Barca tops as Enrique confirms exit

Barca tops as Enrique confirms exit

Luis Enrique
Luis Enrique

MADRID — Barcelona moved top of La Liga on the night Luis Enrique confirmed he will not continue as coach next season as Gareth Bale was sent-off in Real Madrid’s thrilling 3-3 draw at home to Las Palmas.

Enrique announced his decision to step down after Barca’s 6-1 rout of Sporting Gijon earlier Wednesday which leaves Barcelona a point clear at the top, but having played a game more.

Bale’s first ever red card in a Madrid shirt look set to cost the European champion dear as Las Palmas led the 10 men 3-1 with just three minutes remaining.

However, Cristiano Ronaldo struck twice in an incredible finale to salvage a point.

Madrid’s slip up, though, means a third title in as many seasons for Enrique is back in Barcelona’s hands with the two sides still to meet in April.

“I will not be the coach of Barcelona next season,” Enrique said, citing the need for a break from the pressures at the Camp Nou as the reason for his decision. “It is a difficult, measured and well thought out decision and I think I have to be loyal to what I think.”

“I would like to thank the club for the confidence they have shown in me, it’s been three unforgettable years,” said Enrique, who has won two Liga titles, two King’s Cups and the 2015 Champions League since succeeding Gerardo Martino in 2014.

Enrique said he had met with Barca directors Albert Soler and Robert Fernandez before this season to discuss the possibility of not renewing his contract.

“They told me there was no hurry to make a decision, but now that moment has arrived,” he added.

Monaco outguns Marseille

Thomas Lemar swept Monaco into the quarterfinals of the French Cup in a thrilling 4-3 extra-time victory at Marseille Wednesday, while holder Paris Saint-Germain trudged past second tier Niort 2-0.

Twice former winner Guingamp saw off third-tier Quevilly 2-1. Third division Avranches reached the last eight after overcoming three-time champion Strasbourg 6-5 on penalties following a 1-1 draw.

Lazio leads Roma 2-0

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ciro Immobile gave Lazio a deserved 2-0 win over bitter city rival Roma in the first leg of their Italian Cup semifinal at a half-full Stadio Olimpico.

The result made Lazio the favorite to reach the final where it is likely to face Juventus which beat Napoli 3-1 in its opening leg 24 hours earlier.

Despite the win, Lazio’s joy was tempered by accusations that their fans made ‘monkey noises’ at Roma’s German international defender Antonio Rudiger.

An announcement was made threatening to suspend the game if the abuse continued.

German Cup draw

Bayern Munich will face either Borussia Dortmund or third division giant-killer Sportfreunde Lotte in the semifinals of the German Cup following Wednesday’s draw.

Holder Bayern will find out its opponent on March 14 when Sportfreunde Lotte hosts Dortmund after their quarterfinal was called-off Tuesday due to snow.

Lotte shocked Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen in previous rounds.

In the other semi, Borussia Moenchengladbach will host Eintracht Frankfurt in an all-Bundesliga clash.

The semifinals will be played on April 25 and 26 with the final at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium on May 27.

City in quarters

Back in the team after an injury to new signing Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero scored two goals for the second straight game to lead City’s fightback in a 5-1 win over second-tier Huddersfield in an FA Cup fifth-round replay Wednesday.

It followed his double against Monaco in the Champions League last week.

City set up a quarterfinal match against Middlesbrough on March 11. That means City’s Premier League game against Stoke, originally scheduled for that date, will be brought forward to March 8. — Agencies