Messi stars Barca win; Real Madrid has it easy

Updated 19 November 2012
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Messi stars Barca win; Real Madrid has it easy

BARCELONA: Lionel Messi netted his eighth brace of the season and created a third goal to steer Barcelona to a 3-1 win over a feisty Real Zaragoza on Saturday night as the Spanish league leaders kept alive their club-record start.
Unbeaten Barcelona’s 11th victory in 12 rounds maintained its eight-point lead over Real Madrid after the defending champions thrashed Athletic Bilbao 5-1 ahead of their critical Champions League trip to Manchester City.
Messi started the scoring at Camp Nou Stadium in the 16th. After Zaragoza leveled through Paco Montanes in the 24th, Messi assisted Alex Song four minutes later to re-establish Barcelona’s advantage for good before adding a third goal in the 60th.
The Argentina forward’s ninth multi-goal game in league play took his competition-best tally to 17 goals, five more than Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Leo marks the difference because he’s a special player,” said Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta, who hit the woodwork 10 minutes from time.
Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova recovered Carles Puyol for his defense with the center back seeing his first action since dislocating his elbow on Oct. 2, while Song started as its holding midfielder in place of suspended Sergio Busquets.
After missing a clear chance early, Messi got the hosts going by slotting a left-footed shot just inside the post to finish off a move he started by playing Jordi Alba wide before sliding forward to receive the left back’s return pass.
Zaragoza, which had won three of its previous four games, pushed forward in search of the equalizer that came from Montanes when he fired in a loose ball after a corner kick.
The visitors’ elation lasted four minutes before Song scored his first goal for Barcelona since joining from Arsenal this offseason, slicing Messi’s back pass through a crowded box to find the net.
Behind again, Zaragoza still succeeded in winning its share of possession and strung together attacks that tested Barcelona’s defense before Messi decided the contest when he curled an unstoppable long-range strike off the lower part of the upright.
Bilbao entered Santiago Bernabeu Stadium with the third-worst defense in the league, having allowed 21 goals, and only a strong performance by goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz saved it from a historic rout.








Madrid jumped in front in the 16th when defender Jon Aurtenetxe scored an own goal when trying to stop Karim Benzema from shooting after the France striker latched onto Luka Modric’s long pass from deep in his own half.
Sergio Ramos headed in Madrid’s second goal at the half-hour mark off when Bilbao left him unmarked to meet Mesut Oezil’s free kick.
Benzema, just back from injury, struck two minutes later, spinning inside the area and swerving a superb shot around Iraizoz before Bilbao midfielder Ibai Gomez pulled one back three minutes from halftime.
Benzema crossed for the wide-open Oezil to tap home in the 56th with Bilbao caught totally off-balance.
Substitute Sami Khedira also came back from injury in fine form for Madrid with a goal in the 72nd.
“We showed our desire to win and a serious attitude from minute one,” said Ramos. “We now have a game in Manchester where we will play with practically our season on the line. As a football player, those are the kind of games you live for.” Earlier, Roberto Soldado’s 90th-minute penalty gave Valencia a 2-1 win over Espanyol, which finished with nine men and slid into last place.
Malaga was held to 0-0 at struggling Osasuna as the Costa del Sol side’s winless streak reached four matches.
Valencia hosts Bayern Munich and Barcelona visits Spartak Moscow on Tuesday in the Champions League, while Malaga visits Zenit St. Petersburg and Madrid heads to northern England the next day.


‘On edge’ Federer makes winning Paris return

Updated 41 min 6 sec ago
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‘On edge’ Federer makes winning Paris return

  • Angelique Kerber’s hopes of completing career Grand slam end after early exit
  • Kerber, 31, has now lost six times in the French Open first round

PARIS: Roger Federer marked his return to Roland Garros after a four-year absence with a straight sets win over Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego on Sunday, admitting he “felt on edge,” as Angelique Kerber’s hopes of completing a career Grand Slam suffered a quick kill.

Federer, a 20-time major winner, had not played the tournament since 2015 when he reached the quarterfinals.

However, on Sunday, it was as if the 37-year-old had never been away as he swept to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 victory in one hour 41 minutes on a packed, rebuilt Court Philippe Chatrier.

It was his 60th successive first round win at a Grand Slam.

“I felt on edge at the start, my heart was beating crazily,” said Federer, who hailed the new-look stadium which has been 90 percent rebuilt in readiness for the installation of a retractable roof for 2020.

“I felt great playing on this court. It looks very attractive, so congratulations to everyone involved.

“Hopefully I can play here again for my next match.”

That match will be against German lucky loser Oscar Otte who won just his second match in eight years on the tour by seeing off Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.

“I would be surprised if Roger knew my name,” said Otte, the world No. 145.

Federer broke serve five times and fired 36 winners past 24-year-old Sonego, the world No. 73 who made the quarterfinals at the Monte Carlo Masters.

German fifth seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Kerber saw her hopes of a career Grand Slam ended by Russian teenager Anastasia Potapova.

Kerber slumped to a 6-4, 6-2 defeat to 18-year-old Potapova who was making her French Open debut.

“Kerber is actually one of my idols, and when I was young I was looking for her game,” said the 81st-ranked Russian who hit 28 winners past her German opponent.

Kerber, 31, has now lost six times in the French Open first round.

The German left-hander had come into Roland Garros carrying a right ankle injury which forced her to pull out of the Italian Open and retire from her second round tie in Madrid.

“I didn’t have many expectations coming in,” said Kerber, who was broken six times in the match which brought the curtain up on the newlook Chatrier arena.

Potapova’s first win over a top 10 player gives her a second round clash against 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.

Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who stunned Federer on his way to the Australian Open semifinals and beat 11-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal in Madrid, also made the second round.

The 20-year-old sixth seed brushed aside Germany’s Maximilian Marterer 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).

The new Court Simonne Mathieu, a 5,000-capacity semi-sunken arena enclosed by greenhouses, was officially unveiled on Sunday.

It forms part of the €350 million upgrade of the entire site which will also see the demolition of the Court 1 ‘bullring’ after the 2018 tournament.

Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 champion, had the honor of opening proceedings against America’s Taylor Townsend and the 19th seed marked the occasion with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win.

“It’s cute,” said the Spaniard. “It’s not small, but it’s, you know, cozy.”

Other winners on the first day included Japanese seventh seed Kei Nishikori, a quarterfinalist in 2015, who eased past France’s Quentin Halys 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

However, Italian 16th seed Marco Cecchinato, the man who sent Novak Djokovic crashing out in the quarterfinals in 2018, fell at the first hurdle.

Cecchinato lost to 37-year-old Frenchman Nicolas Mahut —  who has slipped to 253 in the world — 2-6, 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Canada teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime withdrew from the tournament with a thigh injury, just a day after finishing runner-up to Benoit Paire in Lyon.

The 18-year-old was seeded 25 and had been due to face Australia’s Jordan Thompson in the first round on his maiden appearance in the main draw in Paris.

Auger-Aliassime’s spot in the first round draw has been taken by Spanish lucky loser Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova closed play on Chatrier with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Madison Brengle of the US.