Category Archives: Spanish La Liga

SPain La Liga League Cup

Barcelona draws but Valencia’s defeat widens gap on top of La Liga

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FC Barcelona were held to a 2-2 draw against Juan Carlos Unzue’s Celta Vigo, but saw their lead on top of La Liga widened against Valencia after Los Che succumbed to 10-man Getafe.

This was the second game in a row that Barca dropped points, but was given a helping hand in their La Liga campaign thanks to Getafe’s 1-0 win over title challengers Valencia.

Their own game at home saw Celta striker Iago Aspas silencing the Camp Nou by giving Celta the lead in the 20th minute, knocking in on the rebound after splitting the home defence with a darting run through the middle.

But Barca star Lionel Messi quickly replied by clinically finishing a sweeping team move two minutes later to score for the first time in six games in all competitions. Messi then set up what looked to be the winning goal for Luis Suarez in the 62nd minute as the striker thrashed home a Jordi Alba cutback, but his team was denied victory by Maxi Gomez, who slotted in from close range after another brilliant run by Aspas.

Gerard Pique missed a chance and hit the woodwork from close range, while Messi, who also saw an earlier effort in the game found the post, sent a free kick just wide deep in stoppage time.

However, second-placed Valencia could not close their gap against the leaders after they lost for the first time in La Liga this season as Getafe beat them to leave Barcelona five points clear at the top.

Getafe, who move up to eighth in the table thanks to their 1-0 victory, had to play 65 minutes with 10 men after Mauro Arambarri was sent off for a second booking.

Markel Bergara scored the only goal of the game when his 25-yard strike deflecting in off Gabriel Paulista.

Valencia, who could have overtook Barca with a win, instead saw striker Simone Zaza — who is the joint second top scorer in the league — missed a glorious chance to equalise deep into injury time, when he headed over from close range.

Lionel Messi extends contract with FC Barcelona to 2021

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Lionel Messi has ended speculation of a move away from FC Barcelona by extending his contract with the club through to the summer of 2021.

The Catalan club also announced that the Argentina forward has had a 700 million Euro buy-out clause inserted into his contract, indicating that he will finish his career at the Camp Nou in all likelihood.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who described Messi as “the best player in football history”, said the new contract, with a significantly higher buyout clause, was “more in line with the current situation in the ever-changing world of football”.

“The buyout clause had to be modified,” Bartomeu added. “and it has gone from 300m euros to 700m euros. It fills me with pride to see him with us renewing his love for the club.”

“The objective is to continue achieving things and making history,” Messi said after signing his new contract. “We’ve been lucky enough to have won a great many things and I hope there will be more in the future. I’m happy to continue with the club, which is my home. My dream was to finish my career at Barca and we are moving down that path.”

Initially, a renewal had been agreed in principle between player and club in back July but it is only now that Messi has put pen to paper on the contract.

Messi, who joined Barca as a 13-year old made his senior debut as a 16-year-old in a friendly against Porto, has eight La Liga titles, four Champions League wins and five Copa del Rey successes under his belt during his time with the Catalan club.

He then made his first competitive appearance against Espanyol as a 17-year-old before coming to score the first of his club record 523 goals — which have come in 602 matches — against Albacete in May 2005, and has since claimed the Ballon d’Or on five occasions, more than any other player.

On his contract extension ceremony on Friday, Messi was presented with his fourth Golden Shoe award for being the top scorer in Europe, while his 30 trophies put him alongside his team-mate Andres Iniesta as the most anyone has won in club history.

Barcelona v Valencia: La Liga pinnacle battle ends in stalemate

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FC Barcelona midfielder Jordi Alba’s late stunning equalizer against his former club Valencia concludes an encounter between the two sides at the summit of the La Liga table with a draw.

It was an eventful game that also saw Valencia’s goalscorer Rodrigo don a wig in celebration while Barca’s star striker Lionel Messi had a clear goal disallowed.

Messi thought he had opened the scoring in the 30th minute when his tame strike from just outside the area was fumbled by the Valencia goalkeeper Neto and apparently crossed the line before it was cleared, and the Argentine had already started celebrating before being cut short as the goal was not to be given.

Replays too showed that it was a legal goal by any means, but without the benefit of goaline technology the referee Ignacio Iglesias did not award it as such and waved play on— much to Barca’s fury and Valencia’s relief. The latter, who paused momentarily, quickly raced up the other end of the pitch, where nine-goal Simone Zaza struck wide.

With the ball going out of play, the Catalan team angrily surrounded and confronted Villanueva at the mistake, but their appeals fell to deaf ears.

With spring in their steps after escaping such a clear disadvantage, Valencia proceeded to pile more misery upon their visitors when Rodrigo fired them into a 60th-minute lead, with the Spanish forward pouncing from close range following Jose Luis Gaya’s low cross.

It was a heartwarming moment for Valencia celebrated by Rodrigo wearing a curly, orange wig given to him by a fan, a nod to ex-club president Jaume Orti’s celebrations when Valencia won their last two La Liga titles after the former official passed away on Friday.

Defeat would have been harsh on Barca — who have not been beaten in La Liga this season — but a late and exquisite finish from Jordi Alba on Messi’s pass eventually rescued a point for Ernesto Valverde’s side, keeping them four clear of Valencia and unbeaten.

Still, there was a heartstopping moment before relief came for Barca as Valencia could have snatched all three points in the dying moments but Simone Zaza fired over from a great position.

Diego Simeone praises Lionel Messi after La Liga draw

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Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has showered praise upon FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi after the forward starred in a draw with Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

Although Saul Niguez and Luis Suarez were on the scoresheet as Atletico Madrid took on Barca in the 1-1 draw, Messi had great influence in the game — first striking the post in the second half and then playing a role in building Barca’s momentum ahead of Suarez’s late equaliser after Saul unleashed an unstoppable attempt beyond him from 25 yards in the 21st minute.

After the game, Simeone singled out his compatriot — who also fired Argentina to the 2018 World Cup with a hat-trick against Ecuador earlier — for particular praise as he revelled in the occasion at Wanda Metropolitano.

“The stadium was wonderful, we had another night of brilliant football, and with the impressive Messi — extraordinary,” Simeone said. “Messi was the only one who you could see where, every time he touched the ball, something different could happen.”

“He was certainly not as tired as many expected after the trip [from international duty in South America] because he played a tremendous match.”

Meanwhile, French forward Antoine Griezmann failed to find the net at the Wanda for the first time for Atleti, but Simeone believed this was his best performance at the stadium yet.

Indeed, Griezmann had to be denied twice by Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, first by a fine one-handed save at his near post after Andrés Iniesta gave away the ball again, this time with his left leg, after the Frenchman had driven into the box by nutmegging Gerard Pique.

“For me, this was the best game that Griezmann has had at home,” he said. “He twice worked the goalkeeper, he countered with [Angel] Correa and he held the ball up well.”

“It was a great game between two teams with different characteristics. Our first half was very good, the goalkeeper [ter Stegen] was key. From the 60th minute, Barca attacked with more clarity due to their need to score.”