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Barcelona 3 Manchester United 0 (4-0 agg): Messi magic and De Gea howler leave Red Devils humbled

Two goals from Lionel Messi helped Barcelona to a 3-0 defeat of Manchester United on Tuesday and a 4-0 aggregate triumph in their Champions League quarter-final tie.

With a 1-0 advantage from the first meeting at Old Trafford, the Catalans took command inside the first 20 minutes thanks to a double from their number 10, the second of which owed plenty to a dreadful mistake from David de Gea.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named an attacking line-up featuring Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford, but the blow of those first-half goals seemed to drain any hope of repeating the kind of performance they produced to stun Paris Saint-Germain in France in the last 16.

The tie was firmly put to bed by a sublime goal from Philippe Coutinho, who may get the chance to face old club Liverpool in the semi-finals if they see off Porto on Wednesday.

Rashford prodded a shot against the bar in a positive start from United, but they engineered their own downfall within the space of four minutes.

Ashley Young dithered in possession and lost the ball near his own box, allowing Messi to step into space and drill a shot beyond De Gea and into the bottom-left corner.

The United keeper could do little about it, but he endured a calamitous moment 20 minutes in, allowing Messi’s tame right-foot shot to squeeze beneath his body and into the net.

De Gea denied a certain Sergi Roberto goal after Messi left Phil Jones chasing shadows, but he was again helpless as Barca struck a third on the hour mark, Coutinho sending a stunning strike beyond his outstretched right hand.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a magnificent 90th-minute save from substitute Alexis Sanchez, but United were well beaten and must now fight to turn around their recent form after a fifth defeat in seven games in all competitions.

What does it mean? Messi just warming up as United’s season falls apart

The optimism Solskjaer brought back to United appears to have run dry. They started positively but gifted Barca the tie with mistakes, making it eight years now without a semi-final appearance. A return to next year’s competition is no guarantee, either.

As for Barca, they might have looked short of their best at times across the two legs, but Messi looks like a man on a mission this season. With him in such form, a treble is very much on the cards.

Messi the master of ceremonies

The entire game seemed to dance to Messi’s tune. His second goal – his 45th of the season – might have been fortunate, but he deserves all the plaudits that come his way. He appears determined to get his hands on this trophy again.

De Gea is becoming a problem

There is simply no reason a goalkeeper of De Gea’s calibre should have allowed Messi’s second to go in. Solskjaer denied a recent suggestion from Gary Neville that De Gea has perhaps become distracted by ongoing contract talks, but the continued errors in his performances are difficult to ignore.

Key Opta Facts

– Barcelona have qualified for the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign under Luis Enrique.
– United have now been eliminated at the quarter-final stage on seven occasions – more than any other side.
– Messi scored his first Champions League quarter-final goals since April 2013, ending a run of 12 matches and 50 shots without a goal in last-eight matches.
– This was United’s heaviest aggregate defeat (0-4) in a two-legged European tie; their previous heaviest was 2-5 vs Milan in the 1957-58 European Cup semi-final and 1-4 vs Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of the 1991-92 Cup Winners’ Cup.
– United have lost four consecutive away matches in all competitions for the first time since October 1999 – current manager Solskjær featured in all four of those 1999 defeats.
– Messi has scored 45 goals in all competitions for Barcelona this season – 10 more than any other player in the top five European leagues.
– Spanish teams have lost just one of their last 24 Champions League knockout matches against English sides (W16 D7 L1), with Leicester City’s 2-0 win over Sevilla in March 2017 the only victory for an English team in that time.

What’s next?

Barca host Real Sociedad in LaLiga on Saturday, while United head to Everton in the Premier League on Sunday.

 

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Juventus 1 Ajax 2 (2-3 agg): Van de Beek, De Ligt complete incredible comeback

Ajax dumped Juventus out of the Champions League as a stunning 2-1 second-leg victory at Allianz Stadium on Tuesday completed a famous 3-2 quarter-final triumph.

Donny van de Beek and Matthijs de Ligt scored either side of half-time to overturn Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener and send the Eredivisie side through to the last four of the competition for the first time since 1997.

The Bianconeri appeared on course to progress after Ronaldo, on target in last week’s 1-1 draw in Amsterdam, nodded them ahead in contentious circumstances.

But Erik ten Hag’s thrilling young side took command thereafter and collected another high-profile scalp having already ended Real Madrid’s reign in the previous round.

Ajax lost Noussair Mazraoui, deputising for suspended left-back Nicolas Tagliafico, to an early ankle injury and fortune further abandoned them in the 28th minute.

Leonardo Bonucci’s arm to the face of a stumbling Joel Veltman went unpunished despite a VAR review, meaning Ronaldo’s thumping header from Miralem Pjanic’s corner was allowed to stand.

The equaliser arrived in quick time, however. Van de Beek cushioned Hakim Ziyech’s shot and, kept onside by Mattia De Sciglio, tucked away the one-on-one opportunity.

Wojciech Szczesny made two excellent saves, first from Ziyech and then Van de Beek, in a one-sided 20 minutes after the interval, yet the goalkeeper could do nothing about De Ligt’s commanding header, the teenage defender soaring above Alex Sandro and Daniele Rugani.

David Neres fluffed a golden chance to put the tie beyond doubt and the influential Ziyech had a stunner disallowed for offside as Ajax continued to dominate, with Juve’s late appeals for handball against Daley Blind going unheard as the Serie A champions were sensationally knocked out on home turf.

What does it mean? Ronaldo investment fails to pay European dividends

Juve’s intention was clear when they paid Madrid a €112million fee for Ronaldo – to win the Champions League for the first time in 23 years.

However, the competition’s all-time leading scorer will instead have to wait if he is to lift the trophy for a sixth time in his career.

De Ligt continues to deliver

Such a commanding performance from 19-year-old De Ligt – he made a game-high 10 clearances – has become commonplace despite his tender age. It was fitting that a player seemingly bound for the top of the game scored the winner on such a grand stage.

De Sciglio undermines Juve defence

Ajax’s equaliser – and the confidence that coursed through them for the remainder of the contest – might never have eventuated had right-back De Sciglio, starting ahead of Joao Cancelo, not sauntered away from a corner in the first half.

He sleepily kept scorer Van de Beek onside, laying the platform for the away side to build on the equaliser.

What’s next?

Ajax will meet either Tottenham or Manchester City in the semi-finals, the first leg of which is scheduled for either April 30 or May 1.

They will first look to continue their push for Eredivisie glory – they sit level on points with PSV after 30 games – away at Groningen on Saturday, while Juve have the chance to console themselves by wrapping up the Serie A title when they host Fiorentina on the same day.

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Hertha BSC and Pál Dárdai to end 22-year association

 Hertha BSC head coach Pál Dárdai will leave the club at the end of the season.
 Dárdai, who played for the club from 1997-2011 before becoming a youth team coach, has been in charge of the first team since 2015.

However, he and the club have reached a mutual agreement that a change would benefit all parties.

The news comes off the back of a run that has seen Hertha lose five consecutive Bundesliga games.

“These were very intense and eventful years for me as head coach at Hertha BSC,” Dárdai said in an official statement.

“I am grateful for the opportunity I received here and very proud of what we have achieved together during this time, but the time has come for a change.

“I have always emphasised that I care about what is best for Hertha BSC, because Hertha is and always will be my home.”

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Juventus and Ajax set for three-goal thriller

Ajax eliminated Real Madrid in the round of 16 thanks to an emphatic away leg 4-1 win.
Can the Dutch club do the same against Juventus in Turin?

Juventus welcome Ajax to the Allianz Stadium with the tie level at one goal apiece.

The two clubs go into the second leg in very different form. Juventus lost 2-1 at the weekend to SPAL. However, manager Massimiliano Allegri rested many of his key players including Ronaldo.

Juventus will be without injured players Giorgio Chiellini, Martin Caceres, Emre Can, Douglas Costa, and Blaise Matuidi. The injuries are suddenly piling up for Allegri, but the good news is Ronaldo is fully fit.

The Portuguese forward was the difference for the Bianconeri in the first leg. Ronaldo saved Juventus in the prior round thanks to his second leg hat-trick against Atletico. Juventus are riding on Ronaldo’s back much like Real Madrid did for so many years.

Ajax do not have the same injury issues that Juventus do. In fact, manager Erik ten Hag will be able to pick the same starting XI that featured against Juventus last week.

The Dutch club currently lead the Eredivisie and continued their fine form with a 6-2 win over Excelsior at the weekend.

Ajax do not have history on their side. They have not beaten Juventus in their last nine matches. Ajax’s last win against Juventus came all the back in 1973.

But Juventus’ form has dipped at the wrong time. The Bianconeri were not convincing in the first leg as Ajax held their own with the Italian heavyweights.

Ten Hag’s team has shown it can play alongside the best in Europe. Ajax drew twice with Bayern Munich in the group stage before besting Real Madrid over two legs in the last 16. They drew with Juventus in the first leg and will be hungry for more in the second match.

Ajax just need an away goal to shock Juventus, but the problem is the Bianconeri’s No. 7. Ronaldo made the difference for Juventus against Atletico and he will do it again in the quarterfinals against Ajax.

Juventus paid a lot of money for Ronaldo and it is so far paying off. Despite a strong fight from Ajax, Ronaldo’s presence will prove too much as Juventus win with over 2.5 goals scored.

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Barcelona to end Manchester United’s Champions League campaign

Barcelona go into Tuesday night’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg with a slim one goal advantage.
The tie could go either way with just a solitary goal separating them.

The Red Devils were outplayed during the first leg and were lucky to come away with just a 1-0 loss. Luke Shaw’s first half own goal was the difference, although Luis Suarez’s shot was headed into the goal regardless.

Manchester United did get back to winning ways at the weekend with a 2-1 victory over West Ham. The Red Devils struggled through the game and only won thank to two penalties from Paul Pogba.

The Frenchman has 16 goals this season, but eight of them have come from the penalty spot showing his scoring from open play has been lacking. Pogba was wholly ineffective against Barcelona in the first leg in front of goal as he failed to register a shot.

Barcelona head into the second leg at Camp Nou having drawn nil-nil with La Liga bottom club Huesca on Sunday. Manager Ernesto Valverde rotated his side with only goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen keeping his place.

The good news for Barcelona was Ousmane Dembele played over 65 minutes of the fixture. The Frenchman is getting his fitness back and could feature from the start against Manchester United.

Valverde rested Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Neither player was in the team and watched from the stands. They will be well-rested for Manchester United’s arrival.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could have a trio of players back from injury. Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic, and Alexis Sanchez are all in contention for a spot in the Manchester United starting XI.

The trio missed the first leg with Fred and Scott McTominay filling in for Herrera and Matic. Shaw won’t play a part in the game as he serves a yellow card accumulation suspension.

Manchester United did overturn a two goal first leg deficit against Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round. The problem is, the Red Devils must corral Suarez and Messi, two players far more capable of causing Manchester United problems than those who were in PSG’s squad.

Barcelona must attack Manchester United as their defence has shown weaknesses over the last two seasons. It was at this stage in 2017-18 that Barcelona took a 4-1 first-leg lead to Italy against Roma. The Giallorossi scored three goals without reply to dump Barcelona out of the tournament.

That memory will be fresh in the Catalans’ minds as an away goal for Manchester United can completely change the tie. The opening should be cagey with both teams loosening up and going for goal. The second leg should see over 2.5 goals scored as the caution of the first leg wears off.

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Wigan Athletic 1 Norwich City 1: Farke´s leaders drop points again

Teemu Pukki scored a late equaliser as Norwich City dropped points for the second Championship game in a row, the leaders drawing 1-1 away to Wigan Athletic to give Leeds United and Sheffield United hope in the promotion race.

The Canaries were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Reading in midweek and they slipped up again at the DW Stadium on Sunday, where Reece James scored the opener with a contentious penalty.

Ben Godfrey was penalised for handball on the stroke of half-time, even though Sam Morsy’s shot rebounded off the defender’s leg on to his arm.

James beat Tim Krul with the resulting penalty to set up a potential shock, and the Norwich goalkeeper then made a superb save to deny Leon Clarke midway through the second half.

But Norwich levelled in the 81st minute when Pukki, crowned the Championship Player of the Season on Monday, was slipped through on goal by Kenny McLean to slot home his 27th league goal of 2018-19.

Norwich could not force a winner despite eight added minutes, though, and it was instead Wigan who had the ball in the net, Clarke having a header ruled out for a marginal offside during the extended injury time.

With four games to go, Daniel Farke’s men are four points clear of Leeds, with Sheffield United – who drew at home to Millwall this weekend after conceding in added time – a further three back.

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MLS Review: Vela extends LAFC´s winning run

Los Angeles FC defeated Cincinnati 2-0 on Saturday to remain top of the Western Conference in MLS, as DC United took advantage of a slip up from Columbus Crew.

Mark-Anthony Kaye headed home Carlos Vela’s corner in the 32nd minute at Banc of California Stadium to put LAFC ahead against their fellow expansion franchise.

And Vela sealed all three points in second-half stoppage time, receiving a pass from Eduard Atuesta before advancing into the area and firing a low finish past Spencer Richey.

The result leaves LAFC three points clear of second-placed Seattle Sounders, who had Will Bruin’s brace to thank for a 3-2 win over Toronto, Jozy Altidore netting a double in vain for the visitors to CenturyLink Field.

LA Galaxy are a point further back in third after winning their fourth match in succession as Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s pair of first-half strikes earned a 2-0 victory at home to Philadelphia Union, who had Auston Trusty sent off for committing a second bookable offence with 14 minutes to go.

In the Eastern Conference, DC United came from a goal down to win 3-2 away to Colorado Rapids and go top of the standings.

Columbus Crew dropped to second following a 1-0 loss at Montreal Impact, who are now just two points behind them in third place.

There were five goals inside the first 32 minutes of Minnesota United’s match at home to New York City, who had Ismael Tajouri to thank for rescuing a point in a 3-3 draw and sparing the blushes of Sean Johnson, the goalkeeper having conceded a comical own goal to gift the hosts the advantage.

MLS Cup holders Atlanta United claimed their first league win under Frank de Boer thanks to Ezequiel Barco’s double in a 2-0 victory at New England Revolution.

In other matches, there were 2-1 wins for Real Salt Lake, Dallas and Houston Dynamo against Orlando City, Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes respectively.

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Emery challenges Ramsey to end Arsenal career in style

Arsenal head coach Unai Emery has challenged Aaron Ramsey to end his career with the club on a high.

The Gunners are in the thick of a four-way battle for two Champions League qualification spots in the Premier League and have one foot in the Europa League semi-finals after earning a 2-0 quarter-final first leg win over Napoli on Thursday.

Ramsey – who will leave the Emirates Stadium for Italian champions Juventus at the end of the season – scored the opener against Napoli and Emery wants him to continue his fine recent form in the closing weeks of the season.

“It’s not easy for him after he signed for Juventus but his focus is to help us and his attitude is a very amazing attitude towards each training session,” he told a media conference ahead of his side’s visit to Watford on Monday.

“I continued speaking with him about doing something very important in the last matches here in two competitions that are very important for us.

“He wants to do something important for the supporters and I want to do something important for him in his last matches here.”

Sixth-place Arsenal will climb back into the top four if they overcome the Hornets and Chelsea fail to pick up any points against Liverpool on Sunday, and Emery knows his side will have to be at their best against the FA Cup finalists.

“We are showing we are competitive and have a good mentality,” he added.

“At Watford, we need to be defensively hard and strong, like we are at home now, and in the attacking moments use the best opportunities to find chances to score.”

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A-League Review: Ninkovic late show settles Big Blue

 

Milos Ninkovic’s deflected injury-time goal secured a 2-1 A-League win for Sydney FC over Melbourne Victory in the Big Blue on Saturday.

Sydney took an early lead when Brandon O’Neill fired home a superb left-footed strike from outside the box to delight the home crowd.

But Victory levelled it up after Kosta Barbarouses collected Keisuke Honda’s fine throughball and lifted a delicate finish over Andrew Redmayne.

It looked as though the spoils would be shared until Siem de Jong escaped down the right and picked out Ninkovic, who got his shot away at the second attempt and saw it bobble into the bottom-left corner via a defender.

The win moves Sydney four points clear of Melbourne in the second place, and three behind leaders Perth Glory.

The Jets now sit five points behind sixth-placed Adelaide United, who play their game in hand on Sunday, courtesy of teenager Angus Thurgate’s first A-League goal.

Rashid Mahazi had put the visitors ahead at the break, but Roy O’Donovan levelled matters before goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic punched Dimitri Petratos’ corner into his own net.

A long-range equaliser from Keanu Baccus looked set to earn the Wanderers a point, only for substitute Thurgate to clinch it with a cool finish eight minutes from time.

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Manchester United to cruise to comfortable win

 

Ole Gunnr Solskjaer has led Manchester United on an 11-game unbeaten Premier League run since taking over the manager’s position in mid-December. The Red Devils’ form has improved drastically under the former striker.

They are just one point off the top four heading into the weekend, and if Manchester United continue playing well while Tottenham do not, they could reach as high as a third-place finish.

Southampton have everything to gain with a solid performance at Old Trafford. Ralph Hasenhuttl has won five of 13 matches since joining Southampton in December.Southampton have secured 18 of 39 points under the Austrian manager’s leadership. If he can steer Southampton away from relegation and gain survival, there are high expectations that Hasenhuttl could greatly improve the Saints next term.

But first, Southampton must survival their current relegation fight. They are out of the relegation zone currently thanks to their 2-0 win over rivals Fulham in midweek. Now, two points safe, Southampton need to continue their upward trajectory.

The Saints are undefeated in six of their last eight league matches. They have scored nine times and conceded seven goals during that run. Scoring has been a problem for Southampton all season with just 30 goals being scored. It is the sixth worst goals scored record in the Premier League. Meanwhile, they have allowed the sixth most goals with 46 conceded.

Under Solskjaer, Manchester United are attacking first and defending second. It has led to some big scorelines. The Red Devils are +19 in goal difference having tallied 55 strikes; the league’s fourth best total.

Manchester United drew 2-2 with Southampton in their previous meeting. That fixture came just weeks before former manager Jose Mourinho was sacked. Southampton last won at Old Trafford in the league in 2016. Since then, Manchester United have won three and drawn three games against Southampton in six fixtures in all competitions.

In just two of those last six meetings, there were over 2.5 goals. With the poor goal scoring record Southampton currently have, it is unlikely that this fixture will see more than 2.5 goals scored.

Solkjaer has had plenty of injuries to worry about in the last week. Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, and Marcus Rashford were in training on Thursday, however. Lingard may not be risked as he came on as a substitute last Sunday against Liverpool only to last 19 minutes before injury forced him off.

Manchester United were able to get a win over Crystal Palace even without their preferred players. Saturday will see the Red Devils post another victory, but this time, Solskjaer will have some of his top performers back in the side. Manchester United will win at home with fewer than 2.5 goals scored.