Messi fires Barcelona; Hernandez lifts United
Messi fires Barcelona; Hernandez lifts United
Manchester United substitute Javier Hernandez inspired a 3-2 comeback win at Aston Villa in the Premier League to put Alex Ferguson’s team two points clear at the top of the table.
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid enjoyed comfortable wins against Real Mallorca and Getafe respectively while Real Madrid endured an attritional battle in atrocious conditions to secure a 2-1 success at waterlogged Levante.
Barca conceded two quick goals in Mallorca but ran out victors thanks to Messi netting twice and Xavi and Cristian Tello also scoring.
Adrian and Arda Turan struck for Atletico in a 2-0 win at the Calderon to leave Diego Simeone’s side three points adrift of Barca on 28 points, five ahead of Real.
Real forward Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring for the champions in the 21st minute despite suffering a nasty gash over his left eye early in the game that forced him off at the break.
After substitute Angel Luis Rodriguez levelled for Levante in the 62nd minute, Xabi Alonso had a penalty saved before Alvaro Morata headed the winner six minutes from time.
A lackluster Manchester United trailed 2-0 at Villa before Hernandez pulled a goal back and, after forcing an own goal by defender Ron Vlaar, the livewire Mexican headed in Robin van Persie’s free kick three minutes from time to seal victory.
Chelsea were held to a 1-1 home draw by Liverpool and champions Manchester City climbed into second place after Edin Dzeko’s late strike secured a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
Chelsea captain John Terry put his side ahead after returning from a four-match domestic suspension but he was carried off with a serious-looking knee injury before Luis Suarez nodded in Liverpool’s second-half equalizer.
Bayern Munich continued their superb run this season, beating third-placed Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 with a goal from Franck Ribery and David Alaba’s late penalty to stay seven points clear at the top with their 10th win in 11 games.
Schalke 04 came from a goal down to snatch a 2-1 victory over Werder Bremen with Julian Draxler scoring the winner to stay in second on 23 points with Frankfurt three points behind.
Champions Borussia Dortmund moved back up to fourth on 19 with a trouble-free 3-1 victory at Augsburg as Robert Lewandowski scored twice.
Fabio Quagliarella scored a hat-trick to lead titleholders and Serie A leaders Juventus to an emphatic 6-1 win at Pescara. Arturo Vidal, Kwadwo Asamoah and Sebastian Giovinco shared the other goals while Emmanual Cascione replied.
Juventus, who have 31 points from 12 games, moved four clear of second-placed Inter Milan who lost 3-2 at Atalanta where German Denis scored twice for the hosts including a penalty.
Napoli are a further point behind in third after scoring three times in the last 15 minutes to win 4-2 at Genoa. Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani was among the scorers, taking his tally to eight this season.
Lazio beat AS Roma 3-2 in a derby played in atrocious conditions and teenager Paulo Dybala scored twice as Palermo beat Sampdoria 2-0 to hand their opponents a seventh consecutive defeat.
Paris St. Germain survived Mamadou Sakho’s early dismissal for shirt pulling to draw 1-1 at champions Montpellier and stay top of the Ligue 1 on 23 points from 12 games.
Olympique Marseille are second, level on points 23 points but behind on goal difference, after Nice snatched a late equalizer to grab a 2-2 draw.
Olympique Lyonnais drew 1-1 at Sochaux and are third, one point off the pace. They have the same number of points as St. Etienne, who have not lost their last seven league games, and climbed to fourth thanks to a 2-0 home victory to Troyes.
PSV Eindhoven went top of the Dutch league with a 5-1 win over Heerenveen after long-time leaders Twente Enschede were held to a 0-0 draw by third-placed Vitesse Arnhem.
Daniel de Ridder put Heerenveen ahead but Luciano Narsingh’s equalizer was followed by four second-half goals to give PSV their seventh straight win.
Wins for Porto and Benfica over Academica and Rio Ave respectively kept them joint-leaders on 23 points after nine matches.
Promising Colombian James Rodriguez grabbed the opener for champions Porto and midfielder Joao Moutinho angled in a sweet long drive in their 2-1 home win against Academica.
Brazilian striker Lima blasted the winner for Benfica just before half time as they muscled out a 1-0 away win over Rio Ave.
Mohamed Salah threatens Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Ballon d’Or stranglehold
- Messi and Ronaldo have won the award for the past ten years
- Salah has emerged as a genuine rival after scoring 43 goals this season
LIVERPOOL: Mohamed Salah could be the man to finally break the Ronaldo-Messi duopoly at the top of world football after the Liverpool forward burnished his soaring reputation with a mesmerising Champions League performance against Roma.
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi have locked down the Ballon d’Or award for a decade, winning five gongs apiece — for the past seven years they have occupied the top two slots.
But Salah is now second favorite behind Ronaldo for this year’s award after scoring his 42nd and 43rd goals of the season in a thrilling 5-2 victory for Liverpool in the Champions League semifinal first leg.
After his first strike against his former club on Tuesday, the man dubbed by fans as the “Egyptian King” stood motionless, hands raised in apology, as bedlam broke out on a night for the ages at Anfield.
Salah’s curling effort arrowed into the top corner with such accuracy his manager Jurgen Klopp labelled it “a genius strike.”
Soon after came the forward’s signature finish, a cute dink over advancing Roma goalkeeper Alisson for his 43rd goal in 47 games for Liverpool.
When Salah, 25, made the move from the Italian capital back to the Premier League just 10 months ago for €42 million ($51 million), there were plenty who felt Roma had got the better deal. Salah after all was a talented player, but who often lacked an end product.
It also came just a few weeks before Neymar’s move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record €222 million revolutionized the transfer market.
The Brazilian’s desire to leave the Catalan giants was tied to his ambition to beat Messi and Ronaldo to the Ballon d’Or by stepping out of Messi’s shadow.
Now, though, it is Salah who has emerged as the pretender to end the Messi-Ronaldo domination by not only scoring the quantity of goals that have become the pair’s trademark but doing it when it really matters, in the latter stages of the Champions League.
“If you think he is the best in the world, write it or say it,” urged Klopp, who has been credited with bringing out Salah’s previously untapped potential.
“To be the best in the world you need to do that over a longer period I think, and there are a few others that are not so bad.”
Heavily left-footed, small, speedy and with a low center of gravity, Salah’s characteristics are far more like those of Messi than the muscular goal-machine Ronaldo.
“In a certain light, at certain points, it is possible to glimpse in Salah a little of Messi’s afterglow,” wrote Rory Smith in the New York Times.
And he demonstrated another Messi-like quality in showing no mercy to Roma.
Chasing his first hat-trick in the Champions League, Salah would have been forgiven for going for goal as he bore down on Alisson once more after half-time.
But he showed why he is considered one of the game’s more unselfish superstars by instead creating another two goals for strike partners Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
When Salah left the field to a standing ovation 15 minutes from time, Liverpool led 5-0.
“Unstoppable (when Salah’s on the pitch),” said the back page of The Times.
Two late Roma away goals have at least given the Italians hope of recreating the incredible comeback they staged from a 4-1 first-leg deficit against Barca in the quarter-finals.
For once it is Salah’s turn to lead the way where Messi faltered on his return to the Eternal City next week.
Messi is almost certain to win a La Liga and Copa del Rey double and Ronaldo could lead Real Madrid to a third consecutive Champions League after another bucketload of goals this season.
But Salah is the coming man and after bagging the African and English players’ player of the year crowns, it is hard to back against him also conquering the world.