Suarez double sends Barcelona past Real Madrid and into Copa del Rey final

Luis Suarez said it was a complete performance. (Reuters)
Updated 28 February 2019
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Suarez double sends Barcelona past Real Madrid and into Copa del Rey final

MADRID: Luis Suarez scored twice on Wednesday as Barcelona inflicted another defeat on Real Madrid to move within touching distance of winning a record fifth consecutive Copa del Rey.
Madrid were the better side for at least half of a wild Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu but three goals conceded in 28 chaotic, second-half minutes sent Barca through to the final with a 3-0 victory, 4-1 on aggregate.
Suarez would have had a hat-trick had Raphael Varane not beaten him on the line to Ousmane Dembele’s cross, Varane’s own-goal coming between the Uruguayan’s smart finish and a mischeivously chipped penalty. He now has 11 goals in 13 games against Madrid.
“We have other players apart from Leo Messi that can score goals,” Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said. “Luis’ numbers are incredible, historic for Barca. We know he is always there.”
By then, Barca were coasting and after thrashing Madrid 5-1 at the Camp Nou in October, they will return for Saturday’s La Liga game boasting an accumulative score of 9-2 from the clubs’ three meetings this season.
But this was not the humiliation of four months ago and if the result can be put to one side, Santiago Solari might take heart from the handful of golden opportunities his team wasted before their opponents began their spree.
“We are sad, we wanted to play in the final,” Solari said.
“But we go out with our heads held high, we did everything we could but we didn’t take our chances, and they did.”
Vinicius Junior was most guilty, the 18-year-old showing his both his talent and youth in equal measure. Gareth Bale, left on the bench again, might have wondered what he would have done with some of the chances that went begging.
There was a scattering of whistles for Bale when he came on with just over 20 minutes left but there was little he could do about Barcelona quickly extending their lead from one goal to three.
For Valverde’s side, a record sixth consecutive Copa del Rey final, with either Valencia or Real Betis, who play on Thursday, awaiting them on May 25.
After beating Sevilla 4-2 on Sunday, the Catalans appear to have rediscovered their groove. “It was a complete performance,” said Suarez. “We knew it would have to be.”
The first half was a scrap, full of heavy touches and lunging challenges with a handful of chances to counter-attack squandered by loose passes.
Ivan Rakitic plunged into Casemiro and Toni Kroos charged into Lionel Messi. Vinicius offered the best moments down the left, terrorizing Barca’s backline but failing to find a finishing touch.
He wanted a penalty for a clumsy challenge by Nelson Semedo but the contact was probably not enough, and then three chances were passed up.
First, he fired over after his opponents backed off and then was sent clear through a gap vacated by Gerard Pique, who had lost the ball upfield.
A heavy touch took Vincius wide and while he squared for Karim Benzema, Marc-Andre ter Stegen made the block with his foot. Soon after, he shot high again from six yards, before beckoning the groaning crowd by swinging his arms.
Barca should have capitalized on a wayward Sergio Reguilon backpass but otherwise they, and Lionel Messi, were a little flat, lacking either the precision or spark to create a clear chance.
Then, with their first one they scored. Dembele made it, drifting Dani Carvajal one way before darting the other and pulling the ball back for Suarez to squeeze inside the near post.
Madrid came again. Reguilon’s header drew another excellent save from Ter Stegen and Vinicius left three Barca defenders sprawled on the floor but could not complete a mesmeric run with a finish.
Bale came on but it was Barcelona that scored, twice in four minutes. Dembele again skipped in behind and passed to Suarez at the backpost, although it was Varane that got the final touch.
Then Casemiro planted a clumsy foot on Suarez’s ankle and the referee pointed to the spot. Messi deferred to Suarez, perhaps thinking he was on a hat-trick, and the Uruguayan coolly chipped the penalty into the corner.
There was still time for Bale to break free but he curled his shot well wide. It was last of too many chances spurned.


Amir Khan says agreement made for Manny Pacquiao Riyadh bout in November

Updated 3 min 40 sec ago
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Amir Khan says agreement made for Manny Pacquiao Riyadh bout in November

  • The two boxers came close to a fight in 2017, but negotiations fell through
  • The two boxers are known to be good friends and spent years sparring with each in the US

LONDON: British boxer Amir Khan said on Tuesday that a deal has been agreed for a fight against Manny Pacquiao on 8 November in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking at his gym in the British city of Bolton the former world champion said the fight would happen in Riyadh, adding that the bout had been “signed by both parties.”
Pacquiao, 40, has a scheduled fight with American Keith Thurman in Las Vegas on Saturday and, barring any potential rematch, would be available to fight Khan in the Kingdom.
“It’s on, unless he gets injured or he says he is going to retire after the fight and then the fight won’t happen, but he is interested in the fight as well,” Khan told Boxing Social.
The two boxers came close to a fight in 2017, but negotiations fell through and the bout never materialized.

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READ MORE: Amir Khan beats Billy Dib in Jeddah on ‘fight night of the year’

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“It is going to be amazing, because it’s been a long time we’ve been chasing that fight. I’ve been chasing the big names like (Floyd) Mayweather and Pacquiao for a long, long time but those fights never happened.
“But now it has come to a stage where we both signed on that dotted line, so hopefully he is going to be the next (fight).
“To have him sign that dotted line is brilliant and no matter how he does against Thurman, I still think it’s a big fight.
“Hopefully he comes out of it in one piece in his next fight against Keith, which is a hard fight and not an easy one for him, and we will take it from there.”
The British boxer, 32, scored a stoppage win over Australia’s Billy Dib in Saudi Arabia last Friday and soon after his win was talking up the prospect of landing Pacquiao as his next fight.

Eight-division world champion boxer Manny Pacquiao smiles as he arrives for a workout in Hollywood, California on July 10. (AFP/File Photo)

On the prospect of returning to Saudi Arabia, Khan said his experience in the Dib fight had been “amazing” and that it was hard to turn down a deal to fight in the Kingdom.
“I was little bit nervous, because I did not know what to expect — whether it would be full or not, or if people would turn up to support — but it was amazing. I think the next one is going to be even bigger.
“The experience was awesome, I was looked after by the GSA (General Sports Authority) and the Saudi government took good care of us, the gyms were amazing. I would love to go back over there.”
When asked if he ever doubted whether his dream fight against Pacquiao would happen, Khan agreed.
“I’ve waited so long but you cannot really put all your eggs in one basket, and definitely say this is going to be the next fight.

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READ MORE: Gloves off as world champion boxer Amir Khan dreams of ‘more fights in Saudi Arabia’

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“I hope it is him but we will have to look at back up plans. I’ve always wanted to fight him. It’s the biggest fight out there for me,” he told the BBC.
The two boxers are known to be good friends and spent years sparring with each in the US while training under the mentorship of trainer Freddie Roach.
The Filipino legend has not yet officially announced any bout with Khan and on social media appears focused on Saturday’s fight.
“When I sparred him he was at his peak,” Khan said. “I got good rounds with him and did really well. I have probably sparred between 200 and 300 rounds with him. He has slowed down a bit.”
Pacquiao has 61 wins, seven defeats and two draws in a 24-year professional career, while Khan has 34 wins and five defeats.