x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

European football round-up: Messi double helps fire Barcelona to win over Zaragoza

Real Madrid stroll to a comfortable 5-1 win over Athletic Bilbao, while Bayern Munich extend their lead at the top of the Bundesliga despite being held to a draw by Nurnberg.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo runs the ball against Athletic Bilbao
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo runs the ball against Athletic Bilbao

SPAIN

Cristiano Ronaldo drew a rare blank but Real Madrid still enjoyed a comprehensive 5-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Primera Division.

It was unclear whether Real's first goal came from Karim Benzema or an own goal from the unfortunate Jon Aurtenetxe, but there was never any doubt about the result which took Jose Mourinho's side back to within eight points of leaders Barcelona, who had seen off Real Zaragoza earlier in the evening.

Sergio Ramos made it 2-0 after 30 minutes and Benzema made absolutely sure of getting his name on the scoresheet with a superb finish soon after, while Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira also got in on the act at the Bernabeu.

Lionel Messi had scored twice and set up a maiden Barcelona goal for Alex Song as the Catalan giants powered to a 3-1 victory over Zaragoza.

Messi took his season tally for Barcelona to 22 in all competitions with strikes in 16th and 60th minutes while he also turned provider in the 28th minute to help summer signing Song open his account for the club.

Song's goal put Barca back in front after Zaragoza had drawn level through Paco Montanes.

Espanyol slipped to the bottom of the league after a controversial defeat at Valencia which saw them end the game with nine men.

Jonathan Viera gave the home side the lead on 15 minutes but Samuele Longo equalised on the half-hour mark and the visitors looked like clinging on for a welcome point.

However, Hector Moreno was adjudged to have handled in the area three minutes from time and after Moreno and Sergio Garcia were sent off for protesting to the referee, Roberto Soldado drilled home the penalty.

Another 11 players were booked in an ill-tempered game which will have done little to boost Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino's chances of holding onto his job.

Elsewhere, Malaga's winless streak stretched to four games as they played out a goalless draw against resolute Osasuna at El Sadar.

 

HOLLAND

PSV Eindhoven gave the strongest of indications that they badly want the Eredivisie title as they crushed ADO Den Haag 6-1.

The Boeren were thoroughly rampant at the Kyocera Stadion, splitting their goals equally before and after the break as Maurice Steijn`s men were overrun.

Luciano Narsingh got them going in the 14th minute and with Kevin Strootman (23) and Dries Mertens (33) also on target, the game was over as a contest by half-time.

PSV continued to excel after the break too, Georgino Wijnaldum making it four ahead of Charlton Vicento`s consolation.

Even then there was time for more goals, with Timothy Derijck and substitute Orlando Engelaar putting the seal on things for the visitors.

PSV are nine points clear of defending champions Ajax, who at least won ahead of a vital week of Champions League fixtures.

They were 2-0 victors over second bottom VVV Venlo, who hung in the contest until Dirk Boerrigter put them ahead in the 47th minute. Substitute Danny Hoesen wrapped things up with six minutes left.

RKC got the better of Heerenveen, leaving the Abe Lenstra Stadion with a 2-0 win.

Their hero was Florian Jozefzoon, with the rising star scoring twice, first in the seventh minute and secondly on the hour as he took his seasonal tally to four.

In another clash between two similarly-placed teams, FC Groningen drew 1-1 with AZ Alkmaar, with the goals coming in the second half.

Tim Sparv drew first blood for Groningen, but his colleagues were unable to see the job through, with Holland international Adam Maher levelling 19 minutes from time.

PEC Zwolle move five points clear of the bottom of the table as they beat NAC Breda 2-0.

Half-time substitute Ronnie Reniers (69) broke the deadlock and Denni Avdic wrapped things up with 11 minutes left.

 

ITALY

Serie A leaders Juventus were denied by a goalkeeping masterclass as Lazio held out for a 0-0 draw in Turin.

Juventus have responded well to their 49-game unbeaten league record ending against title rivals Inter Milan a two weeks ago, beating FC Nordsjaelland in the Champions League and hammering Pescara 6-1 last week.

They would have won again too were it not for the heroics of Federico Marchetti.

They are five points clear, though, and will remain top regardless of Inter's result against Cagliari tomorrow.

The day's other game saw AC Milan avoid more negative headlines as they drew 2-2 at Napoli, who are also five points behind Juventus after blowing a lead.

Gokhan Inlerput the home side head after just four minutes, followed by a Lorenzo Insignestrike on the half-hour mark.

But Milan have been indebted to Stephan El Shaarawy this season, with his surprise early blossoming as a top-flight goalscorer having helped them keep their heads above water.

He opened his account for Italy in midweek and was on song again, scoring in the 44th and 82nd minutes.

 

FRANCE

Paris St Germain remain top of the Ligue 1 table, but not through any of their own doing.

PSG left the door open for both St Etienne and Valenciennes to overtake them as they lost 2-1 at home to nine-man Rennes.

St Etienne looked destined to leap above them when Max Gradel`s brace put them 2-0 up at Evian, but the home side belied their position in the drop zone to salvage a 2-2 draw.

And with Valenciennes also drawing 1-1 with Montpellier, PSG clung on to top spot, although Marseille can still dethrone them when they take on Bordeaux tomorrow.

PSG fell behind to Romain Alessandrini's 13th-minute volley and after Nene equalised, Rennes had goalkeeper Benoît Costil sent off.

However, the visitors responded superbly, taking the lead again through Julien Feret (34) and holding on despite Jean Makoun also being dismissed.

It had looked for all the world as though St Etienne were going to make them pay too, with Gradel scoring in the ninth and 28th minutes.

But the strugglers hit back through Mohammed Raibu (48) and then stole a point through Aldo Angoula with 10 minutes left.

Valenciennes were also held, albeit against stronger opposition.

Defending champions Montpellier, labouring in mid-table, took an early lead through Gaetan Charbonnier in the 15th minute, but were pegged back by Gregory Pujol six minutes before the break.

Jamel Saihi was sent off for Montpellier 12 minutes into the second half.

At the bottom of the table, Sochaux gave themselves some breathing space as Samuel Bohours put through his own goal 10 minutes in to give them a 1-0 win at Ajaccio, while the bottom two of Troyes and Nancy shared six goals in a 3-3 thriller.

Granddi Ngoyi gave second-bottom Troyes a dream start with a 20th-minute opener, but the home dressing room was not a happy one at half-time as Nancy reeled off three goals to take control.

Sebastian Puygrenier got the first of them (32) and Yohan Mollo (33) put the visitors ahead. When Andre Luiz scored on the stroke of half-time, being off the bottom was a distinct possibility.

But they had not banked on Benjamin Nivet grabbing a late brace for Troyes, the first coming nine minutes from the end and the second an 87th-minute penalty.

A brace from Larsen Toure and Eden Ben Basat's penalty saw Brest beat Bastia 3-0.

Toure got his first on the stroke of the interval and his second 12 minutes after it before Ben Basat rounded things off on the hour.

 

GERMANY

Bayern Munich were held to a draw by struggling Bavarian neighbours Nurnberg but still extended their lead at the top of the Bundesliga after nearest challengers Schalke slumped to defeat.

Bayern had won 10 of their 11 league matches heading into their trip to the Frankenstadion and looked set to add another victory when Mario Mandzukic put them ahead in the third minute.

However, Nurnberg drew level through Markus Feulner's 46th-minute equaliser and even had chances to go ahead before losing Timo Gebhart to a red card in the 76th minute, at which stage they got everybody behind the ball and defended successfully for a point.

Despite that result, though, Bayern moved eight points clear at the summit after second-placed Schalke were beaten 2-0 by Bayer Leverkusen.

Andre Schurrle and Stefan Kiessling scored the goals for Leverkusen, who also missed a penalty late on when Kiessling's effort was saved by Lars Unnerstall.

To add salt to Schalke's wounds, they finished with 10 men after losing Kyriakos Papadopoulos to a second yellow card with eight minutes remaining.

Eintracht Frankfurt took advantage of Schalke's slip to move level with them on 23 points with a 4-2 home win over bottom side Augsburg.

In-form Alexander Meier took his tally to nine for the season with a brace, while Frankfurt's other efforts came from Stefan Aigner and a Sascha Molders own goal.

Augsburg replied through Ja-cheol Koo and a goal from Moulders at the right end.

Reigning champions Borussia Dortmund are a point further back in fourth following a 3-1 home win over Greuther Fürth.

Robert Lewandowski put Dortmund ahead in the third minute and then restored his side's lead with a 15th-minute penalty after Fürth had equalised through Zoltan Stieber during an action-packed start.

Mario Gotze further increased his side's advantage in the 42nd minute before Dortmund appeared to take their foot off the accelerator in the second half with what could be a decisive Champions League fixture against Ajax coming in midweek.

In Monchengladbach, Martin Stranzl put hosts Borussia ahead in the seventh minute against Stuttgart but the visitors hit back to claim the points thanks to an equaliser from Martin Harnik and a 72nd-minute own goal from Roel Brouwers.

Elsewhere, Hamburg claimed a 1-0 home win over Mainz, Heung-min Song netting the only goal in the 63rd minute, while Freiburg picked up a 2-1 triumph at Hannover.

 

SCOTLAND

Celtic moved to the top of the Scottish Premier League with a 2-0 win over Aberdeen as Hibernian slipped up against Dundee.

Neil Lennon's side made hard work of the match but eventually scored twice in the final quarter at Pittodrie.

Lassad Nouioui opened the scoring when he stroked into an empty net in the 73rd minute, having only come on for Kris Commons four minutes earlier, before Charlie Mulgrew added the second against his former club three minutes later.

Kyle Benedictus set Dundee on their way to a fine 3-1 home win over high-flying Hibernian, whose hold at the top of the SPL was brought to an end.

Benedictus scored in the first half and his effort was followed by second-half goals from Steven Milne and Kevin McBride which meant Leigh Griffiths' injury-time strike was nothing more than a consolation.

Hearts rewarded their fans for backing the club during their continuing financial crisis with a 1-0 win over St Mirren.

Fullback Danny Grainger scored the only goal of the game in front of a crowd of 16,443 at Tynecastle to leave St Mirren having now lost six SPL games in a row.

St Johnstone drew 1-1 against Ross County, with Saints captain Dave Mackay putting the hosts in front five minutes into the second half before Liam Craig diverted Iain Vigurs' shot into his own net 20 minutes from time.