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Messi seals another La Liga title for FC Barcelona

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A jubilant Nou Camp crowd responded by celebrating a remarkable eighth league crown in 11 years.

Barca’s captain decided the game and the title in the 61st minute as he received a header from Arturo Vidal, effortlessly freeing himself from two defenders with his right foot.

He then used his left foot to plant the ball into the far bottom corner.

Cries of “champions” rang out from the 91,000 supporters crammed into the Nou Camp but Barca’s players dropped their concentration and Jose Luis Morales should have levelled for the visitors.

But he blasted over the bar.

Levante also hit the post in the final stages as Barca were left clinging on to their narrow advantage deep into stoppage-time.

But relief came when they cleared a corner kick and the final whistle sounded.

Barca lead the standings on 83 points after 35 games, an unassailable nine clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid with three matches left.

That was because they have a superior head-to-head record with Atletico Madrid this season.

Ernesto Valverde’s side have now taken the first step in their bid to win a third treble in a decade.

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Messi prefers not to think so much of risk of infection

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Lionel Messi believes he is better off not thinking too much about the risk of being infected by the coronavirus as Spanish football clubs step up their return to activity.

The Argentina captain says he looks forward to getting back to playing matches.

Messi and his FC Barcelona team mates have been back at the club’s training ground conducting individual sessions since last week.

This was after La Liga’s four-phase protocol for returning to activity since it was halted in March due to the pandemic.

All 11 remaining rounds of fixtures in La Liga will take place without spectators, with President Javier Tebas saying last week that matches could start as soon as June 12.

While some players and clubs have spoken out against football returning out of fear of picking up the virus or passing it on to others, Messi is indifferent.

He said returning to matches was no riskier than leaving home for any other reason.

“There’s a risk of infection everywhere, when you leave your house there’s a risk.

“So, I think we shouldn’t think too much about it because if you do you won’t want to go anywhere,” Messi said on Friday.

“But we must understand that it’s essential we comply with the protocols and follow the prevention measures as much as we can. `

“Returning to training is the first step. But we shouldn’t get complacent and we must take all precautions necessary.”

Messi said while he is excited about returning to matches he is opposed to La Liga’s proposal for teams to be quarantined together, away from their families, once matches resume.

“Personally I’m looking forward to the competition returning. We know it’s going to all be very strange, without anyone in the stands, I’ve done it before and I found it out,” said the Barca captain.

“With regards to being quarantined, the truth is we don’t like the idea of being separated from our families at all. But we’ll have to see what the final plan is.”
OLAL

(
Edited By: Olawale Alabi) (NAN)

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New signing Braithwaite vows not to wash Barca shirt after Messi embrace

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New FC Barcelona signing Martin Braithwaite had an ideal start to his career with the club by providing two assists in a 5-0 drubbing of Eibar on Saturday.

Now he has already decided how he wants to remember the occasion —- by never washing his shirt.

Lionel Messi was already on three goals when Braithwaite came off the bench two days after completing a surprise move from La Liga strugglers Leganes.

The Denmark international soon helped the Barca captain get his fourth goal.

The 28-year-old beat a defender before sending a diagonal pass towards Messi, who teased his way past Eibar’s goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic to make it 4-0 before congratulating his new team mate.

“I won’t wash my clothes after I hugged Messi.

“He congratulated me, he’s a great guy and tried to make me feel comfortable on the pitch by passing to me often.

“I am very happy to have given my first assist to Leo,” Braithwaite told reporters.

Braithwaite was not far from marking his first appearance for Barca with a goal in the final few minutes of the game.

He fired a shot at Dmitrovic which the goalkeeper parried into the feet of Arthur Melo who tapped into the empty net.

“I feel bad for not having scored, but Dmitrovic did very well.

“It was an extraordinary debut, a dream come true. When the coach called me to warm up I was a bit nervous but looking forward to getting on.

“I feel very good here, I am surrounded by fantastic players,” added Braithwaite.

(Edited By: Remi Koleoso and Olawale Alabi)

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Messi hits four goals as Barca hammer Eibar 5-0

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FC Barcelona captain Lionel Messi was in a prolific mood as his side crushed Eibar 5-0 at home in La Liga on Saturday.

He scored four goals to placate supporters who began the game by showing their discontent with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

The win took Barca back to the top of La Liga on 55 points, two ahead of Real Madrid who visited Levante later on Saturday.

It also gave them a boost ahead of their UEFA Champions League last 16 first leg tie at Napoli on Tuesday.

Messi had not scored in his previous four games but put the Spanish champions ahead in the 14th minute by dancing and barging his way past three players to slot home for the opener.

He doubled the lead in the 37th minute with an equally impressive strike before completing his treble moments later.

The Argentina captain netted late in the second half for his fourth goal before Arthur Melo completed the drubbing with a tap-in.

His goals cheered fans who began the match waving handkerchiefs and calling for Bartomeu to resign.

This was in the wake of the club being embroiled in a scandal involving a firm hired to monitor coverage of the team on social media.

Messi indicated he was unhappy with those who run Barca in an interview with newspaper Mundo Deportivo on Friday.

In the interview he had defended his recent outburst against sporting director Eric Abidal and said the team had faced “problem after problem”.

He had also questioned the strength of the FC Barcelona side, who he claimed were not strong enough at the moment to challenge for the UEFA Champions League.

Barca looked shaky in the early stages against Eibar and conceded a goal that was quickly ruled offside.

But they soon found their feet, led by Messi who was at his unplayable best.

After using a combination of strength and skill to score the first goal, he used his pace to dash past the Eibar defence down the left.

He then lashed the ball into the far bottom corner.

Later on, Messi looked to tee up Antoine Griezmann but the French forward lost control of the ball and the Argentine cleaned up by tapping in the third goal.

Barca eased off for most of the second half but Messi showed no mercy when he received a pass from Arthur inside the area.

He literally toyed with Eibar’s desperate defenders and goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic before walking the ball into the net for his fourth.

New signing Martin Braithwaite came off the bench to make his Barca debut after an unexpected move from league strugglers Leganes.

The Denmark striker quickly made an impact by drilling a shot at Dmitrovic which Arthur buried on the rebound.

(
Edited By: Remi Koleoso and Olawale Alabi)

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Messi, Hamilton joint winners of Sportsman of the Year at Laureus Awards

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Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton and FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi were declared joint winners of the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award in Berlin on Monday.

The voting was ending in a tie for the first time in the awards’ 20-year history.

Mercedes driver Hamilton won his sixth world championship in 2019, with 11 race wins and 17 podium finishes.

Messi was crowned the world’s best player for a record sixth time when he won the Ballon d’Or.

American gymnast Simone Biles, who became the most decorated gymnast in world championship history when she won her 25th medal last year, won her third Sportswoman of the Year gong.

This was after winning the award in 2017 and 2019.

The South African rugby team, which won the World Cup in Japan last year for the third time in history, were crowned the Team of the Year.

They beat European football champions Liverpool and women’s football World Cup winners U.S.

German NBA star Dirk Nowitzki, who retired last year after a 21-year career in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks, was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions.

Meanwhile, the Spanish Basketball Federation was recognised with the Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award after the men’s World Cup triumph last year.

Their women team have won three of the last four EuroBasket titles.

German Formula Three driver Sophia Floersch made the Comeback of the Year after getting back into the cockpit last year.

She fractured her spine in an aerial crash at the Macau Grand Prix in November 2018 which required an 11-hour surgery to fix.

Former Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar had the support of a cricket-crazy nation to win a fan vote for the award for the best Sporting Moment from the last two decades.

He is the highest run scorer of all time in international cricket.

In his sixth and final one-day international World Cup in 2011, Tendulkar finally got his hands on the title as India won on home soil.

He was carried on his team mates’ shoulders for a lap of honour.

List of winners:

Sportsman of the Year: Lewis Hamilton and Lionel Messi

Sportswoman of the Year: Simone Biles

Team of the Year: South Africa Men’s Rugby Team

Breakthrough of the Year: Egan Bernal

Comeback of the Year: Sophia Floersch

Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Oksana Masters

Action Sportsperson of the Year: Chloe Kim

Best Sporting Moment: ‘Carried on the shoulders of a nation’ – Sachin Tendulkar

Lifetime Achievement Award: Dirk Nowitzki

Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award: Spanish Basketball Federation

Laureus Sport for Good Award: South Bronx United

OLAL

(
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)

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250 gospel artistes for RCCG’s 9th Marathon Messiah Praise festival

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No fewer than 250 gospel artistes will participate at the 9th edition of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) 78 hours of praise in celebration of the 78th birthday of its General Overseer, Pastor Enoch Adeboye.

RCCG’s National Music Director, Pastor Kunle Ajayi, told newsmen in Lagos on Saturday that the ‘78 Hours Marathon Messiah’s Praise’ entitled, ‘Jesus the Lamb of God ’, would also open up Nigerians to new ways of celebrating God.

He said that the celebration, scheduled to hold from March 2 to March 5 at the Prayer Foyer 3/3 Auditorium Redemption Camp, would also feature artistes from many other countries.

According to him, among countries that will be participating in the praise include United States of America, Canada, England, Australia, Spain, Scotland, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Israel, and Zambia.

Others are Cameroon, Kenya, Netherlands, Sweden, Malaysia, South Africa, Ukraine, Ghana, New Zealand, and Ireland.

“We are dedicating the 78 hours this year to praise our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ whose life became our light.

”This is a giant step in our quest to bring ‘Marathon Messiah’s Praise’ to the doorstep of every living being on the planet,” Ajayi said.

Ajayi said that to ensure a hitch-free programme, participants from all walks of life had registered to volunteer in various departments and in various key sectors of the programme across the participating countries.

”Over 30, 000 live participants are expected to be in attendance with over 30 million viewers expected to watch the event on TV and social media channels.

“This year’s Marathon Messiah’s Praise will be the greatest in its series and we are confident that as we praise the Great Redeemer, He will do something new in Nigeria.

”As we are coming towards the electioneering time, God is going to give Nigerians good and credible leaders.

”There will be a harvest of souls, miracles, signs and wonders, restoration, peace, progress and divine intervention across the globe,” he said.

A new department, SOTERIA, launched at the last edition, will be available for prayer and counseling with a dedicated call line for general public throughout the 78 hours event.

Edited By: Wale Ojetimi

 

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Messi on song as Barca ease into Copa quarters

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A Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona eased past Leganes 5-0 on Thursday to reach the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.

Leganes, second-bottom of La Liga, made a number of changes from the side that secured a 0-0 draw against Atletico Madrid at the weekend and a full-strength Barca took advantage.

Last season’s Copa runners-up went ahead after four minutes when Nelson Semedo raced onto Messi’s through ball and squared for Antoine Griezmann to finish from close range.

Griezmann was denied a second after a lengthy VAR stoppage deemed the French forward offside in the build-up.

Messi turned provider when Clement Lenglet nodded in from a corner to double the Catalan side’s advantage.

The Argentine added a deflected third on the hour before rounding off the scoring in the final minute after substitute Arthur had netted the fourth.

Barca joined Real Madrid, Villarreal, Athletic Bilbao, Granada, Real Sociedad and holders Valencia in the pot for Friday’s draw.

Sevilla visit second tier Mirandes later on Thursday in the final round of 16 game.

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Messi claims record 6th Ballon d’Or, Rapinoe wins women’s award

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Lionel Messi claimed a record sixth Ballon d’Or award on Monday, beating Liverpool’s leading nominees and Cristiano Ronaldo to lift soccer’s most prestigious individual trophy.

The Argentine, who won the Liga title with Barcelona but only managed third place in the Copa America with his country, added to his 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015 trophies.

He finished above Dutchman Virgil van Dijk and Portugal’s third-placed Ronaldo, who has won the award five times.

“I am very lucky, I am blessed. I hope I will continue for a long time,” Messi told reporters. “I realize that I’m lucky even if one day it will be time to retire,” added the 32-year-old.

“It will be tough but I still have some years ahead of me. Time flies so I will enjoy football and my family.”

Senegal’s Sadio Mane, who along with runner-up Van Dijk and fellow Liverpool nominees Alisson Becker of Brazil and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah, helped the Merseyside club win the Champions League, came fourth in the poll of international journalists.

“It was amazing,” said Van Dijk. “There are a couple of players like him (Messi) who are fantastic. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved with Liverpool and Holland. It’s going to be tough (to win the award) when these guys are around.”

Messi, whose stellar career was rewarded with another trophy, and Ronaldo, had between them won 10 consecutive Ballon d’Or awards until Croatia’s Luka Modric prevailed in 2018.

Megan Rapinoe earlier won the women’s Ballon d’Or after leading the United States to a record-extending fourth World Cup title in France this year as they retained the trophy.

The 34-year-old midfielder, the standout player at the June-July tournament, succeeded Norway’s Ada Hegerberg who did not take part in the World Cup.

Rapinoe was not present at the ceremony in the Theatre du Chatelet, where the show ‘An American In Paris’ is on.

“I’m so sad I can’t make it tonight. It’s absolutely incredible congrats to the other nominees. I can’t believe I’m the one winning in this field, it’s been an incredible year,” Rapinoe said in a recorded message.

“I want to thank my team mates and the U.S. federation.”

Dutchman Matthijs de Ligt, a key player in Ajax Amsterdam’s thrilling run to the Champions League semi-finals and now at Juventus, won the Kopa trophy for the best Under-21 male player.

Alisson, one of the four Liverpool players in the top seven for the men’s Ballon d’Or, was awarded the new Yashin trophy for the best male goalkeeper of the year.

There was, however, no trophy for the best female Under-21 player or keeper.

Edited & Vetted By: Sadiya Hamza
(NAN)

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Messi scores in 700th match as Barca ease into last-16

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Lionel Messi scored in his 700th match for Barcelona and also set up goals for Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann as the Catalans beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 on Wednesday.

The win for Barca ensured that they sealed a spot in the Champions League knockout stages as Group F winners.

Messi set up Suarez to put Barca ahead at a packed Camp Nou in the 29th minute before the Uruguayan returned the compliment for the Argentine to establish another Champions League record on his landmark night four minutes later.

Messi’s left-foot strike meant he had scored against a 34th different team in the Champions League, surpassing the mark that he had shared with Cristiano Ronaldo and Raul.

“Messi moves so well between the lines and when he receives the ball he is almost unstoppable,” said Dortmund coach Lucien Favre, whose side struck a late consolation goal through substitute Jadon Sancho.

“Sometimes all you can do is try to foul him because he is so explosive. He is also deadly whenever he makes a final ball.”

Substitute Griezmann finished off a defence-splitting pass from Messi to further stretch Barca’s lead in the 67th minute, a much-needed goal for the Frenchman’s confidence after failing to score in his previous six appearances for the club.

Griezmann had been left out of the starting line-up but came on midway through the first half when his injury-prone compatriot Ousmane Dembele was forced off with a third muscle problem of the campaign.

Dortmund’s England forward Sancho also began the game on the bench but made an impact when introduced after halftime, firing in an impressive consolation strike for the Germans in the 77th minute after pouncing on a loose ball inside the area.

The 19-year-old then forced Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to turn a powerful shot on to the crossbar in a strong finish from the German side, whose coach Favre is under pressure due to the team’s poor domestic results.

But it did not tarnish what was a therapeutic win for Barca, who had come in for scathing criticism for their recent poor displays against Leganes, Levante and Slavia Prague, even though they are top of La Liga and their Champions League group.

Ernesto Valverde’s side lead the standings with 11 points from five games, Inter Milan are second on seven while Dortmund are third, also on seven, with Slavia bottom with two.

“We were in the toughest group in the competition and once again we have qualified for the latter stages with a game to spare,” said Valverde.

“Our first objective was to qualify as group winners but we also wanted to show a real improvement in our play,” added Suarez.

“We relaxed a bit in the second half and hung on to our lead but we should still leave here feeling very happy.”

Edited & Vetted By: Sadiya Hamza
(NAN)

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Messi leads Barcelona past Slavia Prague 2-1 in Champions League

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A quick-fire strike from Lionel Messi and a second half own goal gave Barcelona a 2-1 win over Slavia Prague in a thrilling Champions League Group F encounter on Wednesday where both sides spurned multiple chances.

Barcelona swarmed forward from the kick off, keeping Slavia bottled up in their own end and denying them possession.

They took the lead in the third minute when Messi forced a turnover before feeding the ball to Arthur who returned it for the Argentine to slip past the goalkeeper.

Slavia regrouped quickly and began pressing forward in numbers during a lively first half in which they out-shot Barcelona and created three golden opportunities to level the score.

The home side, pushed on by a roaring crowd, kept their foot on the pedal after the break and deservedly levelled in the 50th minute.

This was after Lukas Masopust held off a defender before threading a pass to Jan Boril who made no mistake in front of goal.

Barcelona, harried all night by a hard-running Slavia side, reclaimed their advantage in the 57th minute when a Luis Suarez shot from a tight angle bounced off Peter Olayinka and into the net.


VO/MZA

Edited by Maharazu Ahmed

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