Messi inspires another Barcelona comeback (2-3)
Lionel Messi and Trincao came off the bench to spark Barcelona to a 3-2 comeback over Real Betis on Sunday night at the Estadio Benito Villamarin in Seville.
Days after pulling out a miracle fight-back at Granada in the Copa del Rey, Barcelona pulled out another second half comeback to extend their unbeaten streak in all competitions to six.
With his side down after an opening Borja Iglesias goal for Betis, the Argentine scored just minutes after entering the pitch and paved the way for another via an own goal to give Barcelona the lead. Betis pulled level thanks to a Victor Ruiz goal, but a clever steal and left-footed strike from Trincao earned the visitors the spoils.
It is not often that Messi doesn't start, but such was the case on Sunday as the Argentine started on the bench, along with midfield stalwarts Pedri and Frenkie de Jong. That meant Miralem Pjanic and Riqui Puig each received a chance to impress. Meanwhile, taking Messi's place in attack was Martin Braithwaite.
Koeman had to go to his bench much sooner than he wanted as an injury forced Ronald Araujo off the pitch with De Jong summoned to replace the Uruguayan centre-back.
There were few chances between the two sides for most of the first half-hour until a glaring missed header from Clement Lenglet off an inch-perfect cross from Jordi Alba.
Betis had no problems inviting the pressure in hopes of striking on the counter, and their plan worked to a tee when they broke the deadlock toward the end of the half to take a 1-0 lead. The counter-attack was led by Nabil Fekir, who swung a pass out wide right to Emerson and the cross from the Barcelona loanee met the foot of Borja Iglesias for the goal.
Koeman made a change to start the second stanza, with Braithwaite yielding his place to Pedri, but even before the hour mark, Koeman had seen enough and summoned Messi to replace Riqui Puig, while Pjanic was replaced by Trincao.
It took just seconds for Messi to make an impact, as he collected a pass from Dembele and with time and space, rocketed a left-footer that beat Robles at the near post to even things at 1-1.
The visitors would get the go-ahead goal shortly thereafter with Messi setting the table with a one-timed pass to Alba that an offside Trincao smartly did not touch. Alba's cross reached Griezmann, but the French striker was unable to get a shot off, however the ball deflected off the leg of Betis defender Victor Ruiz and rolled into goal for a Barcelona lead.
Betis would respond though and minutes after mistakenly redirecting a goal into his own net, Victor Ruiz redeemed himself by thumping in a header off a freekick to make it 2-2 with a quarter-hour to play.
Koeman then made his last change of the night with Samuel Umtiti on for Sergio Busquets, which pushed De Jong forward into midfield.
Betis fancied a winner and mounted a charge for a third goal with the introduction of Sergio Canales, but Trincao and Barcelona had other ideas. A split-second after picking Victor Ruiz's pocket just inside the Betis area, the young Portuguese curled a left-footer that scraped the bottom of the crossbar before rippling the net to hand Barcelona a 3-2 lead, which they held until the final whistle to leave Andalusia with another three points.
2.- Real Betis: Joel, Emerson, Mandi, Victor Ruiz, Alex Moreno, Paul (Guido Rodriguez, min. 75), Guardado, Ruibal (Rodri, min. 65), Juanmi (Tello, min. 75), Fekir (Canales, min. 83), Borja Iglesias (Loren Moron, min. 83).
3.- Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Mingueza, Araujo (De Jong, min. 12), Lenglet, Alba; Busquets (Umtiti, min. 77), Pjanic (Trincao, min. 57), Riqui Puig (Messi, min. 57); Griezmann, Dembele, Braithwaite (Pedri, min. 46).
Goals: 1-0, min. 38: Borja Iglesias; 1-1, min. 59: Messi; 1-2, min. 68: Victor Ruiz (og); 2-2, min. 75: Victor Ruiz; 2-3, min. 79: Trincao
Referee: Del Cerro Grande (Madrid).
Yellow cards: De Jong (Min. 47) for Barcelona, Dembele (Min. 64) for Barcelona, Busquets (Min. 74) for Barcelona, Victor Ruiz (Min. 77) for Betis
Red cards: None
Stadium: Benito Villamarin
Varane pushes Real Madrid past Huesca (1-2)
Raphael Varane scored a pair of second half goals to lead Real Madrid to a 2-1 victory against Huesca on a soggy Saturday afternoon at the Estadio El Alcoraz.
Huesca took an early lead in the second stanza and were inches away from making it a two-goal advantage, but Real Madrid responded like a champion thanks to scores from the unlikely Varane. Also chipping in were Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos with excellent outings, the former somehow not finding the scoresheet due to the heroics of Huesca goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez.
With so many absences due to injury and suspension, including centre-back Sergio Ramos and forward Eden Hazard, and just 17 players named to the matchday squad, Zinedine Zidane's choices of a starting XI were fairly limited. Alvaro Odriozola got another start at right-back, Nacho and Varane were the centre-back pairing, while up top Vinicius and Marco Asensio joined Benzema in attack.
Real Madrid opened in strong fashion and were getting to Huesca's defensive end with hardly any problems, but their passing in the final third was imprecise and it spoiled several good chances. They kept poking and prodding away and a slick move from Luka Modric set up Benzema, whose right-footed curler forced a big save from Alvaro Fernandez.
After a rather sleepy first 45 minutes, things picked up in the second stanza starting with Mikel Rico striking the crossbar right after the re-start. It would prove to be a harbinger of things to come, as moments later Javi Galan broke the deadlock and gave the hosts a 1-0 lead by settling a pass and hammering a left-footer that went blazing past Thibaut Coiurtois and into net.
That was then followed by Rafa Mir firing off the crossbar and it appeared that Huesca were going to run all over Los Blancos, but Zidane's men would respond when Benzema hit the crossbar from a freekick and Varane reacted first and nodded the rebound into net to level things at 1-1.
The match had opened up and was being played with a back-and-forth fervour that almost yielded a second Huesca goal through Rafa Mir, whose header produced a stretch save from Courtois.
Alvaro Fernandez was just as good at the other end when some exquisite touch passing in small spaces set up Benzema, however the Frenchman's effort was blocked.
Benzema could then only stare in dismay when he didn't score after Asensio nodded down a header to him and he unleashed a right-footed rocket from just a few metres out. The only problem for the striker was that it hit Alvaro Fernandez square in the chest to deny the visitors a second score.
Zidane then went back to his bench, after having previously replaced the injured Odriozola with Marcelo, and swapped on his two of his last three remaining field players, with Mariano and youngster Marvin Park on for Mendy and Vinicius.
The stars were aligned against Benzema scoring on the day, but not countryman Varane and of all people it was the French centre-back who tallied his second of the day to hand Real Madrid a late advantage. Kroos flighted in a freekick that was headed down by Casemiro and deflected off the fingers of Alvaro Fernandez before falling into the path of Varane, who finished from a few yards out for the goal.
Real Madrid would see things out from there to pocket a big three points ahead of their quick turnaround on Wednesday against Getafe.
1.- Huesca: Alvaro Fernandez; Siovas, Pulido, Gaston Silva; Maffeo, Mikel Rico, Seoane, Doumbia (Ontiveros, min. 73), Javi Galan; Rafa Mir, Okazaki (Escriche, min. 62).
2.- Real Madrid: Courtois; Odriozola (Marcelo, min. 67), Nacho, Varane, Mendy (Marvin, min. 79); Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Asensio, Vinicius (Mariano, min. 79), Benzema.
Goals: 1-0, min. 48: Javi Galan; 1-1, min. 55: Varane; 1-2, min. 84: Varane
Referee: Estrada Fernandez (Catalan).
Yellow cards: Kroos (Min. 32) for Real Madrid, Maffeo (Min. 45) for Huesca, Gaston Silva (Min. 53) for Huesca
Red cards: None
Stadium: El Alcoraz