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Barcelona 4-0 Man City: Messi bags hat trick; Bravo blunders

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Barcelona beat Manchester City 4-0 on Wednesday night at the Nou Camp as a moment of madness from Claudio Bravo proved decisive in the Group C UEFA Champions League encounter.

[ MORE: UCL scores, stats ]

Before the game Pep Guardiola said he’d find out where his new team were at after facing his former club Barcelona. City showed signs of promise but that man Lionel Messi, Guardiola’s protege, tore them apart once again.

Messi gave the Spanish champions the lead in the first half and after Bravo was sent off for a calamitous red card early in the second half, Messi grabbed another as City were their own worst enemies.

Despite a promising spell either side of half time, Guardiola left his old stomping ground with his tail between his legs as Messi completed his hat trick and Neymar added a goal to put some extra gloss on the scoreline.

The win moves Barca to nine points from their opening three group games, while City remains on four points.

[ VIDEO: Sanchez wonder-goal ]

Early on Barca were dealt a blow as Jordi Alba hobbled off injured and Lucas Digne replaced him.

After a bright start City were then caught out by Messi (who else?) as he ghosted into the box after an unfortunate slip by Fernandinho and scored his 10th goal in his last eight Champions League games.

Before the game all the talk had been about Messi and how Guardiola wanted to try and sign him, if he ever decided to leave Barca, and it was the Argentine wonder who added the killer blow whenever the Catalan club needed it.

City’s uphill task just got more difficult after Messi’s first and they could’ve been 2-0 down had both Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic finished better in the box.

Guardiola’s boys felt the heat for a few moments following the opening goal but, overall, City responded well to going behind with Raheem Sterling getting some space on the right then Nolito got free down the left but Marc-Andre ter Stegen denied him.

Moments later ter Stegen was called into action again as Ilkay Gundogan drove into the box and he should’ve done better with his finish after skipping past three Barca defenders.

Before half time Gerard Pique had to come off injured as Luis Enrique was forced into yet another defensive reshuffle with Jeremy Mathieu coming on.

Messi played in Suarez before the break and he was clean through but Bravo blocked his first effort and then tipped the looping ball over.

City had a penalty shout for handball in the box before the break as Sterling’s cross appeared to hit Digne on the hand but nothing was given and Kevin De Bruyne slammed the loose ball into the side-netting.

Despite trailing 1-0 at half time, Guardiola would’ve have been encouraged by City’s response to going behind.

Man City started the second half brightly, too, with De Bruyne getting in behind and David Silva pulling the strings but then a moment of madness swung the game in Barcelona’s favor.

Before the game City’s players talked about having to be “perfect” to get anything at Barcelona. Bravo was far from that as he first miscued his attempted pass to give the ball straight to Suarez who chipped goalwards for what have been a certain second goal, bur then Bravo pushed the ball away with his hands while stood outside his box.

The Chilean goalkeeper was correctly shown a straight red card on his return to the Nou Camp less then two months after leaving Barca for Man City.

It was a nightmare scenario for Guardiola as Pablo Zabaleta was also injured in the play. City were down to 10 men with Willy Caballero and Gael Clichy subbing on.

It got worse moments later as Messi slotted home his second of the game and 88th UCL goal with a simple finish. 2-0.

City kept plugging away as De Bruyne raced through and drilled low by ter Stegen saved and they put on some pressure from set pieces but Barca managed to clear.

Barca then proceeded to pick City off on the counter and a mistake from Gnndogan let in Suarez who put it on a plate for Messi to grab a hat trick. 3-0. That’s now 89 UCL goals for Messi.

It wasn’t all good news for Barca as sub Mathieu was sent off late in the game for two yellow cards as he scythed down Sterling. Although the game ended level in terms of men on the pitch, 10-10, it was a convincing win for Barcelona as Neymar also missed a PK but then slotted home stylishly in the final minute. 4-0.

Welcome back to Barca, Pep…

Chairman Mubarak: Other clubs are ‘jealous’ of Man City’s success

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Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak believes that other clubs — namely those who have fallen miles back of the back-to-back Premier League champions — are “jealous” of the club’s success.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante to miss Europa League final with new injury ]

The root of the perceived jealousy is, of course, Man City’s seemingly unlimited spending power which dwarves that of just about — if not — every other club in the PL. There’s a growing sense around the league — and around the world — that clubs like City, just to name one, are doing the game a disservice by distorting the transfer market and building an infallible super-team with the aid of unprecedented financial resources.

Mubarak believes that these feelings also stem from other clubs’ failed dealings in the transfer market: spending comparable — if not more — money on players who don’t justify that price tag the same way some of City’s big-money buys have done — quotes from the BBC:

“With success, there is a certain level of jealousy, envy, whatever you call it. That’s part of the game.

“It’s not easy for our competition, we know that. But the reality is, we didn’t buy the most expensive player in the Premier League [Paul Pogba], we didn’t buy the most expensive goalkeeper [Kepa Arrizabalaga], we didn’t buy the most expensive midfielder, we didn’t buy the most expensive striker [Romelu Lukaku].

“People make decisions, they’ve got to live by them. This is a well-run club.”

City’s financial dealings have regularly been in the headlines of late, as they are believed to have circumvented FFP rules by lying about sponsorship deals so as to balance a larger expenditure on transfer fees and player wages with revenue generated by the club.

Valverde under pressure after dismal end to Barcelona’s season

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MADRID (AP) A couple of weeks ago, few questioned Ernesto Valverde as Barcelona coach.

The team had just won a second straight Spanish league title under his command and was close to making it to the Champions League final after beating Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of the semifinals.

The team was also through to the Copa del Rey final, where it would try to win an unprecedented fifth straight title in the competition.

Valverde seemed to be comfortably in control as the club moved closer to winning the treble.

Things quickly took a turn for the worse, though, and Valverde woke up on Sunday under added pressure and facing increased criticism.

Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday, a result that followed the disastrous elimination against Liverpool in the Champions League and added to the team’s woeful end to what had been a great season.

“A month ago we were celebrating the league title. Fifteen days ago we were thinking we had a chance at a treble,” Valverde said. “And we came up short in the decisive moments in both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.”

The disappointing ending brought out a wave of criticism of Valverde, who last year also finished the season under a cloud after another humiliating Champions League elimination – that time it squandered a big first-leg lead against Roma in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

The criticism seems more pronounced this time, with some fans and local media calling for a change at the helm.

It didn’t take long after Barcelona’s loss to Valencia in Seville for club President Josep Bartomeu to come out and defend the coach.

“Ernesto has a contract and he remains the team’s coach,” Bartomeu said. “This loss was not the coach’s fault. The team created a lot of scoring chances but the ball didn’t go in, and what counts is how many times you score.”

Bartomeu had already defended Valverde after the demoralizing 4-0 loss to Liverpool in the Champions League, saying the club was not considering a change in command for next season.

Valverde said he was not worried and felt supported by the club despite the disappointing ending.

“It’s a bad feeling, we won’t deny it, but we have to stay strong,” he said. “What we want as coaches is to have a chance to come back. It’s tough to lose, it means something went wrong. We have to take the responsibility for it.”

Even if Valverde stays as expected, it doesn’t mean there won’t be changes for Barcelona.

Several players played below expectations this season, especially former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho, who was regularly jeered by fans and whose place with the club remains uncertain.

Bartomeu will likely have to go shopping in the offseason to try to improve the supporting cast for Lionel Messi, who had a fantastic year but wasn’t able to save the season by himself. When Messi looked ordinary, no one was able to take over his role as protagonist, and it proved costly in the decisive moments.

Young midfielder Frenkie de Jong is joining from Ajax and he should significantly boost the midfield, but Barcelona will definitely need to add to its attack, as Luis Suarez was the only true striker who performed consistently well. He couldn’t play in the Copa final after undergoing knee surgery and his absence was felt as the team struggled to capitalize on its scoring chances.

Veteran Gerard Pique is set to return for another season in defense, but there are still doubts about the fitness of Samuel Umtiti, who missed several matches this season because of injuries.

“We’ve been thinking about next season for a while, but it’s not the time to discuss the future,” Bartomeu said. “We ended with the Spanish league title, it was important. We couldn’t win the Copa, but we’ll just move on.”

Suarez defends surgery decision after Barca lose Copa del Rey final

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Luis Suarez has defended himself from criticism for undergoing knee surgery that prevented him from playing for Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final.

The Uruguayan released a statement Sunday saying he had no option despite the timing of the final, which Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia on Saturday.

Suarez said he had to undergo surgery “against my will” after rupturing his meniscus against Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals.

He said the surgery earlier this month had nothing to do with a cartilage issue that he had been nursing since the beginning of the season.

Barcelona won the Spanish league but finished the season on a low after being eliminated by Liverpool in the Champions League and losing the Copa final to Valencia.

Suarez scored 25 goals in 49 matches this season, second only to Lionel Messi on the scoring charts for Barcelona.

U-20 WC roundup: Mexico hammered by Japan; Italy top Ecuador

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action at the U-20 World Cup in Poland…

[ MORE: USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video) ]

Mexico 0-3 Japan

Mexico’s heavy defeat at the hands of Japan means El Tri‘s stars of tomorrow, who have zero points from their first two games, cannot finish top-two in Group B and can only advance to the knockout rounds as one of four third-place teams.

Taisei Miyashiro (21st and 77th minutes) and Kyosuke Tagawa (52nd) bagged the goals on Sunday, as Japan picked up its first victory and set up an all-important finale with Italy to decide who finishes top of the group on Wednesday.

Ecuador 0-1 Italy

Andrea Pinamonti scored the only goal in Italy’s 1-0 victory over 10-man Ecuador to reach the six-point mark and guarantee themselves a top-two finish and a place in the round of 16.

Elsewhere in the U-20 World Cup

Senegal 2-0 Colombia [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Poland 5-0 Tahiti [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Monday’s U-20 World Cup schedule

Honduras v. Uruguay — 12 p.m. ET
Qatar v. Ukraine — 12 p.m. ET
USA v. Nigeria — 2:30 p.m. ET
Norway v. New Zealand — 2:30 p.m. ET