Tag Archives: Messi

Barcelona plans to appeal Messi 2-game suspension for incident vs. Athletic Bilbao

Lionel Messi avoided a tougher sanction and was suspended for only two matches on Tuesday after hitting an opponent in an incident away from the ball in the Spanish Super Cup final.

The Barcelona forward was facing a suspension of up to 12 matches for swinging his arm at an Athletic Bilbao player at the end of the team’s 3-2 loss on Sunday. The Spanish soccer federation’s competition committee did not deem the incident to be too serious and applied a less severe penalty. The committee also fined the club 700 euros ($ 845 US) and Messi 600 euros ($ 725).

Barcelona said it would appeal Messi’s suspension.

After passing the ball out to the left flank, Messi swung his right arm at the head of Athletic forward Asier Villalibre as they ran toward the box. Villalibre immediately fell to the ground and after a video review Messi was given his first red card in 753 appearances with Barcelona’s main squad.

Messi had been sent off twice while playing for Argentina’s national team, including a few seconds into his debut in a friendly against Hungary in 2005. The other time was in the 2019 Copa America in a match against Chile. He was also sent off once while playing for Barcelona’s “B” team.

Referee Gil Manzano said in his match report that Messi hit his opponent with “excessive force” while the ball was not near him.

Messi will miss Barcelona’s matches against third-division club Cornella in the Copa del Rey and against Elche in the Spanish league. He was already expected to miss the game against Cornella with coach Ronald Koeman trying to keep Messi’s minutes under control to avoid serious injury.

The 33-year-old Messi had been doubtful to play in the Spanish Super Cup final because of an unspecified fitness issue that had caused Koeman to leave him out of the semifinal match against Real Sociedad on Wednesday, when Barcelona prevailed in a penalty shootout.

Messi, who asked to leave the club in the off-season but had his request denied, is having an average season compared to previous years, having scored 14 goals in 22 matches. He was far from his best on Sunday despite helping set up the team’s first goal.

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Messi faces lengthy suspension for ‘excessive force’ against Athletic Bilbao opponent

After losing the Spanish Super Cup final, Barcelona is also in danger of losing Lionel Messi for an extended period after he hit an opponent toward the end of the match.

Messi could be suspended for up to 12 games for the red card he received in the final minutes of his team’s 3-2 loss to Athletic Bilbao in Seville on Sunday.

After passing the ball out to the left flank, Messi swung his right arm toward the head of Athletic forward Asier Villalibre as they ran forward toward the box. Villalibre immediately fell to the ground and Messi was given his first red card in 753 appearances for Barcelona.

Referee Gil Manzano said in his match report that Messi hit his opponent with “excessive force” while the ball was not near him.

The Spanish soccer federation’s competitions committee will decide on the charges against Messi, and the player’s eventual suspension could range from one to three matches or from four to 12 matches, depending on how severe the federation considers the incident.

Barcelona was already preparing its defence regardless of the charges that would be presented by the federation against its player.

If found guilty, Messi will be suspended for matches in the Spanish league or the Copa del Rey. Barcelona is in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey and trails Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the league.

Title drought

Messi was visibly frustrated as the match went on and Barcelona struggled to recover from its deficit against Athletic. The Catalan club twice relinquished leads, including conceding a 90th-minute equalizer scored by Villalibre. Antoine Griezmann scored both Barcelona goals, with Messi assisting in the first one.

The defeat cost Barcelona a chance to end a title drought that has lingered from last season, the club’s first without a title since 2007-08.

While it was Messi’s first red card for his club, he has been sent off twice while playing for Argentina’s national team, including a few seconds into his debut in a friendly against Hungary in 2005. The other time was in the 2019 Copa America in a match against Chile. He was also sent off once while playing for Barcelona’s “B” team.

Messi, who asked to leave the club in the off-season but had his request denied, is having an average season compared to previous years, having scored 14 goals in 22 matches with Barcelona. He was far from his best on Sunday despite helping set up the team’s first goal.

Messi had been doubtful to play in the final because of an unspecified fitness issue that had caused coach Ronald Koeman to leave him out of the semifinal against Real Sociedad on Wednesday, when Barcelona prevailed in a penalty shootout.

Barcelona’s next match is on Thursday at Cornella in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey.

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Messi remains dour on Barca’s prospects, floats interest in future U.S. move

Lionel Messi won’t make a decision on his long-term future at Barcelona until the season is over, with the soccer great also raising the possibility of playing in the United States one day in a TV interview broadcast Sunday.

“I am going to wait until the end of the season [to decide],” the 33-year-old Messi told private Spanish station La Sexta.

About fifth-place Barcelona’s future prospects, Messi said “there is no money” and “it is not going to be easy to turn this around.”

As of Jan. 1, Messi could negotiate with other clubs as his contract with Barcelona is set to expire in June.

In August, Messi stunned Barcelona by telling the club he wanted to leave following a season without titles that ended in a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich. The club said no, and Messi backed down saying that he could not take his club to court. He has played as hard as ever since then, but has not said if he has changed his mind over wanting to leave.

“Now I am focused on winning titles instead of other things,” Messi said in the rare interview. “I have always had the idea that I would like to have the experience of playing in the United States, but this is not the time for it.”

Messi also said he would not publicly support any of the candidates who plan to run in club elections set for Jan. 24.

Nor was he overly enthusiastic about the immediate prospects of the team.

“Let the best candidate win,” Messi said. “Whoever does will find a very difficult situation, it is not going to be easy to turn this around. It is going to be difficult to bring in players. That requires a lot of money and there is no money. We need several important players to get back to fighting for titles.”

Rumours remain

Barcelona reported losses of $ 118 million US last season and sold off several veteran players, including Messi’s strike partner and friend, Luis Suarez.

The interview with Spanish journalist Jordi Evole was recorded recently and aired hours after Barcelona announced that Messi would miss Tuesday’s Spanish league game against Eibar due to an unspecified ankle injury.

In a statement about the injury, Barcelona said “first team player, Lionel Messi, is completing the treatment for his right ankle, and is expected to return to training after the FC Barcelona v SD Eibar match.”

Messi is reportedly in Argentina taking a short winter break after Barcelona gave its players some time off following their last game on Dec. 22 against Valladolid.

Messi played the entire 90 minutes of the 3-0 win over Valladolid and scored his 644th career goal for Barcelona to overtake Pele’s all-time scoring milestone for their clubs.


After Eibar, Barcelona’s next league match is at Huesca on Jan. 3.

Messi has helped Barcelona win four Champions League and 10 Spanish league titles since his debut in 2004.

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Messi breaks all-time single-club scoring record with 644th strike for Barcelona

Lionel Messi broke Pele’s all-time scoring milestone for their clubs by netting his 644th career goal for Barcelona on Tuesday, while Atletico Madrid beat Real Sociedad 2-0 to increase its lead of the Spanish league.

Messi, who helped Barcelona win 3-0 at Valladolid, had equaled Pele’s all-time scoring tally on Saturday. His 643rd career goal for Barcelona since his 2004 debut matched Pele’s tally for Santos from 1957-74.

In a meeting between the front-runner and the sensation of the league this season, Atletico put on another dominant performance to show why it is the early title favourite.

Diego Simeone’s team took full advantage of its best scoring opportunities and its defense remained airtight from start to finish.

Mario Hermoso headed in a free kick by Yannick Carrasco to put the visitors at San Sebastian ahead four minutes after halftime. Marcos Llorente put the result beyond doubt in the 74th with a powerful strike from the edge of the area.

Atletico moved three points clear of second-place Real Madrid. Sociedad was left in third place at six points adrift. The Basque Country club had led the league earlier this season but has now gone six rounds without a victory.

Barcelona stayed in fifth place at eight points behind Atletico.

Atletico has one more game to play than both Madrid and Barcelona and three more games to play than Sociedad.

Messi tallies late for record

Messi scored his team’s final goal at Valladolid as Barcelona excelled in an experimental lineup by coach Ronald Koeman.

Koeman has tried several different lineups since he took over Barcelona last summer with the mission to fix a team that had hit rock bottom in a historic 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich.

After seeing his side not win away from home in four games, Koeman opted for his most profound makeover at Valladolid. He deployed a defence of three center backs and kept Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho — the club’s star signings in recent seasons — and midfield leader Sergio Busquets on the bench.


That left Martin Braithwaite alone to spear the attack behind two playmakers in Messi and 18-year-old Pedro “Pedri” Gonzalez. The scheme also allowed Sergino Dest to attack deeper on the right flank.

Messi lobbed a pass forward for Clement Lenglet to head in for the 21st-minute opener. Messi then played the ball wide to Dest, who squared it low for Braithwaite to tap home in the 35th.

The connection between Pedri and Messi clicked throughout, but it shone in the 65th when the teenager set up the veteran.

After receiving the ball near the edge of the area, Pedri assisted Messi by deftly rolling his boot over the ball to push it behind him to meet the Argentine’s run. The slick pass left Messi clear to finally beat goalie Jordi Masip, who had denied with twice.

Messi also hit the post in stoppage time.

Defence first

Atletico was without Joao Felix due to a throat infection. It made up for the absence of its most dynamic forward by applying a suffocating defense to nullify Sociedad’s normally fluid attack.

Sociedad had David Silva back after he recovered from a muscle injury that had sidelined him for three consecutive matches.

Silva’s return was not enough, however, to break through the visitors’ defensive block that left Jan Oblak with very little work. The Slovenian goalkeeper didn’t have to make a save until the 83rd when he stretched to parry a free kick by Martin Merquelanz.

Oblak has conceded only five goals in 13 league games.

Hermoso had struggled to break into Atletico’s starting 11 last season, but he has earned a spot on the left side of the three-man defence Simeone has used at times this campaign. The goal was his second of the season.

After Hermoso’s opener, Atletico pushed for a second goal with Carrasco twice threatening with his crosses from the left flank. Another attack down the left led to Luis Suarez receiving the ball deep in the box. His pass intended for Carrasco was deflected by a defender into the path of Llorente, who blasted it home.

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Messi matches Pele goal haul, making good on header in draw with Valencia

Lionel Messi reached another personal scoring milestone in Barcelona’s 2-2 draw with Valencia in the Spanish league on Saturday.

Messi’s 643rd career goal for Barcelona since his 2004 debut matched Pele’s tally for Santos accumulated from 1957-74. Messi is Barcelona’s and the Spanish league’s all-time leading scorer.

The latest setback by Barcelona left Ronald Koeman’s team in fifth place and eight points adrift of league leader Atletico Madrid, which got two goals by Luis Suarez to help beat Elche 3-1.

Messi cancelled out Mouctar Diakhaby’s opener for Valencia when he scored in first half injury time moments after Jaume Domenech saved his penalty shot. Jordi Alba recovered the rebound of Domenech’s save and crossed it to the far post where Messi headed it in.

Central defender Ronald Araujo scored his first career goal for Barcelona with an acrobatic kick to put the hosts ahead at Camp Nou in the 53rd.

But Jose Gaya set up Maxi Gomez to hit back for Valencia in the 69th and split the points.

The match featured two young Americans who started for both sides. Sergino Dest, 20, played the full match as Barcelona’s right back, while 18-year-old Yunus Musah had to be substituted in the first half after the Valencia right back appeared to injury a leg. He walked off gingerly.


Suarez strikes after recent bout with virus

Suarez’s goals were his first since he returned to action recently following his coronavirus infection.

Suarez’s double ensured Atletico bounced back from losing to Real Madrid 2-0, its first defeat in the competition since February.

The Uruguay striker’s seven goals make him joint top scorer of the league along with Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal and Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas.

Suarez isn’t the dominant scorer he was at Barcelona before changing clubs this summer, but he is still a world-class finisher when his teammates get him the ball in scoring position.

Costa makes impact in injury return

He put the hosts ahead in the 41st minute with a subtle touch to roll a long pass by Kieran Trippier past on-rushing goalkeeper Edgar Badia.

Suarez added the second in the 58th when he slid to sweep home a low ball sent to the far post by Yannick Carrasco.

Lucas Boye got one back for Elche with a header in the 64th and drew a one-handed save from Jan Oblak minutes later.

But substitute Diego Costa put the result beyond doubt when he earned and converted a penalty with 10 minutes remaining. It was Costa’s first appearance after missing seven games due to injury.

The league leaders moved three points clear of Real Sociedad and Real Madrid. Sociedad visits Levante later Saturday, while Madrid visits Eibar on Sunday.

Also later, fourth-placed Villarreal is at Osasuna, while Sevilla faces Valladolid.

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Lewandowski facing Messi, Ronaldo for FIFA best player award

It’s Robert Lewandowski’s turn to try to stop Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo from winning the FIFA best player award.

The Bayern Munich forward joined the two standout players on the three-man shortlist announced Friday.

Lewandowski’s goals led Bayern to a sweep of titles this year — the Champions League, the German league, the German Cup and the UEFA Super Cup.

One of his 55 goals last season came in Bayern’s 8-2 rout of Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals.

Lewandowski could become only the second player — after Luka Modric in 2018 — to deny Messi or Ronaldo since their run of FIFA domination started in 2008. Messi has won the award six times while Ronaldo has won it five times.

Two Bayern players are among those whose career years were good enough only for third place in previous votes, Franck Ribery in 2013 and Manuel Neuer in 2014.

The women’s best player shortlist includes Lucy Bronze, Wendi Renard and Pernille Harder. Bronze and Renard are teammates who won the European title with Lyon last season. Harder played on the team that lost in the final, Wolfsburg.

Harder won the UEFA award as the best women’s player in Europe last season. Lewandowski won the men’s award.

Neither Messi nor Ronaldo made it onto the three-man shortlist for the European award, voted on by coaches of top European clubs and media. Kevin De Bruyne was runner-up and Neuer finished third.

The FIFA award was voted on by a four-part worldwide jury: national team coaches and captains, media and fans.

Voting has closed and the winners will be announced on Thursday at a virtual ceremony hosted by FIFA.

Bayern coach Hansi Flick, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Leeds coach Marcelo Bielsa are in the running for the men’s coaching award. The coaching award in women’s soccer will be between Jean-Luc Vasseur of Lyon, Emma Hayes of Chelsea and Sarina Wiegman of the Dutch national team.

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Messi salutes late idol Diego Maradona in iconic celebration after scoring

Lionel Messi paid tribute to Diego Maradona by stripping off his Barcelona top to reveal a shirt for the fallen Argentine great after he scored the final goal in a 4-0 rout of Osasuna on Sunday.

Messi celebrated his powerful strike from outside the box by taking off Barcelona’s blue-and-burgundy to reveal the red-and-black of Maradona’s shirt from his stint at Newell’s Old Boys. Messi then blew a kiss with both hands to the sky as he looked upward.


After the game, Messi posted a photo of his tribute alongside an older image of Maradona in the same shirt, adding the message “Farewell, Diego” in Spanish.

“It was a great moment,” said Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman. “First, for the goal that Leo scored and then for the gesture he had for the death of Diego Maradona. He had surely been thinking of what he would do. For me, it was a great moment in every way.”

WATCH | CPL’s John Molinaro remembers Diego Maradona’s life, legacy:

Legendary soccer player Diego Maradona has died at the age of 60. John Molinaro joins CBC Sports to discuss his legacy on and off the field. 3:44

Messi played for Newell’s before he joined Barcelona at age 13. Maradona played five matches for Newell’s in 1994 near the end of his glorious playing career that made him a legend in his home country.

Messi had kept his head bowed during the minute of silence before kickoff in the Spanish league game at the empty Camp Nou for Maradona, who died of a heart attack on Wednesday at age 60. Maradona played for Barcelona from 1982-84.

“We have lost Diego, a world idol,” Barcelona’s Brazil forward Philippe Coutinho said. “Everyone admired him and we will all miss him. [Messi’s] tribute was beautiful.”

Coutinho also scored for Barcelona, along with Martin Braithwaite and Antoine Griezmann.


The win was only Barcelona’s second in seven league matches. It left the team in eighth place with two games in hand. Leader Real Sociedad hosts third-place Villarreal later. Second-place Atletico Madrid is nine points ahead of Barcelona also with two games in hand.

WATCH | Maradona’s famed ‘Hand of God’ goal:

In Mexico City during a quarter-final match against England, Argentine striker Diego Maradona scores “the goal”. 0:50

The victory for Koeman’s side may have come at the price of losing yet another defender.

Clement Lenglet hurt his lower right leg when it was unintentionally knocked by an Osasuna player in the second half. He had to be helped off by two team doctors. Barcelona was already without three other central defenders due to injury and right back Sergi Roberto.

Supreme dribbling skills

Barcelona finished the match with midfielder Frenkie de Jong in the centre of its defence alongside reserve team player Óscar Mingueza in his second game for the senior squad.

Koeman said it appears the injury to Lenglet is “not serious” but that he would undergo a medical exam on Monday.

Sergio Busquets returned for Barcelona from a knee injury that had sidelined him for two games.

Considered by many as the best player in his generation — and one of the greatest ever — Messi has been judged, especially back home, by how his career compares to that of Maradona.

WATCH | Maradona’s ‘Goal of the Century’:

After scoring the “Hand of God” goal in 1986, Diego Maradona scores again, a spectacular effort against England. 0:58

Messi shares the lower centre of gravity, the supreme dribbling skills and the ability to score eye-popping goals as Argentina’s other great No. 10. But while his life focused on football and family has kept him well clear of the addictions that ruined Maradona’s health, Messi has never been able to reproduce the 1986 World Cup trophy Maradona led his country to, coming closest in 2014 when a Messi-led Argentina lost in the final to Germany.

Messi’s tribute to Maradona overshadowed a fine performance by Griezmann, the France forward who has been criticized for not reaching his potential at Barcelona.

Braithwaite scrambled in a rebound — after Coutinho’s attempt was saved by Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera — to open the scoring on the half-hour mark.

Griezmann doubled the lead three minutes before halftime when he volleyed a blistering strike from outside the area that left Herrera flat-footed and with no chance of stopping it.

Griezmann then passed up another scoring chance and opted to assist Coutinho to tap in the hosts’ third goal in the 57th. Messi rounded it off with his strike from long range in the 73rd.

“It was important to get this win because those at the top of table keep winning and we couldn’t slip again,” Griezmann said. “We did not know what Messi had planned to honour Maradona. It was a nice surprise.”

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Messi, Barcelona cruise past Ronaldo-less Juventus in Champions League

There was no Cristiano Ronaldo on the field and no fans in the stands to see Barcelona and Lionel Messi beat Juventus 2-0 away in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Ronaldo’s lingering COVID-19 case prevented a first meeting between him and Messi in the group stage of a competition they have combined to win nine times.

Barcelona took an early lead in Turin through Ousmane Dembele and had plenty of chances to seal the win long before Messi scored a penalty as 90 minutes ticked over into stoppage time.

Marcus Rashford scored a hat trick as Manchester United beat Leipzig 5-0 at home, while Chelsea brushed aside Krasnodar 4-0 in Russia, giving England’s four clubs a sweep of wins this week without conceding a goal.

A wave of second-half goals also earned wins for Paris Saint-Germain — after losing Neymar early to injury — Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla.

Some of the gloss went out of the Juve-Barca game — the repeat of a standout final in 2015 — when Ronaldo was ruled out in the morning. His virus infection was revealed more than two weeks ago while on international duty with Portugal.

Barcelona quickly pushed back the Italian champion and Antoine Griezmann’s shot struck a post in the second minute. The lead arrived in the 14th from Dembele’s deflected, looping shot.

Barcelona’s forwards were often hesitant and wasteful, with even Messi missing the target with a clear shooting chance on his left foot.

Juventus officially had no shots on target yet its No. 9 Alvaro Morata had a hat-trick of goals disallowed for offside calls. The third would have levelled in the 55th but was ruled out more than two minutes later after a video review.

Also in Group G, Ferencvaros and Dynamo Kyiv missed the chance to join Juventus on three points by drawing 2-2 in Budapest before a crowd of 6,171.

Ferencvaros coach Serhiy Rebrov, who played and coached at Dynamo, saw his team fall two down in the first half, then earn a point with substitute Franck Boli’s 90th-minute strike.

Roman in Russia

Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich used his team’s trip to his home country to make a rare visit to see a game.

Abramovich, whose British visa was withdrawn in 2018 during diplomatic tensions with Russia, was rewarded with a 4-0 win in Krasnodar.

Chelsea’s players are not used to seeing their owner, nor any fans at games. There were 10,544 spectators in the first paying crowd Chelsea has played for since the coronavirus pandemic was declared in March.

Hakim Ziyech, in his first start for the 2012 European champion, scored in a late burst of goals. Another expensive summer signing, Timo Werner, scored a penalty after regular taker Jorginho missed from the spot in the 14th. United States international Christian Pulisic came off the bench to score in stoppage time.

Sevilla, who drew 0-0 at Chelsea last week, also has four points in Group E after beating Rennes 1-0.

Kean steps up

Italian forward Moise Kean’s goals lifted Paris Saint-Germain to a 2-0 win at Istanbul Basaksehir after Neymar limped off with a muscle strain.

Kean, who is on loan to PSG from Premier League leader Everton, scored in the 64th and 79th minutes. After two goals in the French league at the weekend, Kean already matched his goals tally for all of last season in England.

For a game between teams owned by the government of Turkey and the state of Qatar, PSG wore a uniform in the maroon of Qatar’s national flag. The official attendance was 350.

Regal Rashford

Manchester United’s Rashford has had a stunning October on and off the field, leading a campaign against child poverty that embarrassed the British government.

Rashford, who scored the winning goal at PSG last week, came off the bench to score a late hat trick and seal United’s 5-0 rout of Leipzig, a semifinalist last season.

Another homegrown young forward, Mason Greenwood, opened the scoring in the first half and Anthony Martial scored a penalty.

United leads Group H with a maximum six points, three ahead of PSG and Leipzig.

Young stars

Borussia Dortmund’s coveted young forwards Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland both scored late to beat Russian champion Zenit St. Petersburg 2-0.

Neither game in Group F was played with fans in the stands, and Lazio travelled to Belgium with barely enough first-team players due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the club.

Lazio still earned a 1-1 draw at Club Brugge to give both four points, one clear of favoured Dortmund with top-seeded Zenit last after two defeats.

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Messi wins record 6th Ballon d’Or, World Cup winner Rapinoe earns women’s prize

Lionel Messi won a record sixth Ballon d’Or while World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe earned the women’s prize on Monday.

A day after scoring his 614th career goal for Barcelona, Messi reclaimed the trophy he last won in 2015.

“Ten years ago I received my first Ballon d’Or, guided by my three brothers,” Messi told the audience. “Today I receive my sixth, guided by my wife and children.”

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk was second in the polling, followed by Cristiano Ronaldo, who shared the record of five Ballon d’Ors with Messi until Monday.

“It was amazing,” said van Dijk. “There are a couple of players like him (Messi) who are fantastic. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved with Liverpool and Holland. It’s going to be tough (to win the award) when these guys are around.”

Messi’s and Ronaldo’s 10-year grip on the prestigious individual award organized by France Football magazine was ended last year by Luka Modric.

But Messi was back on top of his game over the past 12 months. Messi scored 36 times last season en route to the Spanish Liga title, and was the Champions League top scorer.

The Argentine has not showed any sign of slowing down since the start of the new European season, marking his 700th game for Barcelona last week with a goal and two assists in beating Borussia Dortmund 3-1.

Van Dijk clinched the 2019 Champions League crown with the Reds after defeating Messi’s Barcelona in the semifinals 4-3 on aggregate, included a 4-0 win at Anfield in the return match.

Messi also won his sixth FIFA award in September, edging Van Dijk, who missed the chance to become the first defender to top the France Football poll since Italy’s World Cup-winning captain, Fabio Cannavaro, in 2006.

The Liverpool center back was among seven teammates nominated, along with goalkeeper Alisson Becker, defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and forwards Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Incredible year 

Rapinoe won the women’s Ballon d’Or for leading the United States to World Cup glory in July.

She scored six goals in the championship, earning her the Golden Boot as the top scorer and the Golden Ball as the top player.

Rapinoe was not present at the ceremony in the Theatre du Chatelet, where the show ‘An American In Paris’ is on.

“I’m so sad I can’t make it tonight. It’s absolutely incredible. Congrats to the other nominees. I can’t believe I’m the one winning in this field. It’s been an incredible year,” Rapinoe said in a recorded message.

“I want to thank my teammates and the U.S. federation.”

France Football magazine has been awarding the Ballon d’Or since 1956 and created a women’s award for the first time last year when Norway’s Ada Hegerberg won it. Hegerberg was fourth this time.

Juventus defender Matthijs De Ligt won the Kopa Trophy for the best under-21 player, and the inaugural Yashin Trophy given to the year’s best men’s goalkeeper went to Liverpool’s Alisson.

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Messi marks milestone game with goal as Barcelona cruises to knockout round

Another day to celebrate for Lionel Messi. Another frustrating day for Liverpool against a familiar opponent.

Messi marked his 700th game for Barcelona with a goal and two assists in a 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund 3-1 that sent his team into the knockout rounds of the Champions League on Wednesday.

Defending champion Liverpool couldn’t replicate that feat as it struggled once again against Napoli.

The two clubs have played four times in the last 13 months, with Napoli winning two of those games. This time, Dejan Lovren’s header rescued a 1-1 draw for Liverpool, which must try again to qualify against Salzburg on Dec. 10.

Chelsea will also have to wait for qualification after drawing 2-2 with Valencia on a freak goal, while Leipzig qualified for the first time after a dramatic comeback. Talented teenager Erling Haaland scored again for Salzburg to set a record.

Messi leads way

It’s not like Barcelona to grind out results, and beating Dortmund brought back some welcome swagger.

For the team that leads La Liga despite rarely seeming to reach top gear, Barcelona’s 3-1 win over Dortmund finally showcased the talent and creativity in the team.

As they have for years, Messi and Luis Suarez combined for the first two goals. First Messi assisted for Suarez, then the Uruguayan returned the favour. Another Messi assist set up Antoine Griezmann for the third.

For Dortmund, it was a third game without a win and perhaps a step closer to the exit for coach Lucian Favre. He and the players were already targets for fans’ anger after Friday’s 3-3 Bundesliga draw with Paderborn.

Earlier, Lautaro Martinez scored twice as Inter Milan beat Slavia Prague 3-1. Inter can still qualify from Group F, but Slavia is out.

Liverpool frustrated

Another game against Napoli and more frustration.

The Italian side stopped Liverpool sealing a spot in the knockout stages, but couldn’t quite snatch a third win in its last four games against the Champions League holder.

Dries Mertens scored from a long pass in the 21st before Lovren’s header from a corner levelled the game for Liverpool. There was a blow for the Reds as defensive midfielder Fabinho was forced off injured.

The draw halted a seven-game winning streak for Liverpool in all competitions, including a win on penalties over Arsenal in the League Cup.

“We couldn’t put it to bed tonight but it’s the Champions League, it’s difficult,” Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson said. “It’s always difficult, there are some really good teams so we have to stay positive.”

In the other Group E game, Erling Haaland became the first teenager to score in five consecutive Champions League games as Salzburg beat Genk 4-1. The Norwegian 19-year-old came off the bench to get one assist and score Salzburg’s fourth.

Salzburg can still qualify if it beats Liverpool in the final game.


Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool reacts during his side’s 1-1 draw with Napoli. (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Chelsea still waiting

Chelsea could have gone through with a win over Valencia, but drew 2-2 and must now wait until its final group game against Lille.

Valencia missed a series of chances including a penalty before Daniel Wass scored a freak goal from a cross in the 82nd to snatch a point for Valencia.

“We created a lot, both teams, I don’t know how many goals there could have been in that game,” Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said. “We can’t turn away from the fact that they had a lot of clear chances. They were arriving in our box far too much.”

Ajax beat last-place Lille 2-0 to cement top spot in Group H and now only needs to avoid defeat against Valencia on Dec. 10 to continue a campaign which began in the qualifying rounds.

Leipzig completes miracle

Leipzig’s fans turned up expecting to see their team qualify for the knockout stages for the first time against Benfica. They got that in the end, after an improbable comeback.

Benfica faced elimination if it didn’t win and seized on Leipzig defensive errors to score two goals, the second of those also leading to an apparent head injury for Leipzig’s goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.

However, Leipzig mounted an extraordinary late comeback to grab the point it needed to qualify. Emil Forsberg made it 2-1 with a 90th-minute penalty and then levelled the game in the sixth minute of added time with a header.

Zenit St. Petersburg and Lyon will fight for the second qualifying spot in the group after Zenit beat its French opponent 2-0 in the other game in Group G.

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CBC | Soccer News