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.


Lowry takes 3-shot lead into final round in Abu Dhabi

Updated 27 min 47 sec ago
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Lowry takes 3-shot lead into final round in Abu Dhabi

  • Lowry shoots 5-under 67 in third round to extend lead to three strokes
  • Lowry made seven birdies to tie the best round of the day and stay on course for a wire-to-wire victory

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates: Shane Lowry kept up his brilliant scoring on the par-3 holes at the Abu Dhabi Championship in shooting a 5-under 67 in the third round to extend his lead to three strokes on Friday.
For the third straight day, the Irishman made birdie on the each of the short Nos. 7, 12, and 15 holes to strengthen his bid for a first victory in 3 1/2 years. His last win was in 2015 at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.
“I’ve been hitting some lovely iron shots,” said Lowry, who was on 17-under 199 overall. “It just so happens that I’ve hit them on the par threes.”
Richard Sterne of South Africa was the only player within four strokes of Lowry after a round of 69, which included his first and only bogey of the week. Sterne chipped in for eagle at the par-5 10th hole for one of the best shots of a breezy day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club when conditions were the hardest all week.
Sterne has had to wait even longer for a win, with his last of his six overall coming in 2013.
“Maybe there’s some magic left in me,” Sterne said.
Ian Poulter sent a 3-wood approach to 10 feet and rolled in the putt for eagle at No. 18 for a 69 to lift him into third place outright on 12 under, five shots off the lead. He will play in the next-to-last group with former winner Pablo Larrazabal (68, for 11 under).
Lowry, who tied the course record with a 62 in the first round, tied the best score of the third round and remained on course for a wire-to-wire victory. That would lift him back into the world’s top 50 and get him into golf’s showpiece events in 2019.
He is back playing on the European Tour after losing his US PGA Tour card last year and slipping to No. 75 in the rankings.
“I’m not going to say I feel invincible because we all know that this game is not easy, and it can jump up and bite you when you least expect it,” Lowry said.
In attacking the par 3s, he is 8 under in 12 holes. Nine of his 21 birdies this week have come on the course’s four short holes.
His bunker play has also been impressive, no more so than on No. 17 when he chipped out of the sand at the right of the green to within 2 feet to save par — just when Sterne was making a run at the lead.
Moments later, Sterne — who teed off on No. 18 just two shots back — miscued his second shot into a bunker that was left and well short of the green. After chipping onto the green, Sterne saw his birdie putt lip out.
Three-time major champion Brooks Koepka, who has a chance to return to No. 1 in the world this week, mixed five birdies with three bogeys for a 70 and was eight strokes behind alongside Lee Westwood (73).
Dustin Johnson was 13 shots off the lead after a 72.
Another shot back was Tommy Fleetwood (72), whose hopes of a third straight title in Abu Dhabi looked to be over.