Barca blow chance to go top after Granada loss

Barcelona blew the chance of going top of La Liga after a shock 2-1 home defeat to Granada.

Lionel Messi had struck his 26th goal of the season with 23 minutes gone to put the Catalans on course for the summit in a compelling title race.

But Darwin Machis equalised on 63 minutes and Granada completed an unexpected comeback 11 minutes from time when substitute Jorge Molina headed in from close range.

Barca, whose coach Ronald Koeman was sent off in the aftermath of the Granada leveller, could have nudged one point ahead of Atletico Madrid but sit two points behind the league leaders Atletico Madrid and behind Real Madrid due to their inferior head-to-head record.

Messi had scored a fifth goal in his last four matches with a low cross-shot from inside the area after being teed up by Antoine Griezmann.

But the Argentine playmaker will rue what proved a crucial moment – not only in the game but potentially the title race – soon after as he spurned a one-on-one chance to beat Granada goalkeeper Aaron Escandell inside the area.

The visitors scored with both their shots on target at the Nou Camp, first through Machs on a counter after Oscar Mingueza failed to cut out Luis Suarez’s through-ball.

Koeman was soon ordered from his dugout by referee Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes for his complaints to the officials and his night got worse when Molina headed in Adrian Marin’s pinpoint cross to secure a first win at Barcelona for Diego Martinez’s side.

“We lost our focus in the second half and made errors at the back,” Koeman said.

“We need to accept the fact we’ve lost, that’s the reality of things. We had chances to win the game, but that’s that. We’ve got five more games to go and each of the sides (in the title race) will have difficulties in the schedule.

“We now need to prepare ourselves for Sunday’s game (away to Valencia). We’re still in the mix and have a chance. We need to accept this, move on and prepare for the next one.

“We tried but weren’t able to make many chances when they scored their goals. They closed shop well and we couldn’t create.”


Pep hopes ‘favourite’ Garcia gets Barca move

Pep Guardiola is hoping Eric Garcia can finalise a move to Barcelona when his contract expires at Manchester City this summer.

The City boss made the strongest suggestion yet that the centre-back is nearing a deal with the La Liga club, where he played as an academy product before joining City in 2017.

Garcia rejected a new City deal last summer and Sky Sports News reported in January that the Spanish defender was one of Barcelona’s top three transfer targets along with Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum and Lyon’s Memphis Depay.

Despite handing Garcia just one substitute appearance in the league this year, Guardiola has praised the 20-year-old’s attitude, calling him “one of my favourite players”.

Asked about the rotation of his squad following City’s Carabao Cup final win over Tottenham, Guardiola said: “There are players even who don’t play any matches. I think, for example, of Eric Garcia who is one of my favourite players.

Garcia has made just one league appearance this year, coming off the bench against Fulham
Garcia has made just one league appearance this year, coming off the bench against Fulham

“I would love to have 15 Eric Garcias for the way he conducts his behaviour. He is always thinking of the team. He’s always a good face in the good or bad moments. He helps the manager and the backroom staff all the time.

“He will go in an incredible team and when the people say they are unsatisfied if I don’t play, I think of Eric.

“Most of the time he’s not on the bench because he’s going to move to Barcelona, I hope so. It’s tough, but it is what it is.”



FREE TO WATCH: Highlight’s from Manchester City’s win over Tottenham in the Carabao Cup final

Pep: Much better with fans back

There was no need for artificial crowd noise on Sky Sports on Sunday as City and Tottenham supporters made their voices heard at Wembley.

A week after the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton welcomed a mixture of 4,000 local residents and key workers to Wembley, a total of 8,000 descended on the national stadium for City’s showdown with Spurs.

There were 2,000 supporters from both clubs inside the stadium, with a further 4,000 tickets split between groups including Brent residents and NHS staff.


Guardiola speaks to the media after becoming the fourth manager to win the League Cup on four occasions

“It’s much better, much better [with fans]. We play to score, that’s what’s important,” said Guardiola.

“Today we’re incredible. Happy to win the first title, In the past 33 games we won 30, that’s incredible. We play with incredible personality, from the first minute, to try to win the game. In general we play a really good final.

“We don’t have time to work [on set-pieces]. With this schedule, we don’t have time to do anything. Just the principles, it’s our fifth season together so we know what to do. Just to recover, try to be a unit. It’s tough, but the schedule is this way.

“Now we rest and prepare for the semi-final against PSG. And then after that we are two games away from winning the most important title – the Premier League.”


Euro: Griezmann scores twice in Barca comeback win

Antoine Griezmann produced a double as Barcelona’s LaLiga title challenge regained pace with a 2-1 defeat of 10-man Villarreal.

The club sit second in the table following the victory, with Atletico Madrid just two points above them at the top of the league.

Ronald Koeman’s squad had not suffered a LaLiga defeat since December before their losing encounter with reigning champions Real Madrid on April 10, but the club returned to winning form when defeating Getafe on Thursday and retained that momentum at Estadio de la Ceramica.

Their task was made easier by the dismissal of Manu Trigueros in the 65th minute, with the Spaniard’s lunging tackle on Lionel Messi earning him a straight red card.

Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze pounced on an opportunity to hand his side the lead in the 26th minute, with Pau Torres spotting a gap in Barca’s defence and finding the Nigerian, who made his way around Marc-Andre ter Stegen to open the scoring.

Barcelona showed their resolve to overcome Villarreal
Barcelona showed their resolve to overcome Villarreal

The lead proved to be short-lived, however, as Griezmann picked up a pass from Oscar Mingueza and responded almost immediately when firing past Sergio Asenjo to equalise two minutes later.

The Frenchman then struck again to hand the visitors the lead after 35 minutes, this time intercepting a weak back pass from Villarreal’s Juan Foyth and slotting the ball past a helpless Asenjo.

After the break the hosts were a man down when midfielder Trigueros slid in with a reckless tackle to floor Barca captain Messi and was shown a red card, with team-mate Raul Albiol the recipient of a yellow card after his protesting of the referee’s decision.

Villarreal were still able to create a chance in the 78th minute with their depleted team when Gerard Moreno looked poised to produce an equaliser, but his shot was wide of the mark and the ball drifted past the right post.

Barcelona then missed an opportunity to cap their victory with a similar near-miss after 83 minutes, with Frenkie de Jong attempting to chip the ball over Asenjo but seeing his effort bounce and land off-target.

Serie A: Darmian fires Inter closer to title

Matteo Darmian celebrates his winning goal as Inter Milan took a big step
Matteo Darmian celebrates his winning goal as Inter Milan took a big step

Matteo Darmian was Inter Milan’s unlikely saviour once again as the defender came off the bench to score in a 1-0 win over Hellas Verona on Sunday that moved Antonio Conte’s side a step closer to the Serie A title.

The runaway league leaders were heading for a third consecutive draw until the wing-back fired home in the 76th minute, his second winning goal of the month after striking against Cagliari on April 11.

Inter moved on to 79 points, 13 clear of second-placed AC Milan with five games remaining, as they close in on their first league title since 2010.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed a good chance during Juventus' draw on Sunday
Cristiano Ronaldo missed a good chance during Juventus’ draw on Sunday

Meanwhile, a superb strike from substitute Alvaro Morata earned Juventus a 1-1 Serie A draw at Fiorentina on Sunday in a result that could prove costly for the Turin club’s Champions League qualification hopes.

Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic calmly dinked a penalty past Wojciech Szczesny to give the hosts a deserved lead.

Juve coach Andrea Pirlo brought on Morata at half-time and was immediately rewarded, as the Spaniard curled a shot into the top corner from a tight angle 31 seconds into the second half.

The result moved the champions level with second-placed AC Milan in the standings on 66 points, but the Rossoneri can pull clear when they face Lazio on Monday.

The pressure is growing on Juve in their fight for a top-four finish as Atalanta and Napoli, two and three points behind respectively, are yet to play this weekend.

Meanwhile, Cagliari moved out of the relegation zone with a 3-2 win over Europa League semi-finalists AS Roma at the Sardegna Arena, stretching their winning run to three games.

Bundesliga: Leipzig win to put Bayern celebrations on ice

RB Leipzig overcame Stuttgart to make Bayern Munich wait for the title
RB Leipzig overcame Stuttgart to make Bayern Munich wait for the title

RB Leipzig dashed Bayern Munich’s hopes of wrapping up Bundesliga title on Sunday with three games to spare when goals from Amadou Haidara and Emil Forsberg eased them to a 2-0 win over 10-man VfB Stuttgart.

Second-placed Leipzig snapped a two-match winless run in the league to keep alive the title race as they cut the gap with leaders Bayern, beaten 2-1 on Saturday by Mainz 05, to seven points.

Haidara’s darting header a minute after the restart put Leipzig in front and Forsberg’s well-taken 67th-minute penalty put an end to any hopes of a comeback by the visitors, who have now lost five of their last six matches.

Emil Forsberg tucks in his penalty to extend RB Leipzig's lead
Emil Forsberg tucks in his penalty to extend RB Leipzig’s lead

Stuttgart were reduced to 10 men when Naouirou Ahamada was dismissed in the 14th minute with a straight red card for a foul on Haidara. It was the quickest sending off Stuttgart had ever suffered in the Bundesliga.

Stuttgart ‘keeper Gregor Kobel made several superb saves, including punching a thundering Angelino shot away and then recovering quickly to palm Dani Olmo’s rebound wide, with Leipzig missing more chances to add to the scoreline.

Elsewhere, Borussia Monchengladbach thrashed relegation-threatened Arminia Bielefeld 5-0 to keep their European hopes alive. Gladbach are seventh in the league, four points off Bayer Leverkusen and a Europa Conference League spot.


Euro: Messi double, Atletico maintain La Liga lead

Atletico Madrid stayed in control of La Liga’s title race by beating struggling Huesca 2-0 at home with goals in each half by Angel Correa and Yannick Carrasco.

Correa scored for the third time in two games to give Atletico the lead shortly before half-time, the Argentine dancing through the Huesca defence and getting the help of a deflection to take his shot into the net.

Huesca had won two of their last three matches and stayed in the game, even having a couple of chances to level, until Marcos Llorente pounced on a loose ball and squared for Carrasco to knock it into the empty net 10 minutes from time.

Atletico top the standings on 73 points after 32 games, moving three clear of Real Madrid who beat Cadiz 3-0 on Wednesday. Huesca are 18th on 27 points.

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona crushed Getafe 5-2 to stay in the hunt for the La Liga title.

Messi gave Barca an early lead with the help of a pin-point pass from Sergio Busquets but Getafe pulled level with an own goal by Clement Lenglet.

Lionel Messi scored twice for Barcelona in their 5-2 win
Lionel Messi scored twice for Barcelona in their 5-2 win

The visitors then conceded a calamitous own goal when Sofian Chakla’s backpass deceived ‘keeper David Soria and trickled over the line.

Messi extended Barca’s lead before half-time to move on to 25 La Liga goals this season but the Catalans slowed down in the second half and Turkish forward Enes Unal made for an interesting finish by converting a penalty in the 69th minute following a VAR review for a foul by Ronald Araujo.

The Uruguayan defender made amends by heading in Messi’s corner in the 87th minute to extend Barca’s lead and Antoine Griezmann slammed in a penalty in added time after being handed the ball by Messi.

The win took Barca back up to third place on 68 points, five behind leaders Atletico Madrid but with a game in hand.

Real Sociedad ended a run of five league games without a win with a 2-1 success over Celta Vigo, while Granada beat bottom club Eibar 4-1.

Serie A – Atalanta held by Roma

Roma held Atalanta to a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico
Roma held Atalanta to a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico

Atalanta missed the chance to go second in Serie A as Roma fought back to earn a 1-1 draw against the 10-man visitors at the Stadio Olimpico.

Gian Piero Gasperinis side went in front through Ruslan Malinovskyi in the first half and threatened a second as Roma goalkeeper Pau Lopez produced several good saves and Luis Muriel fired wide with the goal gaping.

The match swung in the host’s favour when Robin Gosens was shown a second yellow card with 20 minutes remaining, and former Atalanta player Bryan Cristante drew Roma level with a thunderous long-range strike in the 75th minute.

Roma were frustrated in their efforts to find a late winner and had Roger Ibanez sent off moments before the final whistle, after the defender picked up two bookings in two minutes.

Atalanta are third in the standings on 65 points, one behind AC Milan in second. Roma remained seventh with 55 points.

Matteo Politano scored for Napoli in the first half
Matteo Politano scored for Napoli in the first half

Napoli won a 5-2 thriller against top-four rivals Lazio to stay within touching distance of the Champions League places.

Lorenzo Insigne’s penalty and a Matteo Politano strike gave the hosts a two-goal lead at the break, before Insigne netted his second and Dries Mertens struck to put the result beyond doubt.

Mertens’ superb finish, a powerful shot into the top corner from the edge of the box, made him Napoli’s joint-top scorer of all time in Serie A with 102 league goals, alongside Antonio Vojak.

Lazio mustered a response as Ciro Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored in the space of three minutes, but any hopes of a comeback ended when Napoli substitute Victor Osimhen powered home his sides fifth in the 80th minute.

Napoli are fifth on 63 points, two behind Juventus and Atalanta. Lazio are sixth with 58 points, although they have a game in hand.


La Liga: Greater controls needed for clubs like PSG & City

La Liga president Javier Tebas has called for greater controls within football to check the power of clubs like Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, after declaring the European Super League to be “dead”.

Manchester City were among six English clubs which signed up to the breakaway league on Sunday, while PSG rejected the opportunity to be involved, before it quickly fell through under global pressure from fans and politicians.

Tebas appeared to suggest that many of the teams who signed up for the breakaway league may have been motivated by their struggles to match the financial clout of City, who are owned by United Arab Emirates deputy prime minister, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and PSG, who are owned by Qatar Sports Investments.

“State-owned clubs like Man City and PSG – these clubs need to face some controls,” Tebas said during a virtual news conference on Thursday. “They haven’t done anything outrageous so far, but we will see.”

Javier Tebas, the president of the Spanish La Liga
Tebas says he isn’t planning on punishing the La Liga members of the breakaway Super League

All six English clubs which signed up promptly withdrew and were swiftly joined by Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid, but fellow Spanish members Real Madrid and Barcelona have maintained their support for the competition. German clubs, including deposed Champions League holders Bayern Munich, never agreed to join.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has insisted the project is not finished and could be presented again in a different format, while his Barcelona counterpart Joan Laporta says “it is absolutely necessary”, but Tebas, a long-time opponent of the Super League, said it was effectively doomed.

“The Super League is dead without the English and German teams, let’s be realistic, it’s dead,” Tebas said.

“They cannot create the project they want to create. After 20 years of threatening a Super League, finally this threat came true and in 48 hours it has disappeared.”


Details of how the proposed European Super League collapsed from Kaveh Solhekol and Bryan Swanson

Perez said the Super League was urgently needed to prevent top clubs from going bankrupt after their revenues were badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic and clubs being unable to sell match tickets or merchandise.

But Tebas said the situation was not as extreme as Perez suggested it was, saying the clubs who have been hurt financially merely needed to control their spending on wages and transfer fees.

“This isn’t a problem of revenue, these clubs need to reduce their expenses. We don’t need to keep increasing earnings so that players can have seven Ferraris instead of six,” he said.

“This is a problem of distribution. My position is very clear, we don’t need to increase revenues, we just need to manage expenses. We are not ruined financially and we don’t have to take any exceptional measures.”

Florentino Perez
Real Madrid Florentino Perez is refusing to give up on the Super League project

Tebas said that he is not currently planning any punishment for the three Spanish clubs.

“We are not talking about sanctions,” he said. “Everyone wants to cut people’s heads off.

“We will have to wait and see what happens in the end, but if they defend their position, we will have to consider our options.

“These clubs have been sanctioned by their own fans. Almost everyone in football has said they’re against this, and that is like a reputational sanction.”

Barcelona president Laporta, making his first public comments on the project, told Catalan state television on Thursday: “The biggest clubs create the most financial resources and we must have our say in deciding how the earnings are shared.”

Joan Laporta celebrates his election victory
Barcelona president Joan Laporta insists big clubs should have more say over how profits from European competition are shared

Barcelona’s participation was conditioned by Laporta’s pledge to let the club’s members vote on the proposal.

“We are keeping a prudent stance,” Laporta said. “It is a necessity, but our club members will have the final word.”

Meanwhile, Atletico sent a letter to the club’s supporters on Wednesday in which they apologised “for the confusion that has been generated in recent days”.

The letter attempted to explain the club’s initial decision to be part of the Super League.

“We couldn’t allow ourselves not to be in that group of clubs that are the main content generators in the world of football,” the letter said.

“However, the conditions and circumstances under which our incorporation into this group was to take place have not been met and, consequently, today we have decided not to finally consolidate our support for the project.”