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Vinicius, Mariano hand Real Madrid win in El Clasico, reclaim first place in Spain

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The season’s second version of El Clasico was setting itself up to have a dull, scoreless final result like its predecessor. But as the match turned the final corner, Real Madrid’s new-age attackers showcased what the new era is all about.

With two second-half goals from Vinicius Jr. and Mariano, Real Madrid edged rivals Barcelona 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday. Los Blancos leapfrog Quique Setien’s side to take control of La Liga, as the total point count reaches 56.

Held back by an unimaginative Lionel Messi and laudable defensive efforts from the hosts, it’s the first time in 45 years that Barcelona don’t score a league goal against Real Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane’s side was persistent on generating goalscoring opportunities, but were met by a solid Marc-Andre ter Stegen between the sticks.

In the 71st minute, however, Vinicius Jr. cracked the code, scoring with the help of a minor deflection. The Brazilian attacker is the first teenager to score in El Clasico since Messi.

50 seconds after coming off the bench, Mariano followed suit, recording his first goal of the season in grand style. It was the 26-year-old’s first appearance and first shot of the season.

In typical fashion under Setien, Barcelona managed possession and the rhythm of the match. But Messi and Antoine Griezmann failed to sync, lacking to generate many dangerous chances at goal.

The win proves to be vital for Madrid, who were coming off loses to Levante and Manchester City in Champions League play.

La Liga roundup: Messi puts four goals past Eibar in one-sided Barcelona victory

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Lionel Messi’s masterclass against Eibar highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Eibar 0-5 Barcelona 

It seemed as if nothing was going to wake up Barcelona from their nightmare, but then Lionel Messi went on to put on one if his traditional magic shows.

The Argentine pelted four goals on Eibar on Saturday, sending the Blaugrana to the top of La Liga following Real Madrid’s loss to Levante.

 

 

 

Just how bad was Barcelona’s nightmare, one may ask? So bad that Barcelona supporters waving white handkerchiefs during a part of the game, expressing their frustration towards club’s board and chanting for president Josep Maria Bartomeu to resign.

As it’s been for the past decade or so, Messi was at the right place and at the right time to put the fires away.

Barca’s No. 10 broke the deadlock in the 14th minute, before completing his first-half hat-trick. He added a fourth in stoppage time, stretching his season goal count to 18 – the best in the league.

The goal-heavy performance ended Messi’s four-match goal drought – the longest for the Argentine since the 2013-14 season.

Messi’s masterclass proved to be quintessential potion to Barcelona’s illness. They needed it, especially with Napoli up next in the Champions League, which leaves the Catalans with no options then to win.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Celta Vigo 1-0 Leganes

Real Sociedad 3-0 Valencia 

Levante 1-0 Real Madrid

La Liga roundup: Greizmann snaps scoreless streak as Barcelona hold off Getafe

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Barcelona’s close win against third-place Getafe highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Barcelona 2-1 Getafe

Barcelona are level at 52 points with league leaders and rivals Real Madrid, as Antoine Griezmann, who ended a five-match scoreless run in La Liga, and Sergio Roberto added a goal in Saturday’s 2-1 win.

Lionel Messi – on his official 350th Camp Nou appearance – assisted Griezmann for the first the first goal at the 33rd minute, extending his season total count to 12.

“I’ve been here six months, we still have to learn,” the Frenchman said following the victory. “I have to learn [Messi’s] movements and he has to learn mine. We’re enjoying the work we put in together and it’s getting better and better all the time. I’m very happy and really enjoying myself here.”

Quique Setien’s side got off to a lethargic start, and were in trouble in several occasions, but managed to conserve their two, first-half goals against an inspired Getafe, who went into Camp Nou on the back of a four-match La Liga winning streak.

Jordi Alba left the field at 22nd minute mark after suffering a right abductor injury. Junior Firpo, who has yet to find his footing in Barcelona, replaced the veteran fullback.

Barca-linked Angel Rodriguez was the only Getafe representative to put the ball past Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who along with VAR, saved the home side from conceding a pair of goals throughout the night.

Barca, who await for Real Madrid’s outcome on Sunday, set sights on Saturday’s bout against Eibar, while Getafe feature Thursday in the Round of 32 of the Europa League against Ajax.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Mallorca 1-0 Alaves

Villarreal 2-1 Levante 

Granada 2-1 Real Valladolid

La Liga roundup: Messi fuels Barcelona win over Real Betis (video)

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Lionel Messi’s genius in Barcelona’s win over Real Betis highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Real Betis 2-3 Barcelona

Lionel Messi assisted three times on Sunday in Quique Setien’s anticipated return to the Estadio Benito Villamarin, as Barcelona edged Real Betis 3-2.

The victory marks Barcelona’s second consecutive league win, who remain three points behind league leaders – and winners on Sunday – Real Madrid.

The match got off to a burning start as Sergio Canales converted from the spot six minutes in after a handball was called by VAR on Clément Lenglet, who wound up exiting the pitch after cumulated yellow cards in the 79th minute.

Just three minutes later, Frenkie de Jong canceled out Betis’ lead with a delicate finish of his own. Nabil Fekir, however, would put the home side up with a long-range shot in the 26th minute. Setien’s return to Seville was off to a rocky start.

Like in many cases in the past, Messi’s dominance would wind up saving Barcelona.

The Argentine’s desperate ball into the box was pushed in by Sergio Busquets in the final seconds of the first half, while his lofting cross was met by Lenglet’s well-placed header in the second half to give the Blaugrana the much-needed victory.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Espanyol 1-0 Mallorca

Real Sociedad 1-0 Athletic Bilbao

Osasuna 1-4 Real Madrid 

Celta Vigo 2-1 Sevilla

La Liga roundup: Messi scores, wins game in Setien’s Barcelona debut (video)

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Barcelona’s vintage playing style in their 1-0 win over Granada highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Barcelona 1-0 Granda

With a goal from Lionel Messi against an iron-willed Granada, Barcelona are back at the top of La Liga.

The win is the club’s first under Quique Setien, who debuted as the Catalans manager after replacing Ernesto Valverde.

Barcelona rolled back to the years of Pep Guardiola‘s tiki-taka, as they culminated the game with 83 percent possession and completed 1005 passes. That said, Granda – playing  with 10 men from the 69h minute on – were bulletproof until the 76th minute. Messi gently pushed the ball with his weak foot, finishing what had been a series of fluid, build-up passing.

Setien deployed a nuanced 3-4-3 variation – far from Valverde’s 4-3-3 formation that ended up costing him his job after losing to Atletico Madrid in the Super Copa semifinals.

Players like Sergio Busquets were asked about the distinct styles, but he was candidly opposed to comparing the managers and their philosophies.

“We were a solid team. We had control of the ball. They created little against us,” he told Movistar. “It’s true that we struggled when they dropped deep but, in general terms, the team played a good game.

“It’s not about comparing. Every coach has his style and his way of seeing football. You’ll see what Setien asks us to do. We’re not going to reveal it. We’re delighted with what Ernesto did and we’re delighted with Setien.”

With Real Madrid and Atletico right behind, the defending champions have a long way to go this season. They’ll have to build on the win and, more importantly, further deepen their chemistry under the ex-Real Betis boss. Integrating winter signings into the fold might present itself as a challenge, too.

But one thing is certain: Barcelona can still play like they did back in their glory days. If that sticks, a lot can happen.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Mallorca 4-1 Valencia

Real Betis 3-0 Real Sociedad

Villarreal 1-2 Espanyol

Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Celta Vigo