Football

Messi orchestrates Barca fightback

Goal-bound: Frenkie de Jong pulls Barcelona level first time around off a Lionel Messi assist against Real Betis.

Goal-bound: Frenkie de Jong pulls Barcelona level first time around off a Lionel Messi assist against Real Betis.  

Inter rallies to win Milan derby

Lionel Messi gave a hat-trick of assists on Sunday as Barcelona ended its turbulent week with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Real Betis to stay in touch with Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.

Madrid’s 4-1 win at Osasuna earlier in the day put pressure on Barca to respond, only for Betis to twice lead at the Benito Villamarin through a penalty from Sergio Canales and brilliant solo effort from Nabil Fekir.

Yet both times Barcelona hit back as Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets pulled it level before Clement Lenglet headed in with 18 minutes left, all three goals teed up by Messi.

Fekir and Lenglet were then sent off in a frantic contest by the end of which, Barca had the victory it so desperately needed following a difficult few days for the club.

Political spat

Messi had put himself at the heart of a political spat this week by publicly taking exception to comments made by sporting director Eric Abidal, who suggested the players were the cause of the decision to sack Ernesto Valverde last month.

Barcelona was then beaten by Athletic Bilbao and knocked out of the Copa del Rey before the semifinals for the first time in 10 years on Thursday.

“In Bilbao we played well but they knocked us out,” said Barca coach Quique Setien. “This win will give us motivation and extra energy for the future.”

Making matters worse

To make matters worse, winger Ousmane Dembele suffered another hamstring injury, which is likely to keep him out for the rest of the season, while centre-back Samuel Umtiti appeared in court too, for alleged damages to a rented villa.

It meant defeat against Betis was unthinkable, particularly for Setien, who could ill-afford another setback against the team he managed for two years between 2017 and 2019.

Instead, Barca turned the tide, with a chaotic performance that might have been punished by better opponents, but that keeps it three points behind Real Madrid.

Storming back

Inter Milan moved top of Serie A on Sunday after storming back from two goals down to snatch a 4-2 win over AC Milan in a pulsating derby at the San Siro.

Inter pulls level on 54 points with Juventus, which lost 2-1 at Hellas Verona on Saturday, but is ahead of the champion on goal difference thanks to a exhilarating second half turnaround after Ante Rebic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic had put Milan 2-0 up at the break.

Hard-fought

Lazio is just a point behind in third after Felipe Caicedo scored the only goal in a hard-fought win at Parma earlier on Sunday.

Milan’s collapse means it missed the chance to move into the Europa League places and sits 10th.

The results: Premier League: Manchester City vs West Ham — postponed.

La Liga: Celta Vigo 2 (Aspas 78, Sisto 90+1) bt Sevilla 1 (En-Nesyri 23); Real Betis 2 (Canales 6-pen, Fekir 26) lost to Barcelona 3 (de Jong 9, Busquets 45+3, Lenglet 72); Osasuna 1 (Garcia 14) lost to Real Madrid 4 (Isco 33, Ramos 38, Lucas Vazquez 84, Jovic 90+2).

Serie A: Inter Milan 4 (Brozovic 51, Vecino 54, de Vrij 70, Lukaku 90+3) bt AC Milan 2 (Rebic 40, Ibrahimovic 45+1); Napoli 2 (Milik 48, Callejon 90) lost to Lecce 3 (Lapadula 29, 61, Mancosu 82); Brescia 1 (Bisoli 81) drew with Udinese 1 (De Paul 90+2); Genoa 1 (Pandev 43) drew with Cagliari 0; Parma 0 lost to Lazio 1 (Caicedo 41).

Bundesliga: Borussia Monchengladbach vs Cologne — postponed; Bayern Munich 0 drew with RB Leipzig 0.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 2:57:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/messi-orchestrates-barca-fightback/article30785813.ece

Next Story