Barcelona, Mar 14 (AP/UNB) — Just when the Camp Nou crowd was getting nervous, Lionel Messi turned a close game into a complete rout.
Messi scored two goals before setting up two more for teammates as Barcelona beat Lyon 5-1 on Wednesday to reach the Champions League quarterfinals for a 12th straight season.
After a 0-0 draw in the first leg, Luis Suarez helped Barcelona go 2-0 up by halftime by earning a penalty converted by Messi and then setting up Philippe Coutinho to score.
Lucas Tousart gave the visitors hope with a goal in the 58th minute after Barcelona failed to clear a corner kick. That meant Lyon only needed one more goal to go through, but Messi scored again in the 78th before passing for Gerard Pique and substitute Ousmane Dembele to round off the big win.
"We suffered unnecessarily for a while after they made it 2-1," said Messi, who matched Xavi Hernandez's club record of 476 career victories. "We complicated things by letting our guard down on a set piece. After the 3-1 we could calm down."
Messi's goals were his seventh and eighth in the Champions League this season and took his tally to 36 in all competitions for Barcelona.
With the win, Barcelona set a Champions League record of 30 consecutive home matches without a loss that dates back to September 2013.
Barcelona also stayed on course for a possible treble of titles. It leads the Spanish league and has reached the final of the Copa del Rey.
In Wednesday's other game, Sadio Mane scored twice as Liverpool advanced with a 3-1 win at Bayern Munich.
The quarterfinal draw is on Friday.
Barcelona was on the front foot from the start and Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes did well to swat away Messi's first shot on goal shortly after kickoff.
But he could only watch hopelessly while prone on the turf when Messi floated his penalty kick past, using the "Panenka" style scoop after the goalie has moved too early.
Messi's 17th-minute spot kick was thanks to Suarez, who deftly sought and found contact with sliding defender Jason Denayer in the area to draw a foul.
Suarez continued to torment Lyon*s backline with his runs into the box. A quick switch of the ball from his left boot to his right was enough for Suarez to juke past Fernando Marcal and draw in Lopes before he passed for Coutinho to tap home on the half-hour mark.
Lopes had already been shaken up in a collision with Coutinho that forced play to be stopped for around five minutes before he tried to go on playing. But Lopes finally asked to be substituted in the 34th.
Backup Mathieu Gorgelin denied Messi from close range before halftime, and Marcal hustled back to clear Messi's chipped shot before it crossed the line just after the restart.
Lyon grabbed a lifeline when a corner kick was knocked on by three players— including two from Barcelona— before Tousart controlled the ball with his chest and fired past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Nabil Fekir then fired high as Lyon's pressure worried Barcelona for the first time.
Seeing his team's control of the match in danger, Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde sent on Dembele and Arturo Vidal to try and equal Lyon in speed and muscle.
The move worked.
Messi made the most of the back-and-forth second half when he received the ball alone while charging toward the area. He put the ball on his left foot to draw two defenders the wrong way, before he cut back to his right and poked the ball under Gorgelin.
The Argentina forward then found Pique and Dembele arriving unmarked on quick attacks to complete the demolition.
"When (Messi) is playing at this level you almost can't stop him," said Lyon coach Bruno Genesio. "The third goal completely broke us. We could have been able to do more against a team that was having doubts."
Dhaka, Mar 13 (UNB) - Bangladesh National Women’s Football team, now in Nepal to compete in the SAFF Women’s Championship, will start their campaign in the six-nation regional soccer meet taking on Bhutan on Thursday (March 14) at Shahid Rangashala in Biratnagar with a hope to secure a semifinal berth beating the Himalayan country.
The match will kick off at 3:15 pm Bangladesh time.
Last time runners-up Bangladesh need just an outright victory against Bhutan to assure the semifinal berth from the group as hosts Nepal earned a comfortable 3-0 victory over Nepal in the tournament opener on Tuesday.
Bangladesh, placed in three–team Group A, will play their last group match against hosts Nepal on Saturday (March 16). Hosts Nepal topped the group list and were already in the upper hand beating Bhutan convincingly.
Group B consists of India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. India will take on the Maldives on Wednesday (March 13) and Sri Lanka on Sunday (Match 17). The Maldives and Sri Lanka will meet each other in the other Group A match on Friday (March 15).
In the semifinals on March 20, Group A champions will play Group B runners-up at 11am while Group B champions will encounter Group A runners–up at 3pm at the same venue. The final match will take place at 3pm on March 22.
Ahead of the opening match against Bhutan, Bangladesh Women’s team made a light training session at the match venue on Wednesday morning. Bangladeshi players are very much excited ahead of the match and looking forward to their first target.
Bangladesh team travelled to Biratnagar on Tuesday afternoon after making training session in the morning to watch their game of interest and the opening match between hosts Nepal and Bhutan, where Nepal beat Bhutan by 3-0 goals.
Ahead of the first game, Bangladesh captain Sabina Khutan said, "We’ve adjusted very well with the local condition, surroundings and hotel foods. We understand our responsibilities as members of the Bangladesh National Team and look forward to our first game."
Earlier, Head Coach of Bangladesh Golam Robbani Choton said, “We’re focusing on winning our first game against Bhutan to achieve our target of reaching the semi-final.”
“We’re excited to represent Bangladesh here. We have been preparing to face Bhutan in our first game after returning from Myanmar,” he added.
Italy, Mar 13 (AP/UNB) — Cristiano Ronaldo made a mockery of Atletico Madrid's vaunted defense, and then mocked its coach as well.
Ronaldo scored a hat trick against the normally resilient Spanish side to send Juventus into the Champions League quarterfinals with a 3-0 win on Tuesday as the Bianconeri fought back from a two-goal first-leg defeat.
The former Real Madrid player outjumped Atletico's defenders to score a header in each half and then converted a late penalty for his first hat trick since joining Juventus in the summer — and just when they needed it most.
He celebrated at the final whistle by mimicking the obscene gesture Atletico coach Diego Simeone made after the Spanish side's second goal in the first leg — having the final say against a rival he so often defeated as a Real Madrid player.
Simeone was fined 20,000 euros ($22,500) by UEFA for improper conduct and it remains to be seen whether Ronaldo will face a similar punishment.
It was Ronaldo's eighth hat trick in the Champions League, moving him level with Barcelona's Lionel Messi and demonstrating why Juventus paid Real Madrid 112 million euros (then $131.5 million) for the Portugal star who has dominated the competition in recent years.
It was the first time Juventus came back from a two-goal defeat in the first leg.
"Maybe that's why Juventus signed me," Ronaldo said. "To help it do things that it had never done before. This result is a great push for the future, we're strong and we showed it."
The 34-year-old Ronaldo has won the Champions League five times, including in four of the last five seasons. Without him, Madrid was eliminated by Ajax last week.
However, Ronaldo had only scored one goal in the competition for Juventus until Tuesday.
"It would have been strange if Ronaldo's Champions League season ended with only one goal," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "Juventus signed him for nights like this and tonight he made the difference."
For Atletico, it was more heartache in the competition in the year the final is being held in its Wanda Metropolitano Stadium — and more pain caused by Ronaldo. While at Madrid, Ronaldo helped beat Atletico in two Champions League finals.
He has also now scored 25 goals against Atletico in his career.
"He's the best in the world," Simeone said. "We suffered, as happened to them in the first leg. They're through and that's right. They deserved it ... Maybe I didn't manage to transmit to my players what we needed."
Manchester City is also through to the final eight after routing Schalke 7-0 to progress 10-2 on aggregate.
Juventus thought it had taken the lead less than three minutes into the game but VAR confirmed that Ronaldo had fouled Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak before Giorgio Chiellini fired in the rebound.
Italy forward Federico Bernardeschi was handed a start instead of Paulo Dybala for Juventus, and he responded by putting in a cross from the left for Ronaldo to head in at the far post in the 27th minute. Bernardeschi also had several chances to extend Juve's lead — notably with an audacious overhead kick in the 35th minute which flew narrowly over.
Ronaldo went close again shortly before halftime when he again outjumped everyone but headed Leonardo Spinazzola's cross wide of the right post.
Ronaldo did get the second goal three minutes after the break. Joao Cancelo put in a cross from the right and although Oblak clawed Ronaldo's header out from under his crossbar, goal-line technology confirmed the ball had crossed the line.
Juventus went all out attack and got the decisive third goal four minutes from time. Bernardeschi was nudged over in the penalty area and Ronaldo converted the resulting spot kick to send the home fans wild.
Madrid, Mar 12 (AP/UNB) — Real Madrid picked one of its most successful figures to try to end one of its worst crises.
Zinedine Zidane is returning to coach Madrid, the club he led to three straight Champions League titles before quitting while on top nine months ago.
Madrid announced Monday that Zidane accepted an offer to replace Santiago Solari and signed a contract until June 2022 to try to get the club back on track after a disastrous season.
The coaching change came less than a week after two losses to Barcelona and another to Ajax — results that eliminated the club from the Champions League and the Copa del Rey and virtually ended its hopes of winning the Spanish league.
"I'm very happy to be back home. I've recharged my batteries and now I'm ready again for the experience of being Real Madrid's coach. I'm motivated to be coaching again," Zidane said. "What I want to do now is return to work and put the club back where it belongs."
Spanish television channel La Sexta was the first to report Zidane's return. The announcement came after the board of directors met Monday in Madrid.
"You have an incredible history with the club, both as a player and as a coach," Madrid president Florentino Perez told Zidane. "We are proud to have you with us again. You represent the grandiosity of this club. Thank you for your loyalty."
Zidane, who won the 2002 Champions League while playing for Madrid, said he was never in doubt after receiving the offer from Perez.
"I love this club, and when the president called me, I couldn't say no," Zidane said. "I'll give everything I have to make this club better."
Zidane quit not long after Madrid won the Champions League title last season, saying that he and the club needed a change in command to keep succeeding. He won nine titles in his first stint with Madrid.
Zidane will be in charge of Tuesday's practice session, and his first game back will be on Saturday at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium against Celta Vigo. Madrid trails leader Barcelona by 12 points with 11 matches left and is five points behind second-place Atletico Madrid.
"I've been watching the season closely and I'm also not happy with how things have gone," Zidane said. "We have to see what we can (do) to improve and make sure things can be different going forward."
Solari led the team to a 4-1 win at Valladolid on Sunday and was in charge of practice on Monday. The club said it offered him an opportunity to remain in a different position. The former Argentina and Madrid player had been the "B'' team's coach before taking over the main squad in October.
Solari led Madrid to 22 wins, eight losses and two draws in all competitions, and helped the team win the Club World Cup in December.
Zidane's name was a unanimous choice within the club but few thought he would accept returning so soon after deciding to take a break.
The level-headed coach took over in January 2016 and immediately won over the squad with his calm manner and easygoing attitude. In addition to the three Champions League titles, he also led Madrid to the 2017 Spanish league title, the club's first since 2012. His other titles in his first coaching stint included two Club World Cups, two UEFA Super Cups and one Spanish Super Cup.
Shortly after Zidane left, Cristiano Ronaldo left to join Juventus, and Madrid has endured an up-and-down season that led to the humiliating losses to Barcelona and Ajax at the Bernabeu.
Zidane was replaced by Julen Lopetegui, the former Spain coach who was fired before the World Cup for taking the Madrid job. He lasted only a few months at the helm.
Solari took over from Lopetegui as an interim coach and eventually was given a full-time job — with a contract until 2021 — after putting the team back on track. Unlike Zidane, though, he struggled to manage the squad and was at odds with some of its key players, including Marcelo and Francisco "Isco" Alarcon.
Jose Mourinho, fired by Manchester United last year, was another strong candidate to replace Solari after succeeding with Madrid in the early 2010s. Other names mentioned included Juergen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino, Joachim Loew and Antonio Conte, who was highly touted to take over from the fired Lopetegui.
Some even wanted the club to consider former star Raul Gonzalez, who has just started coaching one of Madrid's youth squads.
But it will be the great Zidane at the helm again.
"We'll get back to work and try to do the right things," Zidane said. "We have 11 matches left in the league, then we will start thinking about next year and beyond."
Rome, Mar 12 (AP/UNB) — Claudio Ranieri won his first game back in charge at Roma but it was far from comfortable.
Stephan El Shaarawy and Patrik Schick scored in the first half, and relegation-threatened Empoli's late equalizer was disallowed on video review as Roma held on to win 2-1 on Monday.
Captain Alessandro Florenzi was sent off 10 minutes from time — on his 28th birthday — following a second booking, and Empoli's Rade Krunic almost made the advantage count before the video assistant referee determined the ball hit Dimitri Oberlin in the arm just before the goal.
"The first match is over, and the best thing is the result," Ranieri said. "We have to work a lot, but we will always score sooner or later. We have to work instead on staying focused in order not to concede. It's not possible that we're letting in all these goals.
"These 90 minutes hasn't made me feel calmer, but I'm focused and positive."
Roma moved three points behind fourth-place Inter Milan, with the top four from Serie A qualifying for the Champions League. Empoli remained a point above the relegation zone.
Ranieri was appointed as interim coach on Friday, a day after Roma fired Eusebio Di Francesco following elimination from the Champions League and a derby defeat to Lazio. In charge of Roma from 2009-11, Ranieri was fired by Fulham of the Premier League on Feb. 28.
His second spell got off to a good start. El Shaarawy fired Roma in front in the ninth minute when he curled a stunning effort into the top right corner, but Empoli leveled in somewhat comical fashion three minutes later as Juan Jesus headed the ball into his own net under very little pressure.
Empoli almost immediately scored a second, but Manuel Pasqual's free kick bounced off the top left corner of the goal.
Roma took the lead again in the 33rd minute as Florenzi floated in a free kick from outside the right side of the penalty area and Schick headed it into the bottom left corner.
Empoli dominated as Roma's task was made harder by the list of players missing: Daniele De Rossi, Kostas Manolas, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Cengiz Under were all injured, and Edin Dzeko, Federico Fazio and Aleksandar Kolarov were suspended.
"It was a difficult match without many men seeing that the leaders were out — those who play 90 minutes, players who give a sense of direction to the play and the team," Ranieri said.
"I knew it would be difficult and I have to congratulate the team, which always remained compact even when we went down to 10 men."