Lionel Messi

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Copa QF: Messi misses PK, Barca’s 29-game unbeaten run ends

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MADRID (AP) — Lionel Messi missed a penalty and Barcelona conceded late as its 29-match unbeaten streak ended in a 1-0 loss to city rival Espanyol in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Messi failed from the spot in the 62nd minute, his shot brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

Youngster Oscar Melendo netted the winner for the hosts in the 88th with his first goal as a professional.

“I have no words, I was looking forward to this first goal,” said the 20-year-old Melendo, who had come on as a substitute in the second half.

It was Espanyol’s first win against Barcelona at its RCDE Stadium.

The second leg of the Catalan derby is next week at Camp Nou.

Barcelona hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat by Real Madrid in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Aug. 16. It had won 23 of its last 29 matches in all competitions.

“We knew we would lose one day,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. “The positive thing is that in a week we have a chance to rebound and advance.”

Messi had his chance from the spot after Sergi Roberto was fouled by Esteban Granero, but his low shot into the right corner was stopped as Diego Lopez dived to his left to tip the ball away.

It was a rare miss for Messi, who is having a stellar season and is the Spanish league’s top scorer with 17 goals.

“The penalty save gave us the boost that we needed,” Melendo said. “We were playing too defensively.”

Melendo netted the winner with a low shot from the middle of the area after a well-timed pass by Marc Navarro.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde did not use all of the team’s regular starters, leaving players such as Luis Suarez on the bench.

The match was interrupted for a few minutes in the 76th after Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was hit by an object thrown by fans behind his goal.

Barcelona midfielder Paulinho was replaced in the second half because of a foot injury.

Video: Luis Suarez stuns Real Sociedad with incredible curler

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Things were going just swell for Real Sociedad during the first half against Spanish giants Barcelona, but the match has drastically changed since the hosts took a 2-0 lead.

[ MORE: Cologne earns second Bundesliga win; Pulisic, Auba miss BVB match ]

Paulinho pulled one back for Barcelona before halftime, but it was Luiz Suarez’s second half curler that gave Ernesto Valverde’s group the equalizer after the break.

Suarez has now scored 13 goals in all competitions this season, including 12 in La Liga play.

Watch below as Suarez ties up the match in amazing fashion.

Watch: Messi picks out Alba with perfect pass

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Like Rey and Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba are having some sort of force connection on Thursday.

The pair teamed up for three goals – two for Messi and one for Alba in the opening 28 minutes of the match as Barcelona stormed out to an early 3-0 lead (5-1 on aggregate) in the Copa Del Rey against Celta Vigo.

On the first two goals, Alba crossed from the left and found Messi in space inside the box, where he was able to finish with aplomb. But on the second goal, Messi plays what Ray Hudson would call a “magisterial” pass, through the entire defense onto the foot of Alba, who slotted it home.

Yes, Messi had no pressure on him and no one caught the run of Alba down the left wing. But the ball was placed on a dime, perfectly through the entire Celta Vigo team but still far enough away that goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez couldn’t ready it.

Watch, and be ready for your mouth to drop.

La Liga: Barca regains nine-point lead, Celta spoils Real’s day

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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Barcelona 3-0 Levante

The scoreline might indicate a one-sided affair, but American defender Shaq Moore and Levante had their share of chances on Sunday at the Camp Nou. That said, Barca has restored its nine-point advantage at the top of La Liga thanks to goals from Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Paulinho.

Moore had one of the game’s best chances for Levante in the second half when he found himself in on goal in the 65th minute, however, his shot was denied by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The defeat leaves Levante just three points above the relegation zone through 18 matches.

Celta Vigo 2-2 Real Madrid

Gareth Bale‘s first-half brace wasn’t enough to give Real Madrid all three points on the road, and Zinedine Zidane’s latest setback has Los Blancos 16 points behind Barcelona.

The hosts went in front brilliantly in the 33rd minute thanks to Daniel Wass’ fantastic lofted shot over Real keeper Keylor Navas, however, Bale came back and took the lead for Real with two goals in a span of three minutes.

Celta came back though in the dying minutes to level the match at 2-2 when Maxi Gomez’s free header from Wass’ cross down the right wing equalled things.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Leganes 1-0 Real Sociedad
Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Alaves
Villareal 1-1 Deportivo

Lionel Messi opens 2018 goal account with beauty vs. Levante

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Yesterday, Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown pass to himself.

Today, Lionel Messi scored his first goal of 2018, and he assisted it himself…well ok not really, but he did most of the hard work, and only Jordi Alba’s head stood between what was otherwise all the Argentinian superstar.

It took just 12 minutes of play this calendar year for Messi to score his first goal, coming in the opening stages of Levante’s trip to the Camp Nou. Messi, with the ball outside the top of the box and facing the corner flag, contorted his body and chipped a brilliant, almost no-look ball to Jordi Alba down the left edge of the penalty area. Alba headed the ball back to the center of the box, and Messi, who had followed the play immediately after sending the ball in, was there to complete the one-two and strike it into the back of the net past Levante goalkeeper Oier.

Lionel Messi scored the most goals across league competitions of anyone in Europe last year, with 37 goals in 34 matches. Tottenham’s Harry Kane scored the most across all competitions, hitting 56 times in the 2017 calendar year.

Barcelona would take a 2-0 lead before the break on a ripper from Luis Suarez. Barcelona sits top of the La Liga table, six points above everyone else and threatening to go nine clear if they can hold on for the win.