x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

European football round-up: Falcao scores five but Messi steals show with record-breaking double

Radamel Falcao turned in a five-star performance as Atletico Madrid thrashed Deportivo 6-0 - but it was Barcelona's Lionel Messi who claimed the headlines.

Lionel Messi celebrates his record breaking goal against Real Betis.
Lionel Messi celebrates his record breaking goal against Real Betis.

SPAIN

In-demand Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao scored five goals in an 'unforgettable night' - yet still saw his achievement overshadowed by Lionel Messi.

The Barcelona forward broke Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year as his brace guided Tito Vilanova's side to a 2-1 win at Real Betis.

The 40-year-old record fell as Messi helped keep Barcelona six points clear of Atletico in the battle at the top of the Primera Liga - and Villanova was quick to pay tribute to the Argentine star afterwards.

"It seems impossible that he can score that quantity of goals in a year but there are three matches left and we hope he keeps increasing his tally," he said..

"We hope he has a long way to go in his career because he is very young. I don't think we will see another player like him."

Messi grabbed the opener in the 16th minute with a trademark dribble and finish to move level with the German striker, who enjoyed his career year in 1972.

His second goal of the evening, and 86th in a remarkable 2012, came with another left-footed shot past Betis goalkeeper Adrian after he had been teed up by Andres Iniesta after 25 minutes.

Betis got back into the contest six minutes before the break as Martin Ruben Castro reduced the arrears from six yards out, converting Alvaro Vadillo's cross from the left.

Betis twice hit the woodwork in the second half but they could not find an equaliser to take the shine of Messi's night.

"The record is great for what it means, but the most important thing is that the team won and that we maintained the distance with the teams behind us," Messi said afterwards.

"When the year starts the objective is to win it all with the team, personal records are secondary."

But he added: "I'll try to score more goals to make it more difficult for the next player that tries to break it."

Barca remain six points clear of Atletico Madrid, who demolished Deportivo La Coruna 6-0 thanks to Falcao's inspirational form.

Diego Costa headed the hosts in front midway through the first half but thereafter it was a one-man show as Falcao stroked home the second moments later before volleying in a wonderful third just before the break.

And the flow of goals for the Colombian continued after half-time as he slotted home a penalty and two more from close range to take his tally for the season to 19.

"I scored five in a game when I was little in Bogota," said Falcao afterwards.

"And I got four playing for Porto against Villarreal but never five as a professional," he added.

"I was very excited when I came to Atletico Madrid. It was a personal challenge to play in this great league with such a lot of good players

"I am enjoying it. I have a great squad around me who are supporting me and helping me a great deal to develop as a professional."

Real Mallorca's winless streak in all competitions stretched to 12 games as four goals in a 16-minute period either side of half-time saw Levante romp to victory at the Ciutat de Valencia.

The game was well and truly over within 13 minutes of the restart as David Navarro headed home at the back post from a corner before Ruben Garcia and Vicente Iborra also got on the scoresheet after being set-up brilliantly by Martins.

Aritz Aduriz's first-half header earned struggling Athletic Bilbao victory over Celta Vigo and their first win in four games to lift them away from the relegation zone.

The striker converted Ibai Gomez's cross for his 12th goal in all competitions this season to give the home side some welcome relief, their last three games having yielded just a single point sandwiched between 5-1 defeats to Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The result also took them three points ahead of their opponents, whose attacking threat was limited throughout a lacklustre game.

 

ITALY

Juventus marked boss Antonio Conte's return to the touchline with a 1-0 win at Palermo which moved them four points clear at the top of the Serie A table.

Fullback Stephan Lichtsteiner struck the decisive goal as Conte supervised his team on a match day for the first time since he was banned from the dugout for his alleged involvement in match-fixing.

Lichtsteiner's goal arrived five minutes into the second half and Palermo played the last 15 minutes with 10 men after Michel Morganella saw red after picking up two bookings.

Inter moved into second place, and above Napoli, with a 2-1 win at San Siro.

Fredy Guarin (eight) and Diego Milito (39) got the goals for Andrea Stramaccioni's side, who were grateful for a profligate Napoli performance.

Edinson Cavani did get a goal back for the guests on 54 minutes, but a leveller never materialised to relinquish second spot.

AC Milan continued their resurgence with an eye-catching 4-2 win on the road at Torino.

Successive wins over Juve and Catania had lightened the mood in the Milan camp after a dismal start, and the convincing victory means Massimiliano Allegri's men are now well involved in the pack jostling for the European places.

Milan's victory came the hard way after they fell behind to a Mario Santana strike, but four unanswered goals from Robinho, Antonio Nocerino, Giampaolo Pazzini and Stephan El Shaarawy took the game away from the hosts.

Rolando Bianchi added a second for Torino with 10 minutes remaining.

Two second-half goals lifted Pescara off the foot of the Serie A table with a 2-0 win over free-falling Genoa.

The injury-hit visitors hit the woodwork twice in the first half but their horror run continued as Vladimir Weiss set-up both Elvis Abbruscato and Ante Vukusic.

Victory was a first in five game in all competitions for Pescara, lifting them up to 18th and above Genoa who have now won just once in nine.

Pescara's success meant Siena went bottom after they relinquished a half-time lead to lose 3-1 to Catania.

Alessandro Rosina opened the scoring on 10 minutes and while Catania laid siege on the home goal they were not level until five minutes after the break through Lucas Castro.

Gonzalo Bergessio then bagged a brace to pile more pressure on Siena.

Chievo relied on a pair of goals after the break, with Alberto Paloschi and Cyril Thereau on target, to grab their second away league win 2-0 at Cagliari.

 

GERMANY

Hannover hit Bayer Leverkusen's hopes of keeping pace with Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich as Szabolcs Hustzi scored two penalties to secure a narrow 3-2 victory for the hosts.

Leverkusen went ahead after two minutes through Gonzalo Castro but Huszti equalised from the spot in the 20th minute.

Mame Biram Diouf gave Hannover the lead 2-1 in the 57th minute before Stefan Kiessling levelled 60 seconds later, but Huszti converted another penalty in the 69th minute.

The result ended Leverkusen's four-match winning run and left them 11 points behind runaway leaders Bayern.

Two goals within five minutes were enough for Borussia Monchengladbach to win at home against Mainz and move closer to the European places.

Mike Hanke scored in the 58th minute and Juan Arango netted a memorable goal in the 63rd to decide the contest.

Hanke turned home Tony Jantschke's cross before Arango collected a clearance from outrushing Mainz keeper Heinz Muller and flighted the ball back over the keeper and in from 45 yards.

 

FRANCE

Ligue 1 leaders Lyon defied Mouhamadou Dabo's 55th-minute dismissal to beat derby rivals St Etienne and extend their unbeaten run at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard to 18 years.

ASSE looked set to finally beat Lyon on their home turf when Dabo, who also saw red in this fixture last year, was given his marching orders for a butt on Max Gradel that was reminiscent of Zinedine Zidane's famous red in the 2006 World Cup final.

But just 10 minutes later Michel Bastos smashed in a 25-yard free kick before St Etienne's night completely fell apart with the dismissal of substitute Alejandro Alonso.

Lyon's win was sweetened further as they increased their lead at the top of the standings to five points after Marseille suffered a shock 3-0 defeat at home to Lorient.

Goals from Jeremie Aliadiere, Benjamin Corgnet and Kevin Monnet-Paquet condemned the Mediterranean club to defeat, with the fans turning their ire against club president Vincent Labrune at the final whistle.

Marseille were hampered by the 38th-minute dismissal of Charles Kabore for the foul that led to Aliadiere opening the scoring from the penalty spot, but even before that turning point the hosts had hardly appeared poised to take the game to a team with just one win in nine before kick-off.

High-flying Bordeaux were held to a goalless draw at lowly Reims.

The visitors had their chances, with Kossi Agassa making several decent saves and Yoan Gouffran volleying just wide late on.

But Reims actually had the better opportunities as Floyd Ayite hit the crossbar and Florent Ghisolfi forced a superb save from Cedric Carrasso.

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