Lionel Messi becomes top El Clasico scorer as Barcelona beats Real Madrid in 4-3 thriller

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Lionel Messi’s late first half goal made him the all-time leading El Clasico goal scorer on Sunday, and he scored twice more in the second half for a hat trick in Barcelona’s 4-3 win over Real Madrid.

Barca struck first thanks to a perfectly-weighted pass from Messi that found Andres Iniesta at full stride, and he lashed a left-footed laser into the upper netting. It was a powerful strike that put the visitors ahead in the 7th minute.

Cristiano Ronaldo was harassed, banged and brutalized early as Barca looked to intimidate the Portuguese superstar, but he was still effective early.

Messi looked set to double Barca’s advantage in the 15th minute when the little Argentine made a brilliant onside run to set himself up to shoot, but his low shot streaked wide of the goal.

Madrid equalized before the clock struck 20, as Benzema headed Angel Di Maria’s cross off Victor Valdes outstretched hand and into the side netting. It was 1-1 and the Bernabeu was buzzing.

Di Maria was almost stretchered off after the play, but returned to the left flank. He fired a chest-high cross that Benzema took to feet before blasting past Valdes for a 2-1 Madrid lead in the 24th minute.

Benzema almost found a hat trick moments later, but Pique cleared the ball off the line.

Messi picked up a loose ball in the box and darted in a few steps before firing home with his left foot to tie the match 2-2. As Messi was celebrating his contribution to a 2-2 scoreline, there was chaos in the box as a confrontation led to a yellow card for Pepe, who went head-to-head with Cesc Fabregas. Plenty of play acting on the play.

Ronaldo scored on a penalty kick in the 54th minute after being brought down in the box to give Real Madrid a 3-2 lead, but Messi took over from there — and from the spot.

Sergio Ramos was sent off after bringing down Neymar in the box and Messi stepped up to finish the PK in the 65th minute. He completed the hat trick and the 4-3 win in the 84th minute after Xabi Alonso brought Iniesta down in the box. Messi fired his penalty kick over a diving Diego Lopez. The win puts Barcelona within one point of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid as La Liga’s title race heats up.

MLS Best XI unveiled with awesome foosball video

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Major League Soccer, wow, this is terrific #content.

MLS released its Best XI on Monday with a dynamite video of the players passing the ball from Zack Steffen in goal to Josef Martinez up top… via a virtual foosball table.

[ VIDEO: An unprecedented goal ]

The XI is set in a 3-4-3, with the New York Red Bulls, DC United, and Atlanta United leading the way with a pair of players each.

My predictions? Well, I only got six correct. Whoops. The only absence that really surprises me is Graham Zusi, and Sporting KC not having representation at all. I guess that explains why SKC manager Peter Vermes is going to be announced as the next USMNT– Wait, what’s that? Oh. I’ll stop talking.

2018 MLS Best XI

Goalkeeper: Zack Steffen (Columbus)

Defenders: Kemar Lawrence (RBNY), Aaron Long (RBNY), Chad Marshall (Seattle)

Midfielders: Miguel Almiron (Atlanta), Luciano Acosta (DC), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal), Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy), Josef Martinez (Atlanta), Wayne Rooney (DC)

WATCH: Striker scores potentially unprecedented goal while helping teammate

Photo by John Thys/EuroFootball/Getty Images
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“Look, I know you’re injured, but I’m gonna be right back. Got a goal to score for us.”

Maccabi Petah Tikva forward Habib Habibou scored what can only be described as an unprecedented goal — at least in terms of being captured on video — Israel this weekend.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

Habibou, 31, and his club were locked in scoreless tussle with Maccabi Netanya on Saturday when one of his teammates was injured in the box.

The CAR striker, formerly of Zulte Waregem and Royal Charleroi, was taking care of said teammate when he spotted an 87th minute spilled rebound.

What was he gonna do, really, other than dart onto the loose ball, score the match-winner, and then return to his ailing mate?

Petah Tikva won 1-0.

Juventus executive: Bring season Serie A game abroad

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Juventus chief revenue officer Giorgio Ricci likes La Liga’s idea of taking a regular season match outside of its domestic borders.

Ricci would like Serie A to explore a similar move, saying Italian soccer can only benefit from putting its brand in other markets.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

Serie A lags behind other top European league in TV money, which has hindered its ability to recruit top end talent relative to its competitors.

Ricci says if American sports see value in bringing their top leagues to Europe, it holds that the reverse would be true. From the BBC:

“If we look at some other more developed leagues in terms of commercial strategy; the NBA and NFL, they are exporting one or two of their matches abroad, to the UK or elsewhere in Europe. I think it is a good strategy. It is a way to export something that is not an exhibition.”

Would a regular season match bring any more eyes or attention than the International Champions Cup, at least enough to offset the sacrifice of atmosphere? It seems doubtful, but the money is the key here. Italy wants to catch up with Spain, Germany, and England.

FC Cincinnati switches crest ahead of MLS debut

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FC Cincinnati has unveiled its crest for 2019’s maiden voyage in Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

Sticking with the orange and blue color combination which has served them since inception, the shield has FC in the top left corner, Cincinnati running diagonally left-to-right in blue script on white, and a winged lion holding a sword as the primary icon.

FCC will draft up to five current MLS players in the Expansion Draft on Dec. 11. Teams will announce their protected lists on Dec. 10.

Cincinnati will play in the Eastern Conference. It won the USL regular season championship under coach Alan Koch in 2018.