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La Liga: Messi bags incredible hat-trick, Villareal earns vital win

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That guy Lionel Messi’s pretty darn good.

Barcleona hammered Real Betis 4-1 behind an utterly stunning hat-trick from Messi to restore its 10-point lead atop the La Liga table.

Messi was fabulous the entire match, completing 51 of 57 passes, including eight of nine inside the penalty area, and created three chances outside of his three goals. He opened the scoring in the 18th minute, depositing a classic free-kick into the top-left corner. Just before halftime, Luis Suarez did wonderful one-on-two work down the middle and fed a charging Messi through the back line for the finish in front of net.

In the 63rd minute, Suarez contributed to the scoreline with a stunning one-on-four breakaway that left three defenders on the ground in his wake before he slotted past Pau Lopez. To finish things off, Messi grabbed his hat-trick in the 85th minute with the best of the bunch, blasting a one-touch left-footed strike from a tight angle that curled up and over Lopez and into the far corner, an absolute beauty fitting of the moment.

The home Real Betis fans saw the brilliance in the accomplishment, so much that they cheered Messi to the point where he gave back the love postgame. “I don’t remember a night like this,” Messi said to beIN Sports after the match. “I’m very grateful for the way the fans responded here.”

Real Valladolid earned all three points in stunning fashion with a 2-1 comeback win with both goals coming in stoppage time. Fabian Orellana put Eibar in front in the 54th minute, but Daniele Verde bagged a penalty in the first minute of added time after a VAR review, and Sergi Guardiola was on hand to earn the win in the 93rd minute winner.

Sevilla scrapped to a 1-0 victory over Espanyol in a game that featured 25 total shots but just six on target split both ways, with both teams finishing down a man. Wissam Ben Yedder scored the game’s only goal, coming from the spot after Mario Hermoso clearly bundled over Andre Silva right on the left edge of the area. The game finished with both Sergi Darder and Juan Soriano receiving red cards after the final whistle to cap off an otherwise dull match.

Meanwhile, Valencia and Getafe played to a 0-0 draw that featured just three total shots on target, allowing Sevilla to climb three points ahead of Valencia in sixth, a point back of fifth-placed Alaves and three behind fourth-placed Getafe.

Finally, Villareal took care of Rayo Vallecano 3-1 with a second-half comeback. The visitors went in front in the 20th minute at El Madrigal, with Mario Suarez producing a fabulous header that picked out the far corner from a good distance out. Yet, in the 50th minute, it all began to go wrong for Rayo as Emiliano Velazquez unluckily deflected a cross right to Karl Toko Ekambi waiting on the doorstep for the finish.

Ekambi picked out his brace just two minutes later on a wonderful feed from Vicente Iborra right through the channel for the one-on-one finish. As the game wore on, Villareal killed things off in the 88th minute via Gerard Moreno thanks to a brilliant long-distance switch by Manuel Morlanes. The win pushed Villareal four points clear of the drop in 17th place, while Rayo Vallecano remained in 19th, two back of Celta Vigo in 18th and seven from safety.

Finlay goal gives Minnesota win over former club Columbus (video)

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It had to be him.

As Columbus continues to search for itself under new management, it’s no surprise that one of its old heroes broke its heart on Saturday.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

Ethan Finlay, he of the 166 Crew appearances before being traded to Minnesota United, said earlier this week, “I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t want to beat up on them pretty bad.”

So of course Finlay scored a 70th minute tap-in to give his Loons a 1-0 win over Columbus on Saturday in St. Paul. It wasn’t “pretty bad,” but it probably felt pretty good.

The goal was Finlay’s first of the season for United, keeping the hosts unbeaten at home.

Columbus falls to 1-5 away from home under Caleb Porter, and has won just once in its last seven outings.

Brighton ready to pay release clause for Swans manager

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Brighton and Hove Albion is ready to bring one of England’s brightest managerial prospects into the Premier League.

The Seagulls are set to pay a $3 million release clause to lure Graham Potter away from Swansea City, one year after the manager left Swedish club Ostersunds FK.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

Potter was 35 when he was hired by the Swedish club in 2010, and helped Ostersunds to three promotions before moving to Wales in 2018.

Swans finished 10th this season, its first in the Championship after relegation from the Premier League.

Brighton regressed in a big way during the second half of this season, and remains in the top flight largely because Cardiff City was unable to take advantage of the Seagulls’ huge struggles.

The report says Swansea offered Potter a new deal to stay at the Liberty Stadium, but the manager wants to try the Premier League.

If he takes the job, Potter will manage against one of his former clubs; Potter played eight times for Southampton in the Premier League.

Pep: Domestic treble harder than winning Champions League

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Manchester City won its third tournament of the season on Saturday, battering Watford 6-0 at Wembley Stadium to add an FA Cup to its League Cup and Premier League titles.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

In doing so, City is the first club to win a domestic treble. Manager Pep Guardiola wants to win every competition he enters, but said winning all three is extra special.

“I love the Champions League but it is more difficult to do what we have done than to win the Champions League,” Guardiola said.

Wait, what?

From ManCity.com:

“It’s not easy being there every three days. We lacked a little bit of energy but it’s normal. It’s been so tough this week. We could not have had more energy but we kept it at the right time.”

Well, that makes sense. Whereas Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp risked less with his cup lineups, knowing his desire for the Premier League and Champions League, Guardiola’s lineups were aimed at winning everything.

And that’s largely why they’ve done it. City might’ve needed penalty kicks to beat Chelsea in the League Cup Final and a John Stones clearance to win the Premier League (or a Vincent Kompany thunderbolt), but the treble is impressive.

AC Milan boss Gattuso insists fifth “not a failure”

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For a solid four months, it appeared AC Milan was on track for a return to the Champions League for the first time in six years. Then, it all fell apart.

Still, manager Gennaro Gattuso is insisting their season is not a failure, adamant that a fifth-placed finish would not be considered a disappointment for the club. His reasoning will not be exactly endearing to fans.

“Fifth place absolutely wouldn’t be a failure, not because I want credit myself, plus what would Roma and Lazio say?” Gattuso said during his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s game against Frosinone. “There’s regret because for two months we’ve had our fate in our hands and we dropped so many points, but it’s not a failure.”

Milan was as high as third place in the Serie A table in mid-March and seemed close to wrapping up a return to Champions League play, but a stretch of one win in seven league matches saw them tumble down into the crowded battle below, with Atalanta, Roma, Torino, and Lazio all in a pack. AC Milan now sits sixth, and while they still remain in the mix for the fourth position, they would need to make up a three-point deficit in just two matches. Fifth-placed Roma drew today, so they can jump to fifth with a win against Frosinone.

Milan was a European powerhouse for decades until the club declined following its 2007 Champions League victory, ultimately falling out of the running for Europe’s top competition, with just a few Europa League appearances since 2014. Gattuso’s comparison to Lazio and Roma, two strong Italian clubs without Milan’s history, is bound to infuriate fans, along with his acceptance of the club’s shortcomings.

The late-season collapse has called Gattuso’s job security into question, but he said that will wait until the end of the season. “Both the club and I have put aside our small talk to reach our objective,” Gattuso said during the presser. “There will be time to talk about the future.”

“There are two games left and we’re still playing for our objective.”