Borja Mayoral

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Without Messi, Barcelona loses to Levante in Copa del Rey

Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Barcelona could not overcome the absence of Lionel Messi and other regular starters on Thursday, losing 2-1 at Levante in the first leg of the Copa del Rey’s round of 16.

Barcelona’s second-stringers struggled from the start in Valencia, escaping an even greater defeat only because Levante’s forwards squandered some clear scoring chances.

[ MORE: Willian-Malcom swap? ]

The return game is next Thursday at Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona, when the four-time defending champion is expected to have some of its starters back in action after they were rested this week.

Levante took the lead early with a close-range header by Uruguayan defender Erick Cabaco in the third minute, and striker Borja Mayoral scored the second goal with a low cross shot in the 18th.

The hosts kept threatening throughout the match, taking advantage of a Barcelona defense that was without Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba. Newly signed Colombian player Jeison Murillo was making his club debut in central defense.

“We got off to a great start,” Mayoral said. “We pressed early because we knew they were not used to playing together.”

Without Messi and Luis Suarez in attack, the Catalan club had difficulties creating scoring opportunities. The trio of Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele and Malcom was largely ineffective, and the team’s lone goal came late with a penalty kick converted by Coutinho in the 85th after substitute Denis Suarez got past a defender and was fouled inside the area.

“In the second leg hopefully we will take advantage of Coutinho’s goal,” Murillo said.

Barcelona routed Levante 5-0 in Valencia in a league match in December.

SEVILLA THRIVES

Sevilla, a Copa finalist in two of the last three seasons, cruised to a 3-1 away win over Athletic Bilbao with goals by Manuel “Nolito” Agudo, Andre Silva and Wissam Ben Yedder.

Mikel San Jose scored for Athletic, which is fighting against relegation in the Spanish league.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines ]

The teams face each other again in the league on Sunday. Their second-leg match in the Copa is next week in Seville.

Also Thursday, Real Betis was held by visiting Real Sociedad to a 0-0 draw.

On Wednesday, Real Madrid defeated Leganes 3-0 at home, while Atletico Madrid drew 1-1 at Girona.

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

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

MLS All Stars lose to Real Madrid in penalties

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Leave a comment

Borja Mayoral and Dom Dwyer traded goals during regulation of the MLS All Star Game at Soldier Field in Chicago on Wednesday, and Real Madrid joined the All Stars in penalty kicks.

Luca Zidane stopped Dwyer’s opening penalty kick and Giovani dos Santos cranked the second MLS All Stars PK off the crossbar as Real Madrid topped the All Stars 4-2 in the shootout.

Mayoral was named the match’s MVP.

[ MORE: Neymar to make $1m per week at PSG ]

There were two painful moments in the first 10 minutes. First, Atlanta United defender Greg Garza separate his shoulder.

Then Graham Zusi stamped down Theo Hernandez’s shin and onto his foot in what looked even worse upon replay.

Tim Howard was the star of the first half as Real Madrid held possession deep in the MLS All Stars half, relegating the home side to counter attacks.

Marco Asensio tried to chip Howard just after the half hour mark, but the Colorado Rapids backstop swatted the shot in NBA fashion.

The All Stars finally produced an A-plus chance in the 36th minute, as Kaka found David Villa only to see Keylor Navas parry the New York City FC man’s shot out for a corner that Real defended well.

Sergio Ramos joined the group of Spaniards trying to chip Howard with a goofy offering when played on goal in the 43rd minute, but the shot sailed over the goal.

Sebastian Giovinco has a sense of the occasion, and nearly hit a gorgeous, swerving rocket past Navas as the match reached halftime.

Full scale changes met the second half’s start, and the game felt a lot more wide open. Editorial note: Theo Hernandez looks as smooth as necessary to play for a side like Real.

Mayoral’s goal appeared class, with Hernan Grana caught out of position, but turned out to be a deflection that caught Stefan Frei unaware. Either way, 1-0 in the 59th minute.

Zinedine Zidane then rolled out some impressive subs in the forms of Marcelo, Gareth Bale, and Karim Benzema.

Marcelo played an incredible left-footed pass for his first move, while both Benzema and Bale tempted the goal within minutes of entering the match.

Nemanja Nikolic looked to have made it 1-1 off a break in the 70th minute, but it was an optical illusion as his shot splashed off the outside of the net.

Dwyer did equalize with a 87th minute header on the doorstep after Diego Valeri’s corner kick was headed off the post by Dax McCarty, pinballed off Kellyn Acosta’s arm and onto the noggin of the Sporting KC Orlando City man. Luca Zidane had little chance, even considering he got a paw on the ball.

Editorializing again, I’m happy to admit that the match surpassed my expectations for entertainment, even if I no longer love the format.