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La Liga: VAR saves Barcelona, Atletico defense breached again

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Lionel Messi has saved Barcelona’s bacon on plenty of occasions throughout his illustrious career, and while officially today he’s once again led the club to three points with his 81st minute penalty to earn a 1-0 victory over Real Sociedad, VAR was the true hidden hero.

Replay caught Robin Le Normand miss with a headed clearance in the box, instead the ball just catching him in the shoulder, and the referee in the booth called for a penalty. Messi dispatched the spot-kick to earn the win and doom La Real to a harsh result. Still, Barcelona completely dominated the match ripping of 13 shots with six on target to Real Sociedad’s just one shot on frame.

Real Madrid loanee Martin Odegaard was kept relatively in check by Barcelona’s midfield while Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong were calming forces throughout for the home side. The three points sends Barcelona top of the La Liga table, with Real Madrid a chance to reclaim the lead tomorrow at Real Betis.

Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid was held to a third draw in its last four league games with a 2-2 home result against Sevilla, with the defense breached for the fourth straight match. Luuk De Jong put Sevilla up at the Wanda Metripolitano 19 minutes in after a miserable challenge from Stefan Savic saw the Dutchman’s first touch put him through. A penalty from Alvaro Morata brought Atletico back level past the half-hour mark, and they went in front just four minutes later through Joao Felix after Koke stole the ball in midfield and did all the hard work on the break.

Still, it wasn’t enough as Lucas Ocampos struck from the penalty spot just before halftime and the second half was goalless to see Atletico fall a full 13 points back of the La Liga leaders, potentially 14 back if Real Madrid wins tomorrow. Currently, that’s just good enough for fifth as Atletico Madrid sits outside the Champions League places. Sevilla, meanwhile, sits in third on 47 points, 11 back of the leader.

Elsewhere, Real Madrid youngster Takefusa Kubo gave Mallorca a 2-1 win over Eibar. The 18-year-old’s 78th minute goal proved the winner as he beat two defenders at the top of the box and delivered a low effort off the inside of the left post. The win was enormous for Mallorca who rose to 18th, still in a relegation position but only based on goal differential. Eibar sits in 16th just two points ahead of the drop.

Getafe and Celta Vigo played to a scoreless draw at Coliseum Alfonso Perez as the hosts ripped off 16 shots to Celta Vigo’s three but could not find the back of the net. Jamie Mata missed the biggest chance for Getafe just past the half-hour mark as he fired over from a central spot just outside the six-yard box. Getafe midfielder Mauro Arambarri was sent off for a second yellow card with eight minutes to go as the hosts looked for a winner, making the late push even more difficult. The draw is a disappointing result for fourth-placed Getafe who could have used the opportunity to pull away from Atletico Madrid after their draw against Sevilla. For Celta Vigo, the point is enormous amidst a relegation battle, sitting in 17th now two points above the drop.

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: Messi ties Ronaldo’s La Liga hat-trick record (video)

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Lionel Messi’s emphatic performance against Celta Vigo highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Barcelona 4-1 Celta Vigo

There’s great, and then there’s Lionel Messi great.

Against Celta Vigo at Camp Nou on Saturday, the Argentine put together one of his finest performances this season, scoring a hat-trick in 48 minutes that included two free kicks. The hat trick marks Messi’s 34th of his La Liga career (459 games), tying Cristiano Ronaldo’s record.

“It’s clear that when it’s so close we have the advantage of having the best player in the world and the best free-kick taker in the world,” teammate Sergio Busquets said following the game. “He’s been improving and that’s an advantage, I hope he keeps scoring them.”

 

Messi opened the scoring in the 23rd minute from the penalty spot, only to commit the foul that would lead to Celta’s equalizer  – a well-placed free kick from Lucas Olaza – three minutes before the end of the second half.

If anything, the yellow card he earned and subsequent goal from the visitors served as motivation for Messi, because magic from Barcelona’s No. 10 was on its way.

Minutes before the whistle that would see both sides head into their respective dressing rooms, Messi netted his first well-stuck free kick. Minutes after both teams took the field after the break, his second inch-perfect free kick found the back of net. Both free kicks were fired over the wall and curled into the top corner.

Messi has scored nine goals in his last seven games throughout all competitions. With eight league goals to his name, only Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has more goals than Messi’s seven this season.

In the 85th minute, Busquets’ strike from the top of the 18-yard mark helped Barcelona seal their victory, ending a two-game winless streak in league play.

Barcelona, who are now level with rivals Real Madrid with 25 points, travel to Leganes following the international break, defending, while Celta Vigo, who continue in a crisis despite recently appointing Oscar Garcia Junyent as manager, will look for their third win of the season against Villarreal.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 0 – 4 Real Madrid 

Alaves 3-0 Real Valladolid 

Valencia 2-0 Granada

La Liga roundup: Atletico Madrid win, go level on points with Barcelona (video)

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Atletico Madrid’s victory over Athletic Bilbao, inspired by Angel Correa’s genius, highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Atletico Madrid 4-2 Granada

Diego Simeone took what many would consider to be a gamble prior to Saturday’s first whistle: starting Angel Correa over Diego Costa, Atletico’s goal scoring machine.

By the 64th minute, however, everyone at the Wanda Metropolitana and Simeone himself knew that the right choice was made. Correa – a low light coming into Saturday’s game – contributed the assists on both goals that handed Los Colchoneros their fifth win of the season.

Early on, it was Jan Oblak to the rescue, as Athletic’s attack cracked the home side’s backline. Specifically, the Slovenian showed off his impeccable abilities when, Iñigo Martínez’s header from a corner kick set piece, was just tipped over the crossbar.

The Basque’s club dominance wouldn’t last long.

In the 28th minute, following some mesmerizingly quick faints inside the penalty box, Correa laid it off to Saul, who made no mistake and put it into the back of net. It was the start of the Argentine’s special night.

Following a slew of uninterrupted passes, it was Correa again making the penultimate effort. This time, his darting, crossing service within the box found a well-positioned Alvaro Morata, who gently tapped the ball into the back of the net.

With the postponement of El Clasico, which was done because Catalan separatists are planning another large rally in Barcelona, Atletico will share the podium with leaders Barcelona for at least a week after their win against Athletic Bilbao, who host Espanyol next.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Leganes 1-0 RCD Mallorca 

Valladolid 2-0 Eibar

La Liga Roundup: Bale scores brace, salvages draw for Real Madrid

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Gareth Bale and Joao Felix headline Sunday’s La Liga action.

[ MORE: Atletico’s Felix scores first La Liga goal ]

Villarreal 2-2 Real Madrid

Just a couple of months ago, Zinedine Zidane made it clear it’d be “best for everyone” for Gareth Bale to leave Real Madrid amid a reported lucrative move to China. On Sunday, Spain’s most dramatized transfer saga this summer didn’t matter, as the Welshman showcased glimpses of former glory with his two-goal performance against Villarreal, securing a vital point for Los Merengues. 

Bale opened his account with the final touch of the first half, slotting in a delicate pass from Dani Carvajal into the net. His second goal, though, rolled back the years. Inside the box, with the ball tightly tucked on his preferred left foot, the Welshman’s perfectly-placed ball was impossible for Andres Fernandez to save.

The night wasn’t perfect for Bale, however.

Right before the final whistle, the 30-year-old was sent off after seeing his second yellow card of the night.

Of course, Bale coming to rescue wouldn’t be a talking point unless the hosts had done their fair share of work, which they did. In the 74th minute, Moi Gomez had all but sealed the game for El Submarino Amarillo. 12 minutes in, Gerard Moreno tallied his third of the season in just as many games.

Without Bale, Real Madrid host Levante next, while Villarreal look to secure their first win of the season against the league’s bottom-dwellers, Leganes.

Atletico Madrid 3-2 Eibar 

Joao Felix did open his La Liga account, but Atletico’s big moment came in the final stages of the match, when Thomas Party’s determined run into the box resulted in a last-second, game-winning goal for the home side.

Diego Simeone’s side are now La Liga’s clear-cut leaders, winning three straight games to start the season.

Eibar started off strong, finishing two of the three chances they created in the first half. But as the clocked ticked, the visitors lost their effectiveness, despite it being a quiet night for Los Colchoneros in terms of generating a plethora of looks at goal.

Like Felix and Partey, Vitolo contributed his second goal of the season, leveling the score in the 52nd minute. Renan Lodi and Diego Costa assisted on Sunday.

The league leaders will look to continue their applaudable run of form as they travel to San Sebastian to take on Real Sociedad, following the conclusion of the international break. Eibar, on the other hand, host an equally-struggling Espanyol.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Valencia 2-0 RCD Mallorca

Espanyol 0-3 Granada