Martin Odegaard

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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.

Odegaard shines again as Real Sociedad take 1st leg lead

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It took a long while, but Martin Odegaard is delivering the goods.

The teen phenom whose recruitment carried a captive audience five years ago is now a 21-year-old proven playmaker in two leagues.

Odegaard scored again Thursday as Real Sociedad took a Copa Del Rey semifinal first-leg lead with a 2-1 win over second-tier Mirandes.

The second leg is March 5 in Castile and León, where Mirandes looks to make history as a Copa del Rey finalist from outside La Liga.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Mikel Oyarzabal gave Real Sociedad a ninth-minute lead on Thursday before Matheus Aias leveled the score for Cinderella in the 39th. Odegaard found the match-winner in the 42nd.

That gives the Real Madrid loanee three goals and three assists in four tournament matches for the Txuri-urdinak.

Odegaard had already captured the attention of some of the world’s biggest clubs when he was called up by Norway at age 15. Barcelona was linked, and the kid said he loved Liverpool on a visit that came shortly after he hit up Old Trafford.

He eventually chose Real Madrid, debuting with the first team in 2014/15 but only making one more senior appearance in 2016/17 before heading on loan to Heerenveen in the Netherlands.

Odegaard showed glimpses of class there, but really took off with 11 goals and 12 assists for Vitesse Arnhem last season.

Now he has Real Sociedad on the brink of a first Copa del Rey final since 1988, collecting seven goals and eight assists in 24 matches.

Isak, loanee Odegaard send Real Madrid out of Copa del Rey

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Real Madrid will not win the Copa del Rey.

They won’t even get close.

La Liga’s current leaders were dismissed from the tournament in a 4-3 loss at home to Real Sociedad, the visitors boasting Madrid loanee Martin Odegaard.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

While the Norwegian star scored, it was Swedish phenom Alexander Isak who did the damage with two goals and an assist in a 16-minute span after halftime.

Isak has 13 goals in 27 matches this season, with seven coming in the Copa del Rey.

It was 1-0 to the visitors at halftime, and 3-0 before Marcelo finally scored for Madrid. Rodrygo and Nacho Fernandez pulled the hosts to within one, but it was too little, too late.

Real Madrid had never conceded four goals in a match under Zinedine Zidane, and this loss ends their side’s 21-match unbeaten streak.

Madrid has 19 tournament wins in Copa del Rey history but has not played in a final since beating Barcelona in the 2013/14 event.

Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona are staging the final quarterfinal Thursday, and the winner will join Real Sociedad, Granada, and Cinderella story Mirandes of the Segunda Division in the semis.

La Liga roundup: Granada tops table Real Sociedad stays close (video)

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Granada’s rise to the top of the table highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Granada 1-0 Real Betis

Perhaps the biggest storyline in what is still a young La Liga season is recently-promoted side Granda’s impressive season.

With only two losses and a historic 2-0 win over Barcelona this season, Diego Martínez’s side are separating themselves from the notion that they’re running on luck, and instead are gravitating towards becoming a legitimate force within the league.

On Sunday, for a second time this season, the Andalusian side reached the La Liga summit – albeit El Clasico was postponed due to Catalonia’s political crisis.

The game boosted only a goal – a gentle strike inside the six-yard box from Alvaro Vadillo – but saw a handful of chances be wasted by both sides. Real Betis, who are in the relegation zone as a result of the outcome, controlled the possession of the ball and accumulated a total of 12, although none were on target.

Betis manager, Rubi, who joined the recent Europa League competitors this summer, is expected to be back on the dugout midweek, although his job hangs on a thread.

That said, a lot will be on the line when Betis receives Celta Vigo midweek, while Granada, on the other side of the spectrum, look to keep defying the odds as they travel to Getafe.

Celta Vigo 0-1 Real Sociedad 

Over the summer, Real Sociedad bet on two Scandinavian youngsters Alexander Isak and Martin Ödegaard, signing the former to a permanent deal and bringing in the latter on a loan from Real Madrid.

Long story short, they’ve payed dividends thus far for La Reala, who climbed up to third in the table following their 1-0 victory against Celta Vigo.

The youthful duo had everything to do with the visitor’s win in Balaidos.

In the 82nd minute, after taking the field seven minutes earlier, Isak’s unbalanced left-footed strike struck the inner-portion of the net. Ödegaard, as vigilant as ever before, picked out the Swedish attacker and assisted what would be his game-winning goal.

Real Sociedad now aim to continue their positive run going as they host Levante, while struggling Celta hope they can edge Real Betis, who are also experiencing a sour moment themselves.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Levante 0-1 Espanyol 

Sevilla 2-0 Getafe 

Osasuna 3-1 Valencia

VIDEO: Odegaard continues fine form with dazzling assist

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Remember Martin Odegaard? As it turns out, writing him off at 18 years old might have been a mistake.

[ MORE: Barcelona gets $329 fine for tampering with Antoine Griezmann ]

The 20-year-old (yes, really) Norwegian midfielder had already scored twice (and played ever minute) in Real Sociedad’s still-young La Liga campaign ahead of Thursday’s home bout with Alaves. Sociedad cruised to a 3-0 victory to go second in the league table and Odegaard, who’s still being loaned out by Real Madrid in the hopes he eventually delivers on his seemingly limitless potential, put on a bit of a show.

First, there was the nutmeg. Then, there was the 25-yard diagonal through ball to split four defenders before stopping the ball on a dime just out of reach of goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco, so Mikel Oyarzabal could swoop in and touch it home a fraction of a second before Pacheco arrived.

Inch-perfect.

[ MORE: If Klopp left Liverpool, he would back Gerrard to replace him ]

Odegaard was never short on the flash and flair — the “wow” factor — but he rarely came delivered the end product which comes from working within the confines of the team setup, while also still managing to turn heads and drop jaws. Sure, six games is a dangerously small sample size, but Odegaard appears to have fully bought into what manager Imanol Alguacil demands of him, and that’s a thoroughly welcome development for the rest of us.