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Millennium Post

Messi stretches Barceona’s lead

Barcelona stretched their advantage at the top of La Liga to 15 points as two goals in eight minutes just before the hour mark from David Villa and Lionel Messi handed them a 2-1 win over Sevilla on Saturday. The Catalans, who slumped to a shock Champions League loss at AC Milan in midweek, had to come from behind after Alberto Botia headed the visitors into a 42nd minute lead. Barca star Javier Mascherano said it was important to get the equaliser quickly after the break.

‘I think we were aware that we didn’t pay well in the first-half and we needed more. In the second-half I think we started with more intensity and luckily managed to find the equaliser quickly,’ he said.

Barca now face a huge Spanish Cup semifinal second-leg with Real Madrid on Tuesday with the tie finely balanced a 1-1 and Mascherano believes home advantage and an away goal gives them the upper hand. ‘On Tuesday we have a big game but we have the advantage. We are playing a great rival but we need to finish the job.’

Barca faced much the same challenge as in their 2-0 defeat to AC Milan as they struggled to find a way through a packed Sevilla defence early on. Messi had a low drive well-saved by Beto and also saw a free-kick drift over but Barca were stunned when the visitors took the lead with their first serious attack on the stroke of half-time. A free-kick was played out to Coke on the right and his cross was headed beyond Victor Valdes by former Barca defender Botia.

The half-time scoreline forced Jordi Roura to introduce Cristian Tello for Alexis Sanchez and the Spanish Under-21 international was to have quite an impact as Barca turned the game around. It was from the other side of the pitch though that they found the equaliser as Dani Alves’ perfect cross was headed home by David Villa seven minutes into the second period.

And Messi completed the turnaround as he scored for the 15th consecutive league game as he turned in Tello’s intelligent cut-back eight minutes later. Sevilla still had their chances to take something from the game though as Ivan Rakitic pulled a shot just wide before Alvaro Negredo should have scored when he fired over 15 minutes from time. But Barca held on to record their 22nd win from 25 league games this season.


REAL RALLY TO DOWN DEPORTIVO 2-1

Real Madrid had to come from behind as second-half goals from Kaka and Gonzalo Higuain handed them a hard-fought 2-1 at relegation threatened Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday. The hosts dominated the first period and deservedly went in front when Riki fired in at Diego Lopez’s near post on 31 minutes. However, Deportivo were left to rue a number of chances to extend their lead when Kaka equalised with a fine curling effort 17 minutes from time and Higuain sealed the comeback 15 minutes later with an easy finish after brilliant build-up play from Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Madrid’s  lack of continuity was drastically shown up in an awful first-half display. Angel Di Maria’s free-kick that Daniel Aranzubia turned wide was the only real action of an uneventful first quarter, but Deportivo then started to take control with Riki and Pizzi a constant menace to the Madrid defence.


ROURA DELIGHTED WITH BARCA REACTION

Barcelona assistant manager Jordi Roura was delighted with his players’ response after a difficult week as they beat Sevilla 2-1 to stretch their lead at the top of La Liga to 15 points. A 2-0 defeat to AC Milan on Wednesday has left the Catalans an uphill task if they are to secure their third Champions League title in five years and it seemed their cruise towards a 22nd league title was also about to be stalled when Alberto Botia headed Sevilla into a 1-0 half-time lead on Saturday evening.

However, Roura introduced Cristian Tello for Alexis Sanchez at the break and he was to have a telling effect as after David Villa had equalised, Tello set up Lionel Messi for the winner just before the hour mark. ‘Winning is always the most important thing. The reaction of the team was important.

We wanted to see how the team would react and this team has again come out of a difficult moment in front. We have to be happy. We moved the change at half-time forward because Alexis had taken a hard knock. We decided to open the game up with Tello wide and Villa in the area. It went well because we were able to score and generally in the second-half things went better,’ Roura told reporters.
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