Tag Archives: Barcelona

Canadian Janine Beckie’s scoring not enough to help Man City get past Barcelona

Canadian Janine Beckie scored the opening goal in Manchester City’s 2-1 win against Barcelona in the second leg of the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-finals but it wasn’t enough as Barcelona advanced on aggregate, 4-2.

Beckie swept in a loose ball after a corner kick in 20th minute to give City hope of a comeback.

But just before the hour mark, Barca striker Asisat Oshoala tapped in from close range for a crucial away goal. She had earlier come close to scoring several times but had been denied by defender Lucy Bronze and goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck.

American international Sam Mewis converted a penalty in the 68th minute for City.

WATCH | Canada’s Beckie sweeps in opening goal as Man City ousted by Barcelona:

Canadian striker Janine Beckie scored the opening goal as Manchester City beat Barcelona 2-1, but fell 4-2 on aggregate scoring in the second leg of the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-finals. 0:43

Along with Barcelona, Chelsea also advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s Champions League on Wednesday.

Pernille Harder scored against her former team to lead Chelsea to a 3-0 win over Wolfsburg, and 5-1 on aggregate. 

Chelsea will face either Bayern Munich or Rosengård — who features Canadian national team goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé — in the semifinals. Bayern defeated the Swedish club 3-0 in the first leg, and they play again Thursday in Malmo.

Barcelona awaits either five-time defending champion Lyon or Paris Saint-Germain. The Lyon-PSG second leg was moved to April 18 after a coronavirus outbreak in the Lyon squad.

The battle of French rivals features Toronto’s Kadeisha Buchanan for Lyon and the pair of Jordyn Huitema of Chilliwack, B.C., and Ashley Lawrence of Toronto for PSG.

In Budapest, Harder converted a penalty in the 27th minute and Sam Kerr doubled the lead five minutes later. Both players had scored last week in the first leg. Fran Kirby added the third goal in the second half.

Chelsea and Wolfsburg played their quarter-final legs in Budapest because of travel restrictions. Chelsea was the “away” team on Wednesday.

Harder, who joined Chelsea from Wolfsburg in September, sent a long ball for Kerr, who was taken down by defender Sara Doorsoun. From the penalty spot, the Denmark captain then sent goalkeeper Katarzyna Kiedrzynek the wrong way, rolling the ball into the corner.

Kerr scored in the 32nd minute, collecting a chipped pass with her back to the goal. The Australia striker turned and fired a right-footed shot low just inside the post.

Kirby worked a give-and-go with Ji So-Yun and beat Kiedrzynek from close range in the 81st minute. Jessie Fleming, from London, Ont., subbed into the game for Chelsea with 10 minutes to go.

The final is scheduled for May 16 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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Former FC Barcelona officials detained after raid on soccer club, Spanish media report

Catalan police detained several people after raiding Barcelona’s stadium on Monday in a search and seize operation, adding to the club’s turmoil less than a week before it elects a new president.

The operation was related to last year’s “Barcagate,” in which club officials were accused of launching a smear campaign against current and former players who were critical of the club and then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Police said detentions were made but did not say who or how many people were taken into custody. Spanish media said Bartomeu and other former club officials were among those detained.

Authorities spent several hours at the team’s headquarters searching documents and talking to employees.

The club, mired in debt of more than 1.1 billion euros ($ 1.68 billion Cdn), said it offered “full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts which are subject to investigation.”

It added the case was related “to the contacting of monitoring services on social networks.”

“The information and documentation requested by the judicial police force relate strictly to the facts relative to this case. FC Barcelona (expresses) its utmost respect for the judicial process in place and for the principle of presumed innocence for the people affected within the remit of this investigation,” the club said.

The club did not mention Bartomeu.  A text message sent to Bartomeu was not immediately answered.

Key former officials detained

One of the three presidential candidates, Joan Laporta, told Lleida Radio that what happened on Monday “was a consequence of the bad management by the previous administration.”

He said news of Bartomeu’s reported detention was “shocking” and “not good” for the club, but said the former president deserved the “presumption of innocence.”

Laporta was Barcelona’s president a decade ago and, like Bartomeu, also faced a no-confidence vote during his time in charge.

Among those reportedly detained were club CEO Oscar Grau and legal department chief Roman Gomez Ponti. Jaume Masferrer, Bartomeu’s former chief of staff, also was allegedly detained.


Police say several people were detained but did not say who or how many were taken into custody. (AP/Joan Monfort)

They were taken to a police station for interrogation, Spanish media said, and police also went to Bartomeu’s house searching for evidence. 

Court officials said a judge ordered the search and seize operation but the detentions were made at the discretion of the police agents involved. Authorities said the operation was being carried out by the police’s financial crimes department.

A period of struggles

Barcelona has denied accusations that it hired – and overpaid – a company to make negative comments about its own players and opponents on social media in order to boost the image of senior club officials.

The company was accused of using fake social media accounts to discredit opposition figures when they expressed views that went against the club. Some of the figures were reported to have included players such Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, as well as former coach Pep Guardiola.

The club later released an independent audit report showing that there was no wrongdoing.

Bartomeu and his board of directors resigned last year amid fallout from the controversy surrounding Messi. The club has been mired in political turmoil and debt prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The club has been managed by a caretaker board since Bartomeu left in October while facing a no-confidence motion supported by thousands of club members furious at the team’s poor performances and the club’s financial situation.

The club’s struggles began to surface after the team’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League last season, which was the first without a title for the Spanish club since the 2007/08 season.

Bartomeu was loudly criticized by Messi, especially after the former president denied the player’s request to leave the club at the end of last season. Messi’s contract ends this season and the Argentine great has yet to say whether he will stay or go.

Barcelona is five points off the Spanish league lead. It lost at home to Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League and was beaten by Sevilla 2-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals.
 

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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 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, 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 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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Liverpool, Barcelona dig out wins in Champions League

With Liverpool throwing away a three-goal lead at Anfield and Barcelona trailing at the Nou Camp, two of the favourites for the Champions League title were in a spot of bother in their iconic stadiums on Wednesday.

Then their biggest stars came through.

Mohamed Salah latched onto Roberto Firmino’s flick and cushioned a shot into the net in the 69th minute to earn titleholder Liverpool a 4-3 win over Salzburg.

Luis Suarez was Barcelona’s saviour against Inter Milan, equalizing with a brilliant volley in the 58th after pulling away from his markers to the edge of the area and then collecting a pass from Lionel Messi before stroking home a cool finish in the 84th to seal a 2-1 win.

It was a first win for both teams in group play, the victory being especially important for Liverpool after starting the defence of its title with a 2-0 loss at Napoli two weeks ago. Napoli could only draw 0-0 at Genk in their second match in Group E.

Barcelona had opened with a 0-0 draw at Borussia Dortmund in what could prove to be a tight Group F containing three top teams. Dortmund leads on goal difference after winning 2-0 at Slavia Prague.

There were also wins for Ajax, Chelsea, Lyon and Zenit St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

Wild shootout

There was a scoreboard malfunction inside Anfield, with the screens flashing up “LIVERPOOL 3, SALZBURG 3” after the visitors from Austria scored their first goal — one many would presumably have thought was simply a face-saving consolation in the 39th minute.

Before long, that was actually the score.

Liverpool was breathtaking in the early stages, breezing into a 3-0 lead by the 36th minute thanks to goals by Sadio Mane — a former Salzburg player — Andrew Robertson and Salah.

Salzburg pulled a goal back through Hwang Hee-chan in the 39th, the South Korea forward beating Virgil van Dijk — no mean feat — by turning inside the defender and shooting into the corner, and Liverpool’s defence started to open up.

Takumi Minamino’s 56th-minute volley made it 3-2 and the Japanese forward set up the equalizer for Erling Braut Haaland with a low cross into the area that the substitute couldn’t miss. It was Haaland’s fourth goal of the competition, after the Norway striker’s hat trick against Genk in a 6-2 win.

“We were incredible in the first 30 minutes,” Klopp said. “Then we misunderstood the situation.”

Salah rescued Liverpool with his second goal, and Liverpool’s fourth, of a wild match that felt like the old days under Klopp.

“They never give up,” Mane said of his old club, “and they caused us problems.”

Suarez double

Messi is without a goal in a combined eight games for club and country, the Argentina forward’s longest streak without scoring since 2008.

Suarez showed he hasn’t lost his scoring instincts, however, with his superbly taken goals against Inter, which was defending a second-minute lead earned by Lautaro Martinez.

Suarez drifted to the edge of the area and met a lofted pass from Arturo Vidal with a first-time volley that he guided into the far corner to make it 1-1.

The winner came after Messi dribbled past two defenders down the right flank and found Suarez with an inside pass. The Uruguay striker’s first touch took the ball past Diego Godin and he slotted home a left-footed finish.

“Halftime exists so you can correct your mistakes,” Suarez said. “The team found its patience.”

Defender Achraf Hakimi, who is on loan from Real Madrid, scored Dortmund’s goals in the win against Slavia Prague in the 35th and 89th minutes.

Another Ajax win

Ajax, a semifinalist last season, leads Group H after collecting a second straight 3-0 win, this time at Valencia.

Hakim Ziyech and Quincy Promes scored in the first half, and Donny van de Beek added another goal for the Dutch team, who beat Lille in their opening group game.

Chelsea opened with a home loss to Valencia but joined the Spanish team on three points by beating Lille 2-1, with Brazil winger Willian volleying in the clinching goal in the 78th minute. Tammy Abraham had put Chelsea ahead on his 22nd birthday.

In Group G, Lyon and Zenit St. Petersburg both have four points after wins against Leipzig (2-0) and Benfica (3-1), respectively.

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Barcelona pays Atletico $134m US to land Antoine Griezmann

Barcelona has added a third star talent to its already world-class attack.

France forward Antoine Griezmann agreed to join the Spanish champions on Friday after Barcelona said it paid the buyout clause to free him from rival Atletico Madrid.

Griezmann will strengthen an attack led by Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez after agreeing to sign a five-year contract, the Spanish champions said. The 28-year-old Griezmann will most likely play on Barcelona’s left wing that has been vacant since the exit of Neymar two seasons ago.

Barcelona said it paid Atletico the 120 million euros ($ 134 million US) to trigger his escape clause, and that his new buyout clause will be 800 million euros ($ 900 million US).

Griezmann, a World Cup champion with France last year, will give coach Ernesto Valverde a third true scorer with Messi and Suarez, in addition to young winger Ousmane Dembele.

Griezmann’s task will be to help Barcelona win the Champions League for a sixth time. Its last European title was in 2015, and the team collapsed in the second leg of last year’s semifinal when Liverpool overturned a 3-0 loss by dealing Barcelona a humiliating 4-0 defeat.

His arrival will likely dampen speculation that the club is interested in bringing back Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.

It could also increase the chances that Barcelona will consider parting ways with Brazil attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho, who has failed to meet the expectations generated by his club-record transfer in January 2018.

Born in Macon in eastern France, Griezmann moved to Spanish club Real Sociedad at age 14 to train at its youth academy. He debuted with its team four years later.

Griezmann joined Atletico from Sociedad in 2014 and quickly blossomed into one of the top scoring and playmaking talents in Europe.

In his five seasons for Atletico, he scored 133 goals and helped it win a Europa League title, a Spanish Super Cup and a UEFA Super Cup. His ability to score difficult goals, vision and speed were unique on an otherwise workmanlike squad. He also led his team to a Champions League final and runner-up finishes behind Barcelona for the last two seasons in the Spanish league.

Griezmann had a contract with Atletico until 2023 with a buyout clause of 200 million euros ($ 224 million US), but the clause automatically fell to 120 million euros on July 1.

Griezmann had been linked to Barcelona in recent transfer windows. Last season he even starred in a 45-minute documentary produced by a company owned by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique called “The Decision,” which ended with Griezmann turning down an offer to move to Barcelona and opting to stay at Atletico.

One year later, he changed his mind.

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Liverpool overcomes 0-3 deficit to stun Barcelona

Liverpool delivered the greatest in a long line of famous comebacks to reach the Champions League final on Tuesday, beating Lionel Messi’s Barcelona 4-0 at Anfield to overturn a three-goal deficit from the first leg.

Divock Origi scored twice, either side of goals by halftime substitute Georginio Wijnaldum early in the second half, to send Liverpool into its second straight final and set up a meeting with either Ajax or Tottenham on June 1.

It was only the third time in the history of the European Cup that a team came from three goals down after the first leg of a semifinal and progressed to the final, after Panathinaikos in 1970-71 and Barcelona in 1985-86. No team had done it in the Champions League era.

“The people from outside, they doubted us and thought we couldn’t do it,” Wijnaldum said. “But once again we showed that everything is possible.”

The comeback was all the more unlikely given that Liverpool was without two of its first-choice forward line, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

Instead, it was Origi — the scorer of the crucial fourth goal in the 79th minute — who made the seemingly impossible, possible. And it needed some remarkable ingenuity from Trent Alexander-Arnold, who pretended to walk away from taking a corner before quickly spinning round and sending in a low cross as Barcelona’s players dawdled. Origi swept in the finish.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi looks dejected during his team’s loss to Liverpool on Tuesday. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said he didn’t even see wat happened at the corner.

“We had to be serious. But we needed to be cheeky as well,” Klopp said. “Barcelona defend predictable things well but you need to be unpredictable at moments. I saw the ball flying in the net, I didn’t see the corner. (Substitute) Ben Woodburn looked at me and said ‘What happened’?”

Given the opposition, a team featuring arguably the greatest ever soccer player in Messi, this will likely rank as Liverpool’s greatest European performance, rivaling the comeback from three goals down against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final.

There was also the 3-1 win over Saint-Etienne in the 1977 European Cup and the 4-3 win from 2-0 down against Borussia Dortmund in the 2016 Europa League quarter-finals.

For Barcelona, it was the second year in a row that it let a three-goal lead slip, having beaten Roma 4-1 at home in the quarterfinals in 2018 before losing the return leg 3-0 to go out.

“I apologize to the fans,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said, “because after the Rome thing, it happens again. It is very hard to fall like that.”

Stirring speech

Klopp had delivered a stirring speech on the eve of the game, telling his players to “fail in a beautiful way” if they were to get eliminated.

They took that to heart.

Salah, Liverpool’s top scorer who missed the game as he followed protocols after a concussion, entered the stadium before kickoff wearing a T-shit bearing the message: “Never Give Up.”

Then teammate Andrew Robertson set the tone on the field, pushing Messi’s head with two hands while the Barcelona forward was on the ground after an early challenge. Fabinho followed that up with a crunching tackle on Luis Suarez, who was jeered relentlessly by Liverpool fans at the ground he graced for 3 1/2 years.

A goal was needed to really give a shaken Barca team the jitters and it arrived after seven minutes, with Origi tapping into an empty net after goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen could only parry out a shot by Jordan Henderson.

Barcelona already looked rattled, with Suarez living up to his role as the player opposition fans love to hate. In one incident, the striker flicked his boot back into the right knee of Robertson as they ran along together. Robertson needed treatment and was substituted at halftime.

The player who came on for Robertson — Wijnaldum — made an almost instant impact, making it 2-0 by sweeping home a low cross from Alexander-Arnold.

Bedlam

Two minutes later, he made another run into the area and met a cross from Xherdan Shaqiri with a firm header into the corner past a flat-footed Ter Stegen.

It was bedlam inside Anfield, the scene of so many of these famous fightbacks.

Philippe Coutinho, a former Liverpool player like Suarez, was substituted for Nelson Semedo after an ineffective game — his tracking back left a lot to be desired — and Barca’s game quickly improved, the team exerting more control. Liverpool’s players might also have wondered how to approach the game with the score tied on aggregate.

Then came the coup de grace after cheeky play by Alexander-Arnold. Origi scored and Barcelona had no answer.

“When you have a collapse of this nature,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said, “we will have a few horrible days ahead.”

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Lionel Messi’s 600th goal leads Barcelona over Liverpool in 1st leg of semifinal

Lionel Messi hit the 600-goal mark for Barcelona after scoring twice to lead the Spanish club to a 3-0 victory over Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal on Wednesday.

Luis Suarez opened the scoring against his former club in the 26th minute against a Liverpool side that spurned a couple of good chances to equalize during a strong spell after the halftime break. Messi then quashed the comeback effort when he doubled the lead from a rebound with 15 minutes left and followed that up by making it 600 career goals for Barcelona by curling in a perfectly struck free kick in the 82nd.

Liverpool dominated long stretches of the match but failed to finish its chances when it had the hosts on their back foot, especially early in the second half. Mohamed Salah still almost grabbed a valuable away goal for Liverpool late when he hit the post.

Coached by Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona is aiming to replicate the treble of titles it achieved in 2009 under Pep Guardiola and 2015 under Luis Enrique. It clinched the Spanish league title last weekend and plays Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on May 25.

Liverpool is trying to reach consecutive Champions League finals after losing last season 3-1 to Real Madrid.

Barcelona extended its unbeaten streak at home in Europe’s elite club competition to 32 straight matches, a run that started in 2013.

The return leg at Anfield is next Tuesday. In the other semifinal, Ajax won 1-0 at Tottenham in the first leg on Tuesday.

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