Messi, Rakitic Light Up Wembley As Stylish Barca Sink Spurs

Barcelona’s Argentinian striker Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring their third goal during the Champions League group B football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona at Wembley Stadium in London, on October 3, 2018. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Lionel Messi’s Wembley masterclass and a sublime strike from Ivan Rakitic got Barcelona back in the groove as they clinched a pulsating 4-2 victory against Tottenham on Wednesday.

Ernesto Valverde’s side arrived in London for the Champions League Group B tie amid a mini-crisis after failing to win their last three La Liga games.

But the Spanish champions have fond memories of the English national stadium, where they won the European Cup in 1992 and 2011, and they were revitalised by the sight of the iconic venue.

Aided by a rush of blood from Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, Barcelona went ahead after only 92 seconds as Philippe Coutinho scored their quickest Champions League goal since 2005.

Rakitic stole the spotlight midway through the first half when the Croatia midfielder struck with a thunderous half-volley.

In a dramatic second half, Tottenham’s Harry Kane reduced the deficit before the majestic Messi added Barcelona’s third.

Erik Lamela’s deflected strike kept Tottenham in the hunt, but Messi capped a mesmerising performance in the final moments to give Barca a second successive group-stage victory as they emerged from their recent struggles.

Tottenham are in danger of crashing out at the group stage for the second time in three years.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side have lost both of their group matches after a 2-1 defeat at Inter Milan in their opener.

They head to PSV Eindhoven for their next European fixture on October 24 knowing a win is essential as they already trail Barca and Inter by six points.

Tottenham Hotspur defender Toby Alderweireld (R) tackles Lionel Messi during the match 
Ian KINGTON / IKIMAGES / AFP

 

It took Messi less than two minutes to show reports of Barca’s demise were greatly exaggerated.

Taking possession on the halfway line, Messi was pressured by Son Heung-Min, but his devastating response was simply sublime.

Messi twisted away from Son as if swatting away an annoying fly, then unfurled a perfectly-weighted pass that picked out Jordi Alba’s run behind Tottenham defender Kieran Trippier.

Alba alertly picked out Coutinho on the edge on the penalty area and, with Lloris having needlessly rushed off his line, the former Liverpool forward was able to fire into the empty net.

It was a bad mistake by Lloris in the French World Cup winner’s first appearance since August after a torrid period marred by a thigh injury and his arrest for drink-driving.

Messi (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring their third goal 
Photo: Ian KINGTON/IKIMAGES/AFP

Messi magic

Tottenham were decimated by injuries to Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele and it took 25 minutes before they finally had a shot when Kane brought a routine save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

That was only a brief respite for Tottenham as Valverde’s team doubled their lead in the 28th minute.

Once again the creation and execution were breath-taking.

Messi clipped a pass to Luis Suarez before Coutinho smartly hooked the ball back from the touchline to the edge of the area, where Rakitic launched himself into the air for an agile half-volley that flashed past Lloris.

Messi was toying with Tottenham and it seemed only a matter of how many Barcelona would win by when he glided away for a shot that struck a post early in the second half.

Spellbound by Messi’s magic, Tottenham backed off again moments later as the striker hit the woodwork for a second time.

Yet Kane gave Tottenham a lifeline when the England forward netted against the run of play in the 52nd minute.

Powering into the Barca area with intent, Kane side-stepped Nelson Semedo and planted a powerful low strike into the far corner for his 10th goal in 12 Champions League appearances.

Messi had the perfect response in the 56th minute when he cantered onto Alba’s pass and side-footed past Lloris.

Tottenham refused to surrender and Lamela set up a tense finale when his 66th minute shot deflected off Clement Lenglet and flew past ter Stegen.

But Messi had the last word when he slotted home from Alba’s cross to ease Barca’s nerves in the 90th minute.

AFP

I’m Sure Messi Will Stay, Says Rakitic

Barcelona’s midfielder Ivan Rakitic from Croatia attends a press conference on the eve of the UEFA Champions League football match Juventus Vs Barcelona on November 21, 2017, at the ‘Juventus Stadium’ in Turin. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic expressed his confidence on Tuesday that Lionel Messi would sign a new contract to stay at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona announced last summer a three-year extension of the Argentinian’s contract until 2021 — agreed with his father and agent — but the 30-year-old has still not made the agreement official.

Barcelona’s forward Lionel Messi attends a training session on November 21, 2017 at the ‘Juventus Stadium’ in Turin. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

“Leo is the same as usual. We don’t discuss it. Everyone has his ideas and secrets, you have to respect that. But I’m sure he’ll stay,” said Croatian Rakitic when asked about Messi’s contract situation with the Catalan side.

“His name is part of Barca history, it’s like the emblem. He contributed to making Barca great,” continued the attacking midfielder ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash against Juventus in Turin.

“Of course I can’t tell you at 100 percent that he will stay. That the fans await his signature is normal. Me too as I want to continue playing with Leo. We imagine that he thinks the same and that we still have a long way to go together.

“I’ve confidence in my president and in Leo. If he thinks that it’s necessary to wait, that’s how it is. Leo knows how the fans feel about him. But we must not annoy him with that. We have to let him make his decision calmly.”

Messi’s hesistancy to commit his future to Barcelona after 16 years with the club has left fans increasingly nervous, especially after the departure of Brazilian star Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain in the close season.

AFP

Mascherano Warns Barcelona Against Juventus Attackers

Courtesy: marca.com

Barcelona defender, Javier Mascherano, has cautioned his teammates against Juventus pair, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala, ahead of Tuesday night’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg tie.

Juventus will meet Barcelona for the first time since the 2015 Champions League final, when an early Ivan Rakitic strike left Massimiliano Allegri’s men with a mountain to climb before they succumbed 3­-1 in Berlin.

Barcelona will be without Sergio Busquets due to suspension, meaning Mascherano could be given a rare outing in the midfield holding role.

Neymar, as well as Rakitic and Gerard Pique, who returned to the team following a suspension against Malaga, are all one booking away from a suspension that would rule them out of the return leg.

El Clasico: Ronaldo Winner Shocks Barcelona At Camp Nou

RonaldoCristiano Ronaldo scored late for 10-man Real Madrid to snatch a 2-1 comeback win at Barcelona.

The evening started with a moving pre-match tribute to the late Johan Cruyff but not much of exciting football was seen in the first half.

Barcelona’s Gerard Pique opened the scoring in the 56th minute, slipping away from Pepe to send a thumping header into the net from Rakitic’s right-wing delivery.

Karim Benzema equalized six minutes later. He acrobatically volleied home after the ball had deflected off Jordi Alba in a move that started with Madrid full-back Marcelo.

Ronaldo slotted in the winner in the 85th, moments after Madrid’s Sergio Ramos received a second booking for diving in on Suarez.

The three-time Ballon d’Or winner chested down Bale’s deep right-wing cross at the back post and buried the ball beyond Bravo.

Madrid remained in third place, one point behind Atletico Madrid after its 5-1 win over Real Betis, reducing the deficit with Barcelona to seven points with seven rounds left.

Madrid’s first win at Camp Nou since 2013 also ended Barcelona’s Spanish record unbeaten streak at 39 games across all competitions.