Friday, June 21, 2024
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Messi misses penalty as Real grab top spot

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Madrid: Lionel Messi missed an injury time penalty as Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw by nine-man Sevilla, a result which saw the champions surrender top spot to Real Madrid who beat Malaga 4-0.

A Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick in the space of 15 first-half minutes had helped Real to victory on Saturday leaving Jose Mourinho’s men with a one-point lead over the Spanish and European champions.

Barcelona have now kept a record six clean sheets in all competitions, but despite dominating the match at Camp Nou, they were thwarted by a dogged Sevilla defence and goalkeeper Javi Varas who pulled off a series of outstanding saves.

The game boiled over in the final minutes as Andres Iniesta was upended in the area and a penalty was awarded. Substitute Frederic Kanoute was red-carded for attacking Cesc Fabregas before the spot-kick was taken by Messi and sensationally saved by Varas. There was still time for Fernando Navarro to also be given his marching orders for a second yellow card.

“It’s never easy to play against a very defensive team, with nine players back, as there is no space,” said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

Ronaldo hat-trick helps Real maul Malaga

Ronaldo hit a 15-minute hat-trick as Real Madrid swept aside Malaga in a first-half blitz to put them top with 19 points. It was a battle between the newly-rich Malaga, who invested heavily in the summer as they aim for a place in Europe, and the old order, but it turned into a mismatch as Real cruised to victory.

Gonzalo Higuain, who has hit two hat-tricks in his last two games for Real, as well as another in between for Argentina, sent the visitors on their way after 10 minutes before Ronaldo stole the show with three quickfire goals.

He side-footed home an Angel di Maria cross and then fired in from the edge of the area before completing his hat-trick with an acrobatic flick from close range. Former Real striker Ruud van Nistelrooy was a surprise exclusion from the Malaga starting side but he would have found it difficult to make a difference as Real ran riot and the Malaga strikers saw little of the ball.

“I liked everything about the way we played — the first touch, the second touch and the way we pressed when we lost the ball,” said Mourinho. (Agencies)

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