Barcelona cruise past Inter Milan without Lionel Messi

Jordi Alba scores Barcelona’s second goal past Inter Milan’s goalkeeper Samir Handanovic. (Reuters)
Updated 25 October 2018
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Barcelona cruise past Inter Milan without Lionel Messi

  • Luis Suarez, Arthur and Philippe Coutinho were all excellent in Messi’s absence
  • Victory all-but secures Barcelona’s passage to the Champions League last 16

BARCELONA: Rafinha replaced Lionel Messi and helped Barcelona win without him as the Brazilian scored the opener in a 2-0 Champions League victory over Inter Milan on Wednesday.
With Messi out for three weeks and Real Madrid next up at the Camp Nou on Sunday, the question was whether Barca could cope without their star player and captain.
The answer may not have been resounding — they lacked some punch before Jordi Alba added a late second — but this controlled performance will certainly send them into the Clasico with a spring in their step.
Luis Suarez, Arthur and Philippe Coutinho were all excellent in Messi’s absence.
Victory all-but secures Barcelona’s passage to the Champions League last 16 too. They have nine points from three games and now sit top of Group B.
Messi was watching in the stands with his son Ciro and his fractured right arm in a sling. As soon as the ball left the center circle, the fans sang his name.
Barca had drawn with Athletic Bilbao in the only other match this season he had not started, and that could have been a defeat were it not for him setting up the equalizer.
Even the club had posted an article on its website this week entitled “no need to panic,” detailing their “not so bad” record without him.
Rafinha, who was playing on loan at Inter only five months ago, was a surprise replacement. Ousmane Dembele was the one expected to come in and the fact the Frenchman remained on the bench until the end does not speak well of his current status.
Messi was 22 when Barcelona last played Inter, a 3-2 aggregate win for the Italians in the 2010 semifinals that remains arguably the peak of Jose Mourinho’s career.
As well as Rafinha, Coutinho spent five years at Inter while Mauro Icardi started out in Barca’s academy, ironically leaving in part due to Rafinha.
Icardi was quiet but had the first chance, beating Marc-Andre ter Stegen to Ivan Perisic’s low cross but stabbed his finish over.
Clement Lenglet’s header was denied by the feet of Samir Handanovic before Rafinha combined nicely with Suarez but failed to finish.
It was a warning, because the same pair connected again for the opening goal. Rafinha started the move, the ball spilling out of a midfield tussle and into his path. He sent it right to Suarez, whose chipped cross reunited with Rafinha, who had continued his run and sidefooted home.
Coutinho went closest to another before half-time, his free-kick deflecting inches wide, but Inter had a better spell after the break.
Ter Stegen had to scoop away a Perisic cross and Matteo Politano, on as a substitute, should have capitalized on some careless defending.
Barca came again. Suarez wiggled through, Lenglet hit Handanovic from close range and Coutinho struck the crossbar after a sensational counter-attack, begun by a brilliant Arthur flick.
Arthur departed to a standing ovation soon after and with eight minutes left, Alba finally made sure of the win.
He pushed Ivan Rakitic’s ball past Milan Skriniar and drove into the far corner. There was there still time for one more Messi chant before the final whistle blew.


Platini released from custody after police questioning

Updated 19 June 2019
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Platini released from custody after police questioning

  • French authorities haven’t announced any charges against Platini
  • The authorities also questioned a sport adviser from the previous French president’s administration

PARIS: Former UEFA president Michel Platini was released from custody in the early hours of Wednesday after being questioned as part of a corruption investigation into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
His communication team said that Platini’s detention ended at 12:30 a.m. local time.
Platini had denied any wrongdoing and French authorities did not announce any charges against the former France and Juventus player.
“It was long, but given the number of questions it could not be different,” Platini said after his release. “They asked me questions about the 2016 Euro, the World Cup in Russia, the World Cup in Qatar, the Paris Saint-Germain, FIFA.”
Also questioned Tuesday were Sophie Dion, a sports adviser in former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s administration, and Claude Gueant, the former secretary general of the Elysee presidential palace under Sarkozy.
Ahead of the FIFA vote, Sarkozy hosted a meeting in November 2010 that brought Platini together with Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, then the crown prince of Qatar and now its ruling emir. Al-Thani also owns the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain, and Sarkozy frequently attends its games.
Qatar beat the long-favored United States 14 to 8 when FIFA selected the host country for the 2022 World Cup
As head of European soccer’s governing body UEFA, Platini was the continent’s top representative on the FIFA committee that picked Qatar.
French prosecutors are known to be investigating an array of winning bids for major sports events, including the 2018 World Cup, awarded to Russia, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and track and field world championships.

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READ MORE: TIMELINE: The trail of corruption allegations surrounding the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

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