Real spot on while Barca held to draw

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 06 Jan 2018 09:50:56


MADRID,

Jan 5,

(AFP),

TWO penalties helped Real Madrid to a healthy 3-0 win in the first leg of their Copa Del Rey tie with second-tier Numancia, while Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw as the La Liga giants rested their stars. Gareth Bale was one of a handful of Real first-team regulars on display at the Estadio Los Pajaritos, and was on hand to slot home the first from the penalty spot ten minutes before the break after Lucas Vazques was clumsily brought down in the box by Carlos Gutierrez. They survived a serious scare in the 76th minute when Inigo Perez snatched the ball from Marcos Llorente and launched a 40-yard shot over the head of keeper Kiko Cassila that thumped the crossbar and came agonisingly close to crossing the line.

Real sealed the win with another spot kick a minute from the end, again won by Vasquez but this time slammed home by substitute Isco, and Baroja Mayoral completed the rout a minute later with a close range header.“We had a few problems in the second half but it’s the result that counts,” said Real coach Zinedine Zidane. “It’s a good result for us.” Shorn of attacking stars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde also left out captain Andres Iniesta and others including goalkeeper Ter Stegen, centre-back Samuel Umtiti and midfielder Ivan Rakitic from the starting line-up for their match at Celta.

However striker Ousmane Dembele made his first appearance, as a 71st-minute substitute, since tearing his hamstring at Getafe on September 16, just three games into his Barca career following a 105-million-euro ($124 million) move from Borussia Dortmund. Despite the raft of absences Barca took the lead after 15 minutes through a neat Jose Arnaiz finish, but after a bright start they ceded control to the hosts.

Everton’s Barkley a good prospect for Chelsea, says Conte

ENGLAND international Ross Barkley would be a good addition to the Chelsea squad, manager Antonio Conte said on Friday after media reports the Everton midfielder had undergone a medical. “We are talking about an English player and a young player - he is a good prospect for Chelsea. Good opportunity for the club to buy this player...” Conte said at his weekly news conference. Barkley has yet to feature for Everton this season as he recovers from a long-term hamstring injury, having turned down a move to the Premier League champions in the close season, according to the Merseyside club’s majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri. “He’s very young. I think he has a lot of space for improvement... He’s strong physically and had good technique,” added Conte.

Messi can quit Barca, if Catalonia leaves Spain

BARCELONA,

Jan 5,

(AFP),

LIONEL Messi has ensured he could become a free agent if Barcelona no longer plays in a major European league as a result of Catalan independence, Spanish media wrote on Friday. According to a report in Madrid daily El Mundo, the contract Messi signed last November includes a clause that he must remain a Barcelona player only as long as the club is playing in “a top-level European league.”

A source at Barcelona told AFP that “for reasons of confidentiality the club never comments on contractual relations with players.” Catalonian nationalists proclaimed independence from Spain after a referendum on October 1, precipitating a crisis which is still unresolved. The Spanish civil and football authorities have said repeatedly that Catalan secession would end the participation of the region’s clubs in the Spanish League.

If Catalonia becomes independent and Barcelona are booted out of La Liga and cannot persuade another major league (France, Italy, Germany or England) to give them a home, Messi could leave without having to pay his 700 million euro ($843 million) buyout clause, said El Mundo. The newspaper said that leaving La Liga would have the same impact on the rest of the Barcelona squad, whether they have specific clauses or not, because it would represent a substantial change to the circumstances under which they signed their contracts.