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La Liga: Messi scores 400th in rout; the Madrids hold serve

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A roundup of all of the weekend’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 22 ]

Barcelona 3-0 Eibar

Lionel Messi became the first player to ever score 400 goals in one of Europe’s top five leagues (WATCH HERE), because of course he did. Other than that, Sunday was little more than a routine day out for Barcelona, who maintained their five-point lead in the title race with a 3-0 victory over Eibar.

Luis Suarez put the home side ahead after just 19 minutes; Messi made it 2-0 in the 53rd; Suarez grabbed another to complete the scoring six minutes later.

That’s six straight league victories for Barca, and seven straight without defeat.

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Levante

Atleti have prevailed as the main — if not only — formidable title challengers to Barca, now five points clear of third-place Sevilla and fourth-place Real Madrid. Alas, the same gap still exists between themselves and the defending champions.

All Diego Simeone’s side can do is keep winning and hope that Barca slip up somewhere along the way. Sunday’s home clash with 11th-place Levante was something of a grind, but Antoine Griezmann’s 57th-minute penalty kick was just enough to extend Los Rojiblancos‘ unbeaten run to 16 games. The trouble, of course, is that they have dropped points in seven of them.

Real Betis 1-2 Real Madrid

Dreams of the title have long since gone for the other Madrid — probably — as their attention should now turn to a full-on rebuild of an aging squad. In the meantime, Los Blancos are still made up of a number of world-class players. Take, for instance, 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric, who scored one of the best goals of his brilliant career on Sunday.

Betis equalized in the 67th minute, though, setting the stage for one of the club’s former favorites, Dani Ceballos, to break the home fans’ hearts in the 88th.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Girona 1-1 Alaves (Saturday)
Villarreal 1-2 Getafe (Saturday)
Leganes 1-0 Huesca (Saturday)
Valencia 1-1 Real Valladolid (Saturday)
Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Sevilla

Italian soccer federation signs deal with Chinese government

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ROME (AP) The Italian soccer federation has signed a wide-ranging memorandum with the Chinese government to promote soccer between the two countries.

The deal foresees playing the Italian Super Cup or Italian Cup in China within the next three years.

[ MORE: Upsets in EURO qualifying ]

The Italian Super Cup – which pits the Serie A champion against the Italian Cup champion – has already been played in China four times over the last 10 years.

The meeting with China Media Group head Shen Haixiong also focused on TV content and rights, collaboration over developing young Chinese players in Italy and instruction for using the video assistant referee.

Shen was in Rome for the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Italian federation president Gabriele Gravina says, “Soccer has shown once again to be a bridge between different cultures.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

WATCH: Asprilla scores terrific bicycle kick on USL cameo

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Portland Timbers forward Dairon Asprilla has had to spend some time in the USL Championship this season, and the second tier would probably like to see Gio Savarese keep the Colombian in Major League Soccer.

[ REPORT: Liverpool to sell Keita? ]

Asprilla scored twice and added an assists on Saturday night in a defeat of Eric Wynalda’s Las Vegas Lights, and he put up a near picture perfect bicycle kick on the highlight reel.

Watch as he sets himself up, willingly or not, for the endeavor before splashing a shot in the side panel for an amazing aesthetic.

Report: Bayern, BVB ready to buy Keita from Liverpool

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A report claims that Liverpool is ready to admit defeat in the case of Naby Keita.

Keita, 24, was bought from RB Leipzig last season and arrived at Anfield in the summer, but has struggled to find consistent playing time under Jurgen Klopp.

[ VIDEO: USMNT’s Saief shines for FC Cincinnati ]

Viewed as the missing link between the Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool’s torrential attack, Keita has not come close to replicating the form that saw his price tag reach $69 million.

Indeed, Team Talk says Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich look prepared to pay around $53 million to bring Keita back to the Bundesliga.

Keita has played 27 matches in all competitions for Liverpool, accumulating 1,388 minutes and just one assist. He had nine goals and seven assists in more than double the minutes one season ago.

According to WhoScored.com, he’s passing the ball better and taking almost a foul less than last season, but almost every other measurable has declined since he moved to England.

I’m as guilty as anyone of thinking Keita would be everything the Reds required after an improved 2017-18, but he’s either being used very poorly or having trouble adjusting to the culture.

It’s early to quit on a player so talented, but maybe Klopp and he just don’t mesh well. But if it isn’t a case of clashing with the club, it may be worth waiting out a player who looked a giant just eight months ago.

EURO qualifying: Hungary stings Croatia, Israel hangs 4 on Austria

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It wasn’t just Germany and the Netherlands staging a tight and entertaining match in EURO 2020 qualifying on Sunday.

[ VIDEO: Saief, Manneh lead FC Cincinnati ]

Hungary 2-1 Croatia

Ante Rebic’s early goal made a “business as usual” statement for the World Cup runners-up, but Hungary can be a handful against any opponents and rallied at home.

Hoffenheim striker Adam Szalai brought the hosts level at halftime, and Mate Patkai gave Hungary a deserved 2-1 win in Budapest.

Coming three days after a loss in Slovakia to start qualifying, it was an early almost-must-win for Marco Rossi’s men.

Israel 4-2 Austria

Marko Arnautovic‘s brace in defeat couldn’t have come with different vibes. His eighth minute marker gave the Austrians a leg up, his 75th minute goal meaning very little with the side having conceded four-straight in between.

China-based striker Eran Zahavi scored a hat trick for Israel, and RB Salzburg star Munas Dabbur scored the fourth goal to keep the hosts within sight of first place Poland.

Austria is winless through two qualifiers.

Elsewhere
Wales 1-0 Slovakia
Cyprus 0-2 Belgium
San Marino 0-2 Scotland
Netherlands 2-3 Germany — RECAP, VIDEO
Northern Ireland 2-1 Belarus
Poland 2-0 Latvia
Slovenia 1-1 Macedonia
Kazakhstan 0-4 Russia