Ronaldo scores 2 to overtake Messi as top scorer

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo overtook Lionel Messi as the season's leading scorer after his brace led Real Madrid to a 2-1 win at Eibar in the Spanish league on Saturday.Ronaldo scored his 32nd and 33rd goals in all competitions this campaign to move one ahead of his Barcelona rival.And Ronaldo knows he'll stay top for now. Messi will miss Barcelona's match at Malaga later Saturday after earlier announcing the birth of Ciro, his third son.After struggling early in the season to find the net in La Liga, Ronaldo has scored 14 goals in his last nine games in the competition.That leaves him with 18 goals in the league, third behind Luis Suarez with 20 and Messi with 24."(Ronaldo) is from another galaxy," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "He knows he is going to score. The numbers speak for themselves."Barcelona leads the league by eight points over Atletico Madrid, which hosts Celta Vigo on Sunday. Real Madrid is another four points back in third.———RONALDO TO THE RESCUEMadrid was six minutes away from dropping points when Ronaldo came through with a powerful header to send in Dani Carvajal's cross and grab victory at Eibar.Ronaldo opened the scoring against the flow of play in the 34th minute when Luka Modric intercepted a pass and set him up. Ronaldo used his chest to control Modric's pass before scoring.Eibar defender Ivan Ramis equalized in the 50th before being substituted for injury. Madrid defender Raphael Varane was substituted early in the match after a blow to the head. He walked off the pitch and was replaced by Nacho Fernandez.———VALENCIA ON COURSEValencia is on course to lock up a top-four finish and Champions League berth after winning 2-0 at Sevilla, its nearest rival for fourth place.Rodrigo Moreno scored twice to give Valencia an important away victory that opened up an 11-point advantage over fifth-place Sevilla.Rodrigo Moreno netted his 11th and 12th league goals of the season.The forward first Continue Reading

Stunning Lionel Messi free-kick sees Barca extend La Liga lead

BARCELONA beat nearest challengers Atletico Madrid 1-0 thanks to an outstanding free kick from Lionel Messi on Sunday to move eight points clear at the top of La Liga and closer to a 25th Spanish title. Barca's all-time top scorer Messi wrapped his left foot around the ball to send it flying over the wall and inside the top corner in the 26th minute to register his 600th career goal. Atletico, who clinched the 2014 title at the Nou Camp but have not won there since 2016, could have cut the gap on Barca to two points with a victory but coach Diego Simeone opted for a typically conservative approach. Thomas Partey's wayward strike from distance was Atletico's only threat and although Simeone made two attacking substitutions, his side could not force Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen into making a save. Kevin Gameiro had a goal correctly ruled out for offside late on for Atletico shortly after Luis Suarez was also denied by the assistant referee's flag, and the Uruguayan put a chipped attempt just wide of the far post in stoppage-time. Barca lead the standings on 69 points after 27 games, Atletico have 61 and champions Real Madrid 54. SUN BETS: BET £10 GET A FREE £30 BET Players who crossed El Clasico divideBernd Schuster Barcelona: 1980-88 Real Madrid: 1988-90 Alfonso Perez Real Madrid: 1986-95 Barcelona: 2000-02 Julen Lopetegui Real Madrid: 1988-91 Barcelona: 1994-97 Michael Laudrup Barcelona: 1989-94 Real Madrid: 1994-96 Gheorghe Hagi Real Madrid: 1990-92 Barcelona: 1994-96 Robert Prosinecki Real Madrid: 1991-94 Barcelona: 1996-97 Luis Enrique Real Madrid: 1991-96 Barcelona: 1996-04 Luis Figo Barcelona: 1995-2000 Real Madrid: 2000-05 Ronaldo Barcelona: 1996-97 Real Madrid: 2002-07 Samuel Eto'o Real Madrid: 1997-2000 Barcelona: 2004-09 Javier Saviola Barcelona: 2001-07 Real Madrid: 2007-09 Atletico had hammered Sevilla 5-2 and Leganes 4-0 in their last two games and travelled to the Nou Camp on a run of eight consecutive wins in all competitions and Continue Reading

Las Palmas vs Barcelona: TV channel, live stream, team news and kick-off time for La Liga clash at Estadio Gran Canaria

BARCELONA can stretch their lead at the top of La Liga to ten points with victory against relegation battlers Las Palmas. Ernesto Valverde's side stuttered with back-to-back draws in early February but have since recovered - and can put clear daylight between them and Atletico Madrid with victory here. It's been a tough season for Las Palmas who are the second lowest scorers in the league, but they are only one point behind Levante in 17th. This same fixture last season finished 4-1 to Barca, whilst the Catalan side eased to a 3-0 triumph at the Nou Camp back in October. What time is kick-off? THE game will take place on Thursday, March 1.  Kick-off is at 8pm UK time. What channel can I watch it on? YOU can watch this game live on Sky Sports Football, with coverage starting at 7.55pm. Stream the match with Sky Go if you're a Sky Sport customer, or grab a Now TV Day Pass for just £7.99 to get a 24 hour football feast. Buy it here. If you can't make it to a TV, stay with us here on SunSport for a LIVE blog, which will update you with goals, action and talking points. 💰How to win £1MILLION with Sun Six💰SUN SIX is the new predictor game where you can win £1million - just by correctly picking the results of six games. Here is how to get your mitts on the million: Make your picks - predict the scores from these six games Enter your details - quickly sign up to Sun Bets so we can contact you Score £1m - Watch the scores roll in and you can win £1m Top pundits IAN WRIGHT and DANNY HIGGINBOTHAM have made their picks for this week if you need a steer. And remember, you can claim a free £30 bet with Sun Bets when you sign up put a tenner on this weekend's football here. What is the team news? Behind the scenes of Barcelona's Champions League trip to London to face Chelsea Continue Reading

Paulinho key to Barca’s big win at Madrid and Liga lead

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - When Paulinho arrived in Spain last summer, most Barcelona fans were unimpressed.The 29-year-old Brazilian looked like a poor replacement for the younger, and flashier Neymar after the star striker forced his record-breaking transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.But Paulinho is a big reason why Barcelona has quickly turned the page four months after Neymar left them in the lurch to open up a commanding lead in the Spanish league.His contribution to his new team was more evident than ever on Saturday, when he helped Barcelona to a lopsided 3-0 victory at fierce rival Real Madrid.Paulinho was only stopped from scoring a goal when Dani Carvajal blatantly used his arm to block his goal-bound header in the second half. Little did it help, since it cost the Madrid defender a direct red card and sent Lionel Messi to the penalty spot to make it 2-0.Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde praised his player after the match. “The second goal was decisive,” Valverde said. “Paulinho is a player who goes forward in attack very well, and can surprise the defense with his runs into the area. He works hard and covers a lot of kilometers. He helps us a lot.”Paulinho’s impact was seen from the very start when he was Barcelona’s top threat during an early stretch when Madrid was dominating.He went close to scoring early when he latched onto a lobbed pass by Messi, only for goalkeeper Keylor Navas to get his fingers on his rising strike and push the ball over the bar.The Messi-Paulinho connection clicked again before halftime, when the Brazilian headed his teammate’s cross toward the goal where Navas did well to save it.“I am very happy. I don’t have words to describe winning my first ‘clasico’ against a rival like Madrid,” Paulinho said. “Today my shots didn’t go in, but the most important thing is to help the team achieve great results at the biggest stadiums.”In August, some of Continue Reading

Leader Barcelona loses points again vs Celta Vigo in La Liga

MADRID (AP) — Barcelona stumbled for the second consecutive week in the Spanish league, being held to 2-2 at home by Celta Vigo and giving its nearest challengers more hope on Saturday.Barcelona has a five-point lead over second-place Valencia, which plays at mid-table Getafe on Sunday.Third-place Atletico Madrid moved to within six points by defeating Real Sociedad 2-1 at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, and Real Madrid can do the same if it wins at Athletic Bilbao later Saturday."It's tough to lose points at home in such an important game," Barcelona midfielder Paulinho said. "We had plenty of chances."Barcelona won 11 of its 13 league matches entering the weekend. Its other setbacks were draws at Atletico Madrid and, last week, at Valencia.It hadn't lost points at home in 18 straight league matches, since drawing with Real Madrid nearly a year ago."This result will boost our players' morale," said Celta coach Juan Carlos Unzue, who used to be Luis Enrique's assistant at Barcelona. "It shows that we are on the right track."Celta, eighth in the standings, has proved a tough opponent for Barcelona, losing only two of its last five matches against the Spanish powerhouse.It opened the scoring with Iago Aspas' close-range shot in the 20th minute.Lionel Messi equalized just two minutes later from inside the area after an assist by Paulinho, taking his league-leading tally to 13 goals.Luis Suarez put Barcelona ahead after a cross by Jordi Alba in the 61st, becoming Barcelona's 10th all-time top scorer with 127 goals in 165 games.Celta evened the match less than 10 minutes later through Maxi Gomez from inside the area after being set up by Aspas in a breakaway. Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti hurt his right hamstring and was replaced. The club said Umtiti could be out for two months.Barcelona captain Andre Iniesta also had to be substituted because of an apparent injury early in the second half."It took a while for us to get into the game, but we eventually took Continue Reading

Anthony Martial makes an immediate splash with Manchester United

Anthony Martial, the world's most expensive teenager, conjured up images of Thierry Henry as Manchester United's newest savior dribbled at three Liverpool defenders and ended his daring run by slotting the ball past Simon Mignolet. It was exactly the type of speed, skill and creativity that United has been lacking. And now you know why Louis van Gaal spent $55 million for the French striker two weeks ago. "A lot of players have made a debut and scored with me so it's a good signal," Van Gaal, the United manager said following a 3-1 win at Old Trafford on Saturday. "'We scouted him and we wanted him because he's the best in his age, but he needs time and three days is too short to judge his personality." With the departures of Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao and Javier Hernandez, Van Gaal made a big splash during the September transfer window by signing Martial from Monaco where he scored 11 goals in 49 appearances for the French club. Van Gaal was ridiculed for spending that much money on an unproven teenager but the manager insisted that the move was made with an eye on the future. That moment arrived sooner than expected for Martial and United, which had scored just three goals in their first four Premier League matches and was without the services of Wayne Rooney against Liverpool. Martial entered in the 65th minute and with United leading 2-0. After Christian Benteke produced a goal of the year candidate to give Liverpool a chance, Martial seized the spotlight with a dynamic run and finish that was something out of Thierry Henry playbook. "When you make a goal like Anthony did you cannot wish for more," Van Gaal said. "He scored a fantastic goal. He has pace to dribble but his finishing was fantastic." **** Maybe Jose Mourinho isn't the Special One after all. Chelsea's title defense may be over before October. Mourinho's club is off to its worst start in 29 years after Saturday's 3-1 loss at Everton was Chelsea's third in five Continue Reading

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi scores 252nd league goal to break Spanish league’s scoring record

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi has broken the Spanish league’s all-time scoring record, surpassing the previous 251-goal mark in Barcelona’s match against Sevilla on Saturday. Athletic Bilbao’s Telmo Zarra set the milestone of 251 goals in 271 La Liga games from 1940-55. Playing in his 289th league game, the 27-year-old Messi first equaled Zarra’s record in the 21st minute and then beat it in the 72nd at Camp Nou Stadium. The Argentine went on to get his hat trick in the 78th with his 253rd league goal giving Barcelona a 5-1 lead. Messi’s latest scoring feat comes after he equaled Raul Gonzalez as the Champions League all-time scorer with 71 goals earlier this month. Messi is Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer with 365 goals. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Real Madrid restores order with 3-0 win over Las Palmas

MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid restored order after two straight losses with a comfortable 3-0 win over Las Palmas in the Spanish league on Sunday.Goals by Casemiro in the first half, and Marco Asensio and Isco in the second, secured Madrid victory at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, keeping it eight points behind leader Barcelona after 11 games.Barcelona defeated Sevilla 2-1 Saturday to maintain a four-point lead over second-place Valencia, which routed Leganes 3-0 for its seventh straight league win.Madrid was under pressure after losses at Girona in La Liga and at Tottenham in the Champions League. The team endured a wave of criticism this week, and a convincing home win was needed to ease tensions for the defending champions."This win is important to help the team regain its confidence," Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. "Little by little we are getting back on the right track."Madrid was in control from the start, and Casemiro opened the scoring with a header following a corner just before halftime.Asensio added to the lead with a booming, long-range shot into the top corner early in the second half, and Isco sealed the victory from inside the area after a well-placed low cross by Cristiano Ronaldo toward the end of the match.Asensio and Isco are Madrid's leading scorers in the league with four goals each. Ronaldo remains with only one league goal, although his tally with the club in all competitions is eight. He also scored four goals with Portugal.Las Palmas is second-to-last in the standings with six points."We were playing well but that second goal put an end to our hopes," Las Palmas striker Vitolo said.On Saturday, fourth-place Atletico Madrid won 1-0 at Deportivo La Coruna with an injury-time goal by midfielder Thomas Partey.___RISING GIRONAGirona followed its stunning win over Real Madrid with a 2-1 victory at Levante, moving further away from the relegation zone.It was the third straight league win for the Catalan club, which is playing in the first Continue Reading

With World Cup, Champions League and La Liga titles in hand, David Villa is ready for Big Apple challenge at NYCFC

The first thing you notice about David Villa is his size. He’s tiny. NYCFC lists him at 5-9 and 148 pounds, but that seems generous on a Friday morning as he blends in with the breakfast crowd at a hotel near Central Park. In America — an unlikely landing spot for Villa — athletes are assumed to be enormous, sculpted like super heroes. LeBron James is the personification. Even our country’s best soccer player — Tim Howard — is an imposingly large force in front of the goal, tattooed and muscle-bound with his shirt removed. Villa, though, is built more like a jockey, or in perhaps a more appropriate comparison, a diminutive soccer striker like Lionel Messi or Neymar. Not that Villa is hindered by his height. Not anymore, at least. Headers are a bit of a rarity, but NYCFC’s superstar striker — who recently signed for three seasons in New York — has amassed a glut of goals and championships during his club and international career in Spain. It helps to have a low center of gravity, along with ambidexterity. Villa is equally lethal with both feet. “I was born in December so I was always the youngest player on the team (as a youth),” the Spanish-speaking Villa says through a translator. “And at the beginning, (being small) did cost me. But, eventually, I was able to develop with the qualities that maybe some of the other kids did not have and I was able to take advantage of them. “In soccer it is important to know your good qualities as well as your bad ones and try to utilize the good ones while hiding away the bad ones which in the end will make one a better player.” It’s important to note that Villa is only 32. By the time NYCFC plays its first game in March, he’ll barely be 33. Players of his caliber — and at this career point — haven’t ventured into MLS until recent years, with Thierry Henry and Kaka signing lucrative deals in Continue Reading

Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale has chronic back injury, team denies reports he needs surgery

It’s somewhat comforting to know that the Knicks and Mets aren’t the only two clubs with major medical gaffes/bad breaks. Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, signed to a record transfer fee in September, has what the club is calling a “small chronic disc bulge, extremely common among footballers.” Real officials have denied reports that Bale needs surgery, but it is no secret that the Welshman’s fitness has been a problem. Bale has been limited to just 132 minutes since joining Real, including 26 in Champions League play. His lone goal came in his La Liga debut. “If Real Madrid have signed Gareth Bale knowing about this protrusion, they have committed an error,” Dr. Avelino Parajon told MARCA, a Spanish newspaper. “When a person has those problems at that age, it suggests that he has a great possibility of suffering herniated discs and symptoms arising from that over time. It is a bad sign for any athlete.” WINTER BREAK The plan, which has the full support of FIFA, the sport’s governing body, would have the MLS season begin play in either late July or early August and include a six- to eight-week winter break. The championship would either be played in late May or early June. The MLS season currently begins in March and runs until the championship match in the first week of December. MLS Commissioner Don Garber has been considering adopting the calendar used in Europe for several years but talks have intensified in recent weeks, according to a league source. The move would also placate FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who has been an outspoken — and often unfair — critic of the country’s fastest growing professional league. “It would be better for U.S. soccer, and specifically also for the (United States)national team,” Blatter once said. “And the popularity inside the country.” Most European domestic leagues begin in late August and end Continue Reading