Messi registers his 650th goal for Barca; PSG lose

Lionel Messi scored his 650th goal for Barcelona while Antoine Griezmann struck the winner in a 2-1 home success over Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on Sunday, avenging a defeat by the Basque side in the Spanish Super Cup final.

Messi curled in a stunning free kick after 20 minutes for his milestone goal on the same day the club pledged to sue Spanish newspaper El Mundo for publishing the full details of the Argentine’s contract.

Ronald Koeman’s side recorded a fifth straight Liga win and moved above Real Madrid into second on goal difference with 40 points, 10 behind Atletico Madrid who have a game in hand.

Messi had missed a gilt-edged chance at the start when he fired straight at keeper Unai Simon and Barca spurned several more opportunities to increase their lead before halftime.

Athletic, who had won their previous five matches in all competitions in a flying start under new coach Marcelino, failed to get going but levelled in the 49th thanks to an own goal.

Jordi Alba tried to prevent Athletic’s Oscar de Marcos reaching a cross but instead prodded into the Barca net.

The hosts struggled to respond but finally restored their lead in the 74th when Griezmann, who had scored twice in the 3-2 Super Cup final defeat, arrived in the box to knock home a cross from defender Oscar Mingueza.

Griezmann paid tribute to Messi after the game when asked whether the Argentine, who tried to leave Barcelona in the close season, was being pushed further away from the club.

“We’re all enjoying Messi, he’s a legend and we hope he can continue to help the club to win,” said the Frenchman.

Athletic defender Inigo Martinez said his side had the misfortune to face Messi when he seemed out to prove a point.

“We all know Messi’s quality. When he’s all fired up like he was today he scores goals like that and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said.

PSG suffer first loss under Pochettino as Lille go top

Paris St Germain fell to their first defeat under new coach Mauricio Pochettino, losing 3-2 at lowly Lorient to a goal in added time, as Lille moved top of Ligue 1 with a 1-0 home victory against Dijon on Sunday.

Champions PSG went ahead thanks to two Neymar penalties after Laurent Abergel’s opener for Lorient, only for the hosts to equalise with 10 minutes left through Yoane Wissa before securing the win in stoppage time with a Terem Moffi strike.

Playing a couple of hours later, Lille grabbed the opportunity to go top when Yusuf Yazici’s first-half goal was enough to put them on 48 points from 22 games.

Olympique Lyonnais, who beat Girondins de Bordeaux 2-1 on Friday, are second on 46 points with PSG sliding to third one point further adrift.

Lille dominated throughout against Dijon and were rewarded in the 29th minute when Yazici recovered the ball in the area and beat goalkeeper Anthony Racioppi, who had previously made a couple of great saves, from close range.

Dijon are second-bottom on 15 points, three points behind Lorient and Nantes.

PSG had won four and drawn one of their games since Argentine Pochettino replaced the sacked Thomas Tuchel during the winter break but they had not looked impressive and Sunday’s loss was therefore not too surprising.

They were without Marco Verratti and Abdou Diallo, who have been isolating after testing positive for COVID-19, and the Italian midfielder’s absence was felt in particular.

Lorient went ahead against the run of play when Abergel dispossessed Danilo Pereira, standing in for Verratti, and fired the ball under the bar with a cross-shot in the 36th minute.

PSG hit back on the stroke of halftime as Neymar converted a penalty after being brought down by Houboulang Mendes.

Mendes was at fault again, with a foul on Mauro Icardi this time, as PSG won another penalty, which was coolly dispatched once more by Neymar in the 58th.

But Lorient levelled with 10 minutes left when Wissa fired past Sergio Rico after a one-two with fellow substitute Moffi.

Moffi then bagged all three points for Lorient after beating the offside trap for the fifth goal in his last five matches as PSG lost in the league for the first time in eight games and the first time in nine competitive matches.

Their last reverse was a 1-0 loss to Lyon in Ligue 1 on Dec. 13.

Roma up to third with comfortable win over Verona

Three goals inside the first half an hour earned AS Roma a comfortable 3-1 victory over Hellas Verona in Serie A on Sunday, with the win moving Paulo Fonseca’s side above champions Juventus and into third in the standings.

Gianluca Mancini opened the scoring in the 20th minute with a header from a corner, before Henrikh Mkhitaryan added a second with a fine finish two minutes later, the Armenian taking his tally to nine league goals for the season.

Borja Mayoral was alert to the loose ball to score a third in the 29th minute.

Verona substitute Ebrima Colley got the visitors back into the match in the 62nd minute, with Roma looking nervous at the back as Verona pressed for another, but the home side stood firm to see out the win.

The victory moves Roma on to 40 points, one point ahead of Juventus in fourth having played one game more. They are six points behind leaders AC Milan. Verona stay ninth with 30 points.

Napoli beat Parma to ease pressure on coach Gattuso

Napoli earned a 2-0 victory over lowly Parma thanks to a goal in each half on Sunday, with their Serie A win easing the pressure on under-fire coach Gennaro Gattuso.

In a poor first period, Eljif Elmas’ solo effort in the 32nd minute broke the deadlock, with the midfielder beating three players before scoring.

Nervy Napoli spent the majority of the second half defending their lead before substitute Matteo Politano’s deflected strike in the 82nd minute made sure of the points, with every player going to Gattuso to celebrate.

Napoli publicly backed their coach this week as speculation persisted that Gattuso could be sacked. The result moved fifth-placed Napoli onto 37 points, two off the top four, further helping the 43-year-old’s cause.

Parma stay second-bottom with 13 points, two off the safety zone, and are without a win in their last 11 league games.

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