Barca thump Real Madrid as ruthless Luis Suarez sticks knife into Julen Lopetegui

Barcelona forward Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. (AP) Photo/Joan Monfort)
Updated 29 October 2018
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Barca thump Real Madrid as ruthless Luis Suarez sticks knife into Julen Lopetegui

(Updates with league positions)
By Richard Martin
BARCELONA, Oct 28 : Barcelona forward Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick as his side thrashed arch-rivals Real Madrid 5-1 on Sunday in a highly entertaining ‘Clasico’ which surely will signal the end of hapless coach Julen Lopetegui’s spell in charge of Real.
Leaders Barca opened up a one-point gap at the top of La Liga by condemning Real to their worst defeat in a ‘Clasico’ since Pep Guardiola’s side beat them 5-0 in 2010.
Barca’s Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring in the 11th minute following a slick team move and Suarez doubled their advantage on the half-hour mark by converting a penalty awarded after consultation with the video assistant referee (VAR).
Real had looked lifeless in the first half but produced a courageous display after the break following a tactical switch from Lopetegui. They deservedly pulled a goal back through Marcelo and came close to grabbing an equalizer as Luka Modric struck the post and Sergio Ramos headed narrowly over.
Yet even without their injured talisman Lionel Messi, Barca soon reasserted their authority and ran riot in the final 15 minutes with two more goals from Suarez.
A header from substitute Arturo Vidal further twisted the knife into Real, who have lost their last three league games and are seven points behind Barcelona in La Liga in ninth position.
Barca now lead the standings on 21 points after 10 games, a point clear of Alaves, who won 2-1 at home to Villarreal. Atletico Madrid, who won on Saturday, are third on 19 points.
“This result is a reflection of our entire season, which has been a disaster,” Real midfielder Casemiro told reporters.
“It’s not about tactics or attitude, it’s everything. The players have to run more and fight more. We aren’t playing well and we can’t blame the coach, as the players are the ones who have to perform on the pitch.”
Real looked to be lacking in confidence from the start as Benzema hurriedly hammered a cross from Gareth Bale over the bar when he had plenty of time to bring the ball under control.
Barca, meanwhile, oozed belief and their opening goal was a joy to behold as Ivan Rakitic released Jordi Alba with a chipped pass and the Spaniard rocketed past Nacho, crossing freely into the area for Coutinho to turn the ball in from close range.
Further signs of Real’s nervousness came when Nacho misplaced a pass in the area to the feet of Arthur Melo and it took a magnificent flying save from Thibaut Courtois to beat away the Brazilian’s curling shot.
Barca did extend their advantage when Suarez slammed a spot-kick under the diving Courtois after being tripped by Varane, who was responsible for both goals Real conceded in their shock 2-1 home defeat by Levante last week.
Lopetegui rejigged his formation at the start of the second half, opting for a back-three by hauling off Varane for Lucas Vazquez and his side instantly improved, getting a foothold through Marcelo’s strike.

AGONISINGLY CLOSE
They were agonizingly close to finding an equalizer but Barca continued to look dangerous on the break and Suarez’s bullet header from a standing position killed the game off as a contest.
“We had 15 difficult minutes but we had a great performance,” said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde.
“The first half belonged to us. They turned things around by playing fullbacks as wingers and we were caught out by it and suffered after their goal. Then we sorted ourselves out and took advantage of their risky approach.”
Uruguay striker Suarez completed his treble with a classy chipped finish while Chile international Vidal struck his first goal for Barca to further humiliate Real. (Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond and Ian Chadband)


Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

Updated 23 January 2019
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Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

  • Can the mighty minnows continue impressive run in the UAE?
  • Or will the big guns start to fire in quarterfinals?

LONDON: Asia’s biggest sporting spectacle has reached its quarterfinal stage — and it’s time for teams to find their A-game. While there are few surprises in the last-eight lineup, the form of some of the big-name sides has been less than impressive. Here we deliver our verdict on the second round.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Saudi Arabia’s attack

The Green Falcons started the tournament at top speed. They came in as one of the cup favorites and in their opening two matches illustrated why. A 4-0 thrashing of North Korea was backed up with a relatively simple 2-0 victory over Lebanon. Understandably, that raised hopes that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men could go all the way in the UAE. Alas, it was not to be as a 2-0 defeat to Qatar in their last group clash left them with a tricky tie against Japan. For all their efforts Saudi Arabia were unable to find the back of the net, the lack of firepower upfront costing Pizzi’s team yet again.



BIGGEST SHOCK — South Korean sloppiness

Boosted by the arrival of Tottenham star Son Heung-Min, South Korea were rightly declared the pre-tournament favorites. They had firepower up front, intelligence and creativity in midfield, and experience at the back. In the four matches in the UAE so far, however, they have looked anything but potential champions. They labored to beat Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and China in the group stage before almost being shocked by part-timers Bahrain in the second round. South Korea now face Qatar in the last eight and, as Son said after their extra-time win over Bahrain, they need to significantly improve if they are to avoid a shock exit before the semis.



UNDER PRESSURE — Alberto Zaccheroni and the UAE



The Whites owe their place in the last eight to luck more than skill. In some ways that is not a surprise — the hosts came into the tournament without their talisman, the injured Omar Abdulrahman, and on the back of a patchy run of form. But, still, the performances on home soil have been underwhelming to say the least. That was summed up with their extra-time win over Kyrgyzstan, who were playing in their first Asian Cup. It was a far-from-convincing performance and Central Asians were unlucky not to beat Zaccheroni’s side. The UAE will have to deliver their best performance for some time if they are to progress further. Their opponents, Australia, have also performed poorly, which may offer them some encouragement.



BEST HIGHLIGHT — The mighty minnows

The big guns have not had it all their own way. That may annoy their fans, but it does show that Asian football is improving. Only a few years ago the idea that Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain and Jordan would look the equals of Australia and Co. would have seemed fanciful. But in the past two weeks the standard shown by the so-called lesser lights has been impressive — and great to watch. Last summer five Asian teams appeared at the World Cup for the first time and it was hoped that showing would act as a springboard for further progress across the continent. On the evidence of the action in the UAE that wish could be coming true.

 

PREDICTIONS