Copa del Rey: MSN Back To Scoring Height

Barca are through to the quarterfinals of the 2016-17 Copa del Rey with a 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday night at the Camp Nou.Goals from the MSN trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar earned Barcelona the 4-3 aggregate win in the Round of 16 tie against the Basques, whose lone goal came from Enric Saborit. 

The victory snapped Barcelona's two-match winless streak to start 2017, and it also marked Suarez's 100th goal in a Barcelona shirt, which also happened to be the 300th goal for the MSN.But the hero on the day for the Catalonians was Messi. The Argentine converted an extraordinary free kick that broke the 3-3 aggregate score and sent the cup holders to the next round.Manager Luis Enrique made a couple notable changes, namely Jasper Cillessen filling in for Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal and Rafinha starting ahead of Ivan Rakitic and Andre Gomes in goal. 

As for the visitors, Ernesto Valverde surprisingly left striker Aritz Aduriz on the bench at the start.The sleepy start to the match was to Athletic's favour. The Basques were able to get forward into Barcelona's half while still keeping their defensive shape against a Barcelona attack that still had not scored from the run of play in 2017.With so much talk about referees before the match in light of Gerard Pique's recent comments, the spotlight was on the match officials on Wednesday and they only increased the anger level inside the Camp Nou when the linesman annulled a Suarez goal for offside in the 26th minute. 

Replays revealed that the Uruguayan was indeed onside and that the goal should have stood.While the intensity level inside the stadium was ratcheted up after the botched call, the rhythm of play was choppy and inconsistent. Barcelona were unable to get into their groove; Athletic were physical and their tactical fouls frustrated Barcelona.Nevertheless, the Catalonians overcame that obstacle and secured the goal that gave them the edge in the tie through Suarez. 

A Neymar cross from the left reached Suarez, who thundered a volley back across goal that went searing past Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz and into the net to give Suarez a 1-0 lead in the match and a 2-2 lead in the tie thanks to their away goal in the San Mames.Valverde made a change to start the second half, bringing on Aduriz for Sabin, but it was Barcelona who could not have asked for a better start to the second 45 minutes. 

Neymar drew a penalty just seconds after the re-start when he was brought down by Elustondo in the area, and the Brazilian converted the spot kick himself to extend Barcelona's lead to 2-0 in the match and 3-2 on aggregate.Inexplicably, the Barcelona defence went to sleep after the Neymar goal, even though Athletic were just a goal away from evening the tie. Luis Enrique's team paid dearly for their inattention as Saborit made it 2-1 in the match and 3-3 on aggregate when he headed in an Elustondo cross.

The Saborit score set the stage for a dramatic final half-hour, with Barcelona pushing hard for the go-ahead goal, but Athletic remaining a threat on the counter. Still, the home side had the bulk of the chances. The large majority of Barcelona's play came via the left flank where Neymar and Jordi Alba made piercing runs deep into the Athletic area. From there they would cross in for Suarez or cut back for Iniesta or Messi, but for the moment Athletic were able to block or deflect any effort at goal.Just when it looked like the match would have to be decided in extra time, none other than Messi stepped forward to take the match by the scruff and carry his team to the quarterfinals. 

Suarez earned a free kick just outside the area and on a shot that would have made his friend Stephen Curry proud, Messi rocketed a left-footer that banged off the far post and in past the wrong-footed Iraizoz to make it a 3-1 lead for Barcelona in the match and more importantly, 4-3 on aggregate.Minutes after Messi's fabulous strike, Neymar was inches away from scoring a fantastic goal himself, but his shot struck the post after some fancy dribbling through the Athletic defence.Still, Athletic were just a goal away from qualifying for the next round and any foray into the Barcelona half from the Basques was unnerving for the home fans, but the Barcelona defence held firm to see things out.Barcelona return to action on Saturday at home versus Las Palmas.

Nigerian News

Lagos Beach Olympic: Ten Teams To Compete In Maiden Edition   

Each of the 10 teams that will compete at the maiden edition of the Beach Olympics will be named after a Nigerian hero, organisers of the event, which is scheduled for March 3 and 4 at the Atlantic City, Lagos, have said.

 

Sunshine Stars Troop Out On Akure Streets To Protest Unpaid Salaries    

It's so glearing that football in Nigeria will still face protests of unpaid allowances and wages. Recently the Falcons took to the streets of Abuja to protest unpaid allowances after conquering Africa for the 7th time.

 

Rangers FC Not Begging For Money - Ndukwe   

Recently news broke ot that the players refused to collect the money issued out to them for continental football then another news broke out that the team has been begging for money to help them pursue continental success.

 

Lagos City Marathon: Six Things You Should Know   

Twenty Nigerians will win cash prizes from the Lagos City Marathon from the female & male categories. The star prize for the wining Nigerians ranges from N1M to N20,000.

The winner in the competition will win a whopping $50,000

 

Rohr To Call Up Five New Players For Senegal Friendly   

Five players who have never been called up to the Super Eagles will be in the squad for the friendly game against Senegal and possibly Ghana. 

 

What! Abandoned Nigerian Stadium Turned To Trailer Park   

The Muda Lawal Stadium, Asero, Abeokuta, Ogun State—once the home of Abiola Babes in the 80s, when it was known as Asero Stadium – has been converted to a park for heavy duty vehicles.

 

Sad! Former Super Eagles Coach Paul Hamilton's Leg Amputated   

Former Super Eagles coach Paul Hamilton’s leg has been amputated, The PUNCH has learnt.

The 75-year-old former international has been bedridden for months before his left leg was amputated from the knee, Hamilton’s wife, Durdy, said.

 

CAF Appoints Two Nigerian Referees For Continental Duties   

Confederation of African Football, CAF, has appointed two Nigerian referees to officiate in the First Round , Second Leg matches of continental club competitions.

 

World Cup Qualifier: Cameroon Aiming Four Points Against Nigeria    

AFCON 2017 Champions, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon are hoping they can pick at least four points off Nigeria’s Super Eagles when both teams clash in crunch 2018 World Cup qualifiers starting in August.

 

Nigeria will defeat Sout Africa & Cameroon Says Rohr   

Prior to AFCON 2017 Nigeria appeared like a better team than Cameroon but their victorious outingg in Gabon has raised eyebrows ahead of their World cup qualifier with Nigeria.

 

Yakubu Aiyegbeni Joins English League One Side   

Former Everton & Super Eagles forward, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, has completed his return to English football after signing a short-term deal with Coventry City a team which features in League One.

Aiyegbeni, 34, has been without a club since he left Turkish side Kayserispor in 2016.

 

Basketball: Kano Pillars Star, Abubakar Usman Set To Fight For D' Tigers Shirt   

With a terrific display at FIBA Africa Champions Cup (ACC) last December in Cairo, Abubakar Usman reminded everyone how he is preparing to regain a place in the senior men’s national team, the D’Tigers. 

 

EPL, LA LIGA, SERIE A

Granada vs Real Betis: Match Preview, Facts & Stats   

Granada have not lost in their last eight Andalusian derbies at home in La Liga (W4 D4); last losing in May 2014 (0-2 vs Almeria).

 

Competition At Manchester City Will Help Iheanacho - Mikel Obi   

Nigeria's Super Eagles captain and legend John Mikel Obi who spent 10 and half years at English Premier League giants Chelsea has advised Kelechi Iheanacho on his future at Manchester City. 

 

Bournemouth 0-2 Man City: Sterling Reduces Chelsea's Lead To Eight Points    

Guariola's men climbed into second in the Premier League table with a 2-0 win over Bournemouth, although the triumph was soured by Gabriel Jesus’ early injury.

 

Lazio vs AC Milan: Match Facts, Head To Head & Stats   

C Milan have only lost three of their last 37 Serie A games against Lazio, winning 16 and sharing 18 draws.

 

Bournemouth vs Manchester City: Match Facts, Head To Head & Stats   

Manchester City have never lost to Bournemouth in a league game, winning seven and drawing two.

 

Swansea 2-0 Leicester: Musa, Ndidi Continues Free Fall   

Musa, Vardy, Mahrez, Ndidi and others have not scored a premier league goal in year 2017 which as accounted for their free fall in the league.

 

Burnley 1-1 Chelsea: Robbie Brady's Goal Holds Blues   

Conte's men missed the opportunity to open up a 12-point gap at the Premier League summit as Burnley fought back to earn a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor.

 

Ferdinard: Iwobi, Others Don't Have Premier League wining Mentality    

Ferdinard's opinion on Arsenal will certainly make Alex Iwobi and his colleagues have a re-think as the former United defender believes they can't win the title yet.

 

Swansea vs Leicester: Match Facts, Head To Head & Stats   

Since beating Leicester in their first Premier League meeting in October 2014, the Swans have lost each of their last four, scoring once and conceding 11.

 

Burnley vs Chelsea: Match Facts, Head To Head & Stats   

Burnley have never won a Premier League encounter against Chelsea, losing four of five previous attempts (D1).

 

EPL Round Up: Mane Nets Brace, Gunners, United Win   

Sadio Mane scored a quick-fire brace as Liverpool revitalised their Premier League campaign with an impressive 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on Saturday.

 

Fiorentina vs Udinese: Match Facts, Head To Head & Stats   

16 of the last 19 Serie A games between Fiorentina and Udinese have seen at least three goals scored - an average of 3.6 goals per game.