Spain roundup: Top three all win as Ronaldo, Costa, Messi shine

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There are no style points on the board, though goal differential is close. By those measures, Barcelona made a statement regarding the La Liga title race as the top three all picked up wins but Barca’s was a stomping.

Lionel Messi became Barcelona’s all-time leading goal scorer when he slotted home the second goal of his hat trick in the Blaugrana’s 7-0 shellacking of 15th place Osasuna. Click the link and watch the video if only for Andres Iniesta’s left-footed stunner to make the score 3-0.

Barca was Barca again, boosting their league-best goal differential to 59. Perhaps  buoyed by topping Manchester City mid-week, it was certainly a different side than the club dispatched by Valladolid last weekend. Cristian Tello, Pedro and Alexis Sanchez also scored for Barcelona, which had a 3-0 at the break.

Real Madrid won 1-0 at relegation-threatened Malaga thanks to a 23rd minute marker by Cristiano Ronaldo, but it wasn’t close to their finest. The club’s unbeaten run in La Liga is now at 30 matches, and perhaps they were looking ahead to their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg with Schalke on Tuesday… but who are we kidding? They are up 6-1. It was just an off day for the club whose goal differential sits at 51.

Atletico stayed three back of Real and a point ahead of Barca with a 1-0 win of its own. Diego Costa put home a David Villa pass for the match’s only goal, as Atletico stayed unbeaten at home this season. It was a nice bit of pass and pace, as Costa simply outraced Espanyol defender Diego Colotto for the ball.

Elsewhere

  • Getafe 3-3 Granada — The goals started in the sixth minute and kept coming all night as Getafe let three leads disappear. Moroccan forward Youssef El Arabi bagged a brace in the comeback(s).
  • Levante 0-1 Celta Vigo — Nolito’s 19th minute goal moved the visiting side five points clear of the drop.
  • Rayo Vallecano 3-1 Almeria — Joaquin Larrivey’s brace vaulted Rayo out of the relegation zone and placed the visitors La Liga future in peril
  • Elche 0-0 Real Betis — Full credit to Betis, who keeps picking up points despite an unlikely bottom position nine points from safety. Elche carried 64 percent possession in the draw.
  • Sevilla 4-1 Valladolid — Kevin Gameiro stayed hot, striking twice, while Ivan Rakitic and Diogo Figueiras also netted for Sevilla. Javi Guerra scored late for the visitors.
  • Real Sociedad 1-0 Valencia — Sociedad is within five points of a Champions League spot thanks to Imanol Agirretxe’s 61st minute marker.
  • Villarreal vs. Athletic — Monday

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Real Madrid 28 22 4 2 77 26 51 12-0-1 10-4-1 70
Atlético Madrid 28 21 4 3 64 21 43 12-3-0 9-1-3 67
Barcelona 28 21 3 4 81 22 59 13-0-1 8-3-3 66
Athletic 27 15 6 6 50 31 19 10-3-1 5-3-5 51
Real Sociedad 28 13 7 8 49 39 10 9-3-2 4-4-6 46
Villarreal 27 13 5 9 47 33 14 7-4-3 6-1-6 44
Sevilla 28 12 8 8 51 43 8 7-3-4 5-5-4 44
Valencia 28 10 6 12 39 39 0 7-3-4 3-3-8 36
Espanyol 28 10 6 12 32 34 -2 7-2-5 3-4-7 36
Levante 28 9 9 10 26 35 -9 5-5-4 4-4-6 36
Celta Vigo 28 9 6 13 33 39 -6 3-6-5 6-0-8 33
Granada 28 9 4 15 27 39 -12 5-1-8 4-3-7 31
Elche 28 7 9 12 24 40 -16 5-5-5 2-4-7 30
Málaga 28 7 8 13 26 36 -10 5-2-7 2-6-6 29
Osasuna 28 8 5 15 24 48 -24 5-2-6 3-3-9 29
Rayo Vallecano 28 9 2 17 32 62 -30 5-0-9 4-2-8 29
Getafe 28 7 7 14 26 45 -19 4-6-5 3-1-9 28
Valladolid 28 5 11 12 30 48 -18 4-6-3 1-5-9 26
Almería 28 7 5 16 27 52 -25 4-4-5 3-1-11 26
Betis 28 4 7 17 23 56 -33 4-3-7 0-4-10 19

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga