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Early goal holds up for Barcelona at Man Utd (video)

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  • Suarez scores 13th minute opener
  • Man Utd with 10 shots, zero on target
  • Second leg Tuesday in Barcelona

Manchester United out-attempted UEFA Champions League favorites Barcelona but couldn’t find a way into the goal in a 1-0 quarterfinal first leg loss at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Luke Shaw own goal was the difference in a scrappy affair, put behind David De Gea on a play produced by Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

The second leg is Tuesday at the Camp Nou.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The early stages had a typical “feeling it out” vibe, though Marcus Rashford was especially lively.

Barcelona went ahead, and VAR helped give the goal overcome the linesman’s offside flag. Who knows what he was looking at it, but Suarez’s attempted header of a Messi cross came off Shaw and defied David De Gea with everyone onside. 1-0, 13′.

De Gea saved from Coutinho in the 36th minute, and Barca was buzzing again.

Diego Dalot headed over the goal with the crown of his head after a long cross found him back post.

By the way, Manchester United center back Chris Smalling saw nothing for this:

United has all of the ball and the chances to start the second half, but Barca held firm like Spurs versus Man City a day earlier.

Suarez knifed into the 18 but sliced his shot into the outside of netting in the 65th.

Messi tried to sneak a free kick through the wall but his shot deflected and De Gea adjusted to catch it in the 83rd, the lone moment of interest in a sleepy 10-15 minutes.

Gerard Pique then intervened to stop Anthony Martial from a prime scoring chance. The ensuing corner kick led to nothing.

Here’s the only goal:

UCL Wednesday preview: Barca wary of Man Utd size

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If Manchester United is to get past Barcelona, the likely victim on multiple levels will be Lionel Messi.

The Argentine megastar gets fouled in every match, and that’s certain to happen on Wednesday at Old Trafford in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Spurs-Man City recap | Kane hurt | 3 things ]

But Barcelona center back Gerard Pique and manager Ernesto Valverde is concerned about another kind of physical play, and that’s when Barcelona is taken out of the run of play.

“We have to be on our guard and look out for set pieces like corners, and crosses into the box,” Valverde said. “They are an English side, so they are strong, tall and will take advantage of opportunities. We have to try and avoid those situations and if we are on our game and we are focused, we can try to stop them.”

Pique is a former Manchester United youngster and is happy to be going back to Old Trafford and matching wits with one of his former teammates: Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

“I was 17 and he was one of the veterans. He had problems with injuries but you could see his quality in training. I’m glad to see him doing well as coach at Old Trafford and it will be a tough content but we hope we can win,” he said.

The other match sees further Manchester United connections, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus head to upstart Ajax.

Ronaldo will be start for The Old Lady, but Ajax will need to be wary of in-form Moise Kean and the solid play of youngster Daniele Rugani.

“We are all happy that he’s with us for tomorrow night’s game as he’s a very important player,” Rugani said. “I’m in a team of champions here and I’m very happy.”

To come full circle, there’s a Barcelona connection with Ajax; If you’re watching that match, be sure to keep a close eye on Frenkie de Jong before the Dutch youngster makes his big move to the Camp Nou this summer. He’s special.

Catalonia beats Venezuela 2-1 in friendly in Spain

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GIRONA, Spain (AP) Venezuela followed its win over Lionel Messi’s Argentina by losing to Catalonia 2-1 in a friendly on Monday.

Javi Puado scored in the 88th minute to give the hosts the win at Girona’s Montilivi Stadium. Bojan Krkic opened the scoring in the 53rd and Venezuela equalized through Roberto Rosales in the 59th.

Catalonia was led by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, who retired from Spain’s national team after the World Cup last year. He nearly scored with a curling free kick that struck the crossbar in the first half.

Venezuela earned a convincing 3-1 win over Argentina in Madrid on Friday, but after the game Venezuela coach Rafael Dudamel offered his resignation because he was not happy with the politicization of a pre-game visit to the squad.

Dudamel, who was on the bench on Monday, said his future would depend on talks with Venezuelan soccer federation officials.

Catalonia, the region which recently was in the middle of a heated independence dispute with Spain, was missing players because some non-Catalan teams didn’t release them to avoid the risk of injures ahead of the final period of the Spanish league.

Catalonia has often put together squads to play in friendly matches against other nations, but clubs are not obligated to release players to the region.

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

Messi magic as Barcelona crushes Lyon (video)

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Lionel Messi put on another masterclass as Barcelona buried Lyon 5-1 on Wednesday at the Camp Nou to advance to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

Messi saw Ronaldo’s hat trick versus Atletico Madrid, and raised him a Man of the Match display of his own with two goals and two assists.

Ousmane Dembele, Gerard Pique, and Philippe Coutinho also scored for Barca in the win, while Lucas Tousart scored for Lyon.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes was always likely to be a key component of any French upset, and stopped Lionel Messi inside of the first five minutes.

Former Man City man Jason Denayer took down Luis Suarez after Messi slipped him into the box, and Messi made no mistake with a chipped penalty after VAR upheld the decision.

Coutinho made it 2-0 in the 31st minute, on the scene to push a goal home after Suarez cut through the Lyon back line.

The French side didn’t walk away, though, and scored its goal through Tousart in the 65th minute.

But have you guys and girls heard of this Messi character? He scored the side’s third goal before cueing up Pique and Dembele for their insurance tallies.

Barcelona’s Gerard Pique buys tiny club in Spain’s 5th tier

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) The investment group headed by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has purchased FC Andorra, a soccer club in the small country of Andorra that plays in Spain’s lower leagues.

Pique said in a statement Saturday that investment group Kosmos has taken over after club members approved the sale.

FC Andorra, founded in 1942, currently plays in Spain’s fifth tier against clubs in Catalonia. It played in the third division in the 1980s and ’90s.

The acquisition of the team is the latest business move by the 31-year-old Pique.

Pique’s Kosmos has won the backing of the International Tennis Federation to revamp the Davis Cup, transforming it into a season-ending tournament held in one venue as opposed to the current format which spreads ties out over months in different countries.

Pique, who is married to pop star Shakira, has also launched business ventures in esports, video games, eyeglasses, isotonic drinks and organic hamburgers.

Andorra is a nation of around 75,000 people tucked in the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France. Its soccer teams have permission to play in Spanish competitions.