Lionel Messi’s stunner saves Barcelona from second straight loss

Lionel Messi saved Barcelona from its second straight defeat by scoring with a 90th-minute free kick in a 1-1 draw at Villarreal in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Three days after losing 2-1 to Athletic Bilbao in a first-leg match in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey, Barcelona failed to break through until Messi produced his superb strike from the edge of the area.

Despite Messi’s late intervention, Barcelona now sits third in La Liga, five points behind leader Real Madrid, which has a game in hand.
Prospects of a third straight league title are looking ever more distant, while last week’s 2-1 last-16 defeat by Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Cup has given Barca work to do in Thursday’s second leg at the Nou Camp if Enrique’s team is to reach the quarterfinals.

“We deserved more, we deserved to win, but in the end we were able to salvage a point,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said.

Lionel Messi in action celebrating a goal with his teammates.

Messi, who earned the free kick after being fouled just outside the box, had already been denied by the post after a shot from inside the area in the 73rd minute. 

“We had the game won but it didn’t happen because of the talent of a great player,” Villarreal midfielder Bruno Soriano said of Messi.

It was the 13th goal for Messi in the Spanish league this season, leaving him as the competition’s leading scorer after 17 rounds.

The hosts scored first with a goal by Nicola Sansone after he was set up by Alexandre Pato in a breakaway in the 49th minute.

Real Madrid, which routed Granada 5-0 on Saturday, has a four-point lead over Sevilla and a five-point advantage over third-placed Barcelona. Madrid also has a game in hand.

Sevilla moved second after winning 4-0 at Real Sociedad on Saturday.

“There is still a lot of league left,” Luis Enrique said. “I’m sure we will still be able to fight for it, but we depend on Madrid.”


Ronaldo to beat Messi to best player gong?

Though Messi was again the star man for Barcelona, he is expected to miss out on The Best FIFA Men’s Player Award when it is handed out on Monday.
The 29-year-old helped power Barca to a domestic league and cup double last season but Ronaldo won the European Champions League with Real and Euro 2016 with Portugal.
France forward Antoine Griezmann completes the lineup, after he had a fine season for club — Atletico Madrid — and country.
The ceremony takes place at 1830 CET at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.
Lionel Messi was a one-man dynamo on Sunday night.


After upsetting Barcelona despite playing the final minutes with nine men on Wednesday, Athletic failed to win again at home and stayed seventh in the league.

It was 12th-placed Alaves that came closest to scoring at San Mames Stadium when Victor Camarasa struck the left post with a right-foot shot from outside the area in the 36th minute.

Athletic needs a draw against Barcelona at Camp Nou on Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

Striker Ruben Castro and defender Cristiano Piccini scored a goal each in the second half to give 14th-placed Real Betis a 2-0 home win over Leganes, which has won only one of its last 10 games and is near the relegation zone. In Vigo, ninth-placed Celta defeated struggling Malaga 3-1 with goals by Iago Aspas, Daniel Wass and Andreu Fontas.

On Monday, Valencia will try to halt a seven-game winless streak in the league when it plays at bottom side Osasuna.




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