heynckes, who is now 72, had not worked since 2013 when he led Bayern to the treble of Bundesliga, Champions League and German Cup — and was then replaced by Pep Guardiola. This was his fourth title as Bayern boss, 29 years after the first.

Manchester United delays City’s title win through Pogba brace

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Manchester City were left to wait for their Premier League title win after a brace by Paul Pogba mounted a remarkable second-half rally for Manchester United to win by 3-2 at the Etihad.

The Blues needed victory to be confirmed as champions but Paul Pogba scored two goals in two minutes to overturn their first-half lead before Chris Smalling’s volley completed the dramatic turnaround.

It was regrettable for Pep Guardiola’s team after they had delivered a first-half masterclass with captain Vincent Kompany scoring with a thumping header after 25 minutes and Ilkay Gundogan adding a second five minutes later after a clever turn and finish.

City could have gone further and United were lucky to stay in the game after Raheem Sterling fluffed two golden chances over the bar with the goal at his mercy and Gundogan also headed straight at keeper David de Gea when unmarked eight yards out.

It gave United hope and how Jose Mourinho’s team responded as Pogba — out of sorts at Old Trafford recently and at the centre of claims by Guardiola before the game that he had been offered to City in January — stole in to pull a goal back after 53 minutes and head the equaliser two minutes later.

The Red Devils then completed their remarkable turnaround through Smalling — who had been badly at fault for Kompany’s goal — as the Englishman arrived unmarked to steer Alexis Sanchez’s free-kick past the exposed Ederson in the 69th minute.

Players from both sides clashed as the match heated up thereafter, and Ashley Young was fortunate that his wild lunge on City substitute Sergio Aguero in the area was ignored by referee Martin Atkinson.

De Gea also made a world-class one-handed save from Aguero as City attacked ferociously — but United held out and Guardiola’s title party must wait for another day.