Karim Benzema

Getty Images

La Liga roundup: Barcelona, Real Madrid remain level on points after wins (video)

Leave a comment

Routine wins from league favorites Barcelona and Real Madrid, highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Barcelona 5-2 RCD Mallorca

It was a special night at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.

Fresh from winning the Ballon d’Or for a record sixth time, Lionel Messi was greeted by his three children on the field, who handed him a shinny, golden ball – given yearly to the best player in the world – prior to the first whistle.

From that point on, it was evident that it would be all smiles for everyone tied to the defending champions at the stadium (and for those watching remotely) on Saturday.

 

That was the case.

Antoine Griezmann – a topic of conversation due to lack of productivity at Barcelona this season – kicked off the game with a solo run and subsequent goal in the seventh minute, opening the floodgates.

As a celebration of his latest, individual accomplishment, Messi showcased the power and precision of his left foot at the tune of a hat-trick. The Argentine ace scored twice in the first half and another in consolation time, putting his season total mark at a league-best 12 goals.

The moment and goal of the night (possibly of the season) didn’t directly involve Messi, however. With a daring, emphatic and genius back-heel strike, not only did Luis Suarez put the home side up 4-1, but cemented himself in the ballot for best goal of the season.

With 34 and a better goal differential than Real Madrid, Barcelona remain atop of La Liga ahead of their clash with Inter Milan on Tuesday, while Mallorca hope Ante Budimir can score another brace; this time against a struggling Celta Vigo next weekend.

Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol

With goals from Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, Real Madrid comfortably cruised past a struggling Espanyol.

With the majority of Real Madrid in Espanyol’s final third following a recovered free-kick attempt, Benzema charged his way into the box before laying off a ball to Varane, who not a proven goalscorer whatsoever, placed the ball into the back of the net with ease.

It was the 37th minute, and the home side were up 1-0 against a poor Espanyol.

With a notable superior style at hand, Los Blancos continued to surge forward. Opportunities at goal were generated but the ball wouldn’t go past ex-Real Madrid ‘keeper Diego Lopez.

Then, in the 79th minute, Benzema registered his 11th goal of the season, finishing an off-balance pass from Federico Valverde inside the box.

Winners in their last La Liga bouts, Real Madrid now prepare for their Champions League Group Stage finale against Club Brugge midweek. Espanyol, despite being in the drop zone, host CSKA Moscow in their Europa League Group Stage finale. The Catalonian club lead Group H with 11 points after five matches.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Granada 3-0 Alaves

Levante 2-4 Valencia

UCL AT HALF: Spurs down in Mourinho’s home debut; VAR stars at Real

Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The UEFA Champions League is seeing some nerves on display on the penultimate match day of the group stage.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

In the case of Man City, Shakhtar Donetsk has been very up to the task at the Etihad Stadium and the first goal has yet to arrive in England.

At Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, however, things are dicier for the hosts in Jose Mourinho’s first home match as boss. Spurs are down 2-1 after a beautiful opener and sloppy follow-up have Olympiacos in front, with Dele Alli pulling one back before the break.

Elsewhere…

Karim Benzema put Real Madrid ahead of visiting Paris Saint-Germain, but the hosts looked down to be 10 men when Thibaut Courtois slid Kylian Mbappe on the edge of stoppage time.

VAR spotted a foul in the build-up against PSG’s Idrissa Gana Gueye, however, and it pulled back the entire play. A dodgy decision goes in favor of Real at the Bernabeu? Gasp.

Bayern Munich has a lead at Red Star Belgrade through a 14th minute Leon Goretzka goal, and the other matches are scoreless.

Juventus is up on Atletico Madrid through a late Paulo Dybala goal.

Group A
PSG 1-0 Real Madrid
Galatasaray 1-1 Club Brugge — FINAL

Group B
Red Star Belgrade 0-1 Bayern Munich
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Olympiacos

Group C
Man City 0-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Atalanta 1-0 Dinamo Zagreb

Group D
Juventus 1-0 Atletico Madrid
Lokomotiv Moscow 0-2 Bayer Leverkusen — FINAL

La Liga Roundup: Modric, Benzema guide Real Madrid past Real Sociedad (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Real Madrid’s comeback victory over in-form Real Sociedad highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Madrid 3-1 Real Sociedad

With Barcelona edging Leganes, Real Madrid manages to remain level in points with the league’s leaders following a win of their own over visiting Real Sociedad.

Federico Valverde and Luka Modric scored in the second half for Los Blancos, extend their winning streak to two games. Throughout 13 games, only a goal separates Zinedine Zidane and company from arch rivals Barcelona, with both teams sitting at 28 points apiece.

Two minutes in, the game had a completely different feeling.

A faulty back pass from captian Sergio Ramos to Thibaut Courtois was intercepted by Brazilian forward William Jose, who made no mistake in taking advantage of the gift placed in front of him by

In the 28th minute, following some mesmerizingly quick faints inside the penalty box, Correa laid it off to Saul, who spun around the Belgian goalkeeper, and, subsequently, finished with poise in front of goal. The team that has surprised many this season was off to a fitting, yet dreamy start at the Bernabeu.

If there has been a player that has bailed Madrid out of undesired situations this season, it’s been Karim Benzema.

As La Liga’s top scorer that he is, the Frenchman’s high-yielding goal scoring capabilities gave the home side reasons to believe that not all wast lost. Crashing into the box, the 31-year-old chested Modric’s whipping cross into the goal’s lower corner, leveling the score and influencing the goals that were to come for Real Madrid in the second half.

A quick turnaround for Real Madrid as they host PSG in Champions League midweek, while Real Sociedad look to get back into the shape that has guided them into the top five when they host Alaves.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Leganes 1-2 Barcelona

Real Betis 2-1 Valencia

Granada 1-1 Atletico Madrid

Le Graet says Benzema will never play for France again

Getty Images
Leave a comment

France Football president Noel le Graet says Karim Benzema will never play for France again, and Benzema is furious.

The head man said Saturday that Benzema will not return to the French national team, despite calls for the Real Madrid striker to make his return to the national team. Benzema has not played for France since 2015, frozen out as part of the fallout from the Mathieu Valbuena sex tape affair.

It is that incident and that alone that has kept Benzema off the field for Les Blues, said le Graet. “For me, Benzema is a very good player. I have never criticised his qualities,” le Graet told RMC Sport on Saturday. “On the contrary, he is proving again this year at Madrid that he is one of the best players in his position. But the adventure with France is over.”

Benzema responded soon after on social media, pleading for a chance to play again and firing back at le Graet’s suggestion that he is done.

“Noël, I thought that you did not interfere with the decisions of the national team coach!” Benzema wrote on Twitter. “Know that it will be me and me alone who decides when my international career is over. If you think that I am finished, let me play for a country that I am eligible to play for and we will see.”

Benzema was also eligible to play for Algeria before choosing France, but according to FIFA rules, he cannot switch to another national team having racked up 81 career appearances for Les Blues.

Pressure from fans to call in Benzema has increased with Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann both in poor form, leaving Kylan Mbappe to shoulder much of the attacking load. Benzema, meanwhile, has scored 11 goals in 15 appearances for Real Madrid across all competitions this season. French publication L’Equipe ran a poll asking whether Benzema was the best striker in France, and 73% of responses indicated “yes.”

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

Getty Images
2 Comments

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

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

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