Messi saves Barcelona

Messi saves Barcelona

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Villarreal’s defender Mario (L) vies with Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez during their Spanish league football match at El Madrigal Stadium in Vilareal Sunday. — AFP
Villarreal’s defender Mario (L) vies with Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez during their Spanish league football match at El Madrigal Stadium in Vilareal Sunday. — AFP

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

The Argentine found the top corner with a left-footed shot that left the wall ineffective, with Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo wrong-footed.
“We deserved more, we deserved to win, but in the end we were able to salvage a point,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said.

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.

“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 result extended Barcelona’s unbeaten streak at Villarreal to 10 matches, dating back to 2007.

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

Real Madrid, which routed Granada 5-0 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 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.”

Athletic Bilbao was unable to feed off its Copa del Rey win over Barcelona, being held to a scoreless home draw by promoted Alaves.

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.
In Vigo, ninth-placed Celta defeated struggling Malaga 3-1 with goals by Iago Aspas, Daniel Wass and Andreu Fontas.

Juve sets record

Gonzalo Higuain scored twice to give Juventus an easy 3-0 win over Bologna Sunday which set a Serie A record of 26 consecutive home wins.

Second-placed AS Roma needed an unlucky own goal from Armando Izzo to beat Genoa 1-0 away and neighbours Lazio survived a controversial disallowed goal before snatching a last minute win over lowly Crotone.

Ivan Perisic scored at the end of each half as Inter Milan came from behind to beat Udinese 2-1 and notch its fourth successive league win.

Juve’s win kept it four points clear of Roma at the top with a game in hand. Juve has 45 points while Roma has 41, Napoli 38 and Lazio fourth on 37.

Juventus, aiming for a sixth successive title, broke its own record of 25 home wins in a row set under Antonio Conte between 2013 and 2014.

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