FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED: More Lionel Messi magic, Juve miss Cristiano Ronaldo and Ajax title wait set to continue

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Updated 18 March 2019

FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED: More Lionel Messi magic, Juve miss Cristiano Ronaldo and Ajax title wait set to continue

LONDON: Zinedine Zidane marked his return to the Real Madrid dugout with a victory although Lionel Messi again stole the show in Spain with a magnificent hat-trick as Barcelona continued their march toward the La Liga title. Here we look at what we learned from the weekend’s key action across the continent:

ZIZOU BACK AND MAGIC MESSI

Zinedine Zidane may have made a winning start to his second spell as coach of Real Madrid but Barcelona look to have the La Liga title already sewn up. Barca blew away Real Betis 4-1 on Sunday as Lionel Messi scored his fourth hat-trick of the season and 51st of his career, prompting even the Betis fans to stand and applaud. The Catalans now have a 10-point lead over Atletico Madrid, who were beaten 2-0 by Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, four days after their Champions League heartache at the hands of Juventus.Real’s hopes of catching Barcelona were already all but over but Zidane has at least lifted the gloom. He recalled a handful of old favorites against Celta Vigo on Saturday, including Isco, who scored the opener, before Gareth Bale — who was not always appreciated by Zidane in the coach’s first spell — added another in a 2-0 victory.

Zidane enjoyed a winning start to his second reign as Real Madrid boss. (AFP)

SPALLETTI SAFE?

Under-fire Inter Milan coach Luciano Spalletti hit back at his critics with a dramatic 3-2 Milan derby win which lifted his side to third in Serie A. For Spalletti it was a third derby win in four since taking over in mid-2017, and just days after crashing out of the Europa League, as Inter extended their unbeaten run in the derby to six games, their longest run since 1999. “I read that this was to be my last derby, the ‘Last Supper’,” said the former Roma and Zenit Saint Petersburg coach. “And instead I know that there’s another supper for me,” he added, after being praised by Chinese-owned Inter’s president Steven Zhang. “We’re now already looking to the future, to the next match and next month,” said Zhang. “This derby sends an important message.” Juventus, without Cristiano Ronaldo, fell to their first Serie A defeat of the season in a 2-0 reverse to Genoa but still have a 15-point lead.

Inter extended their unbeaten run in the Milan derby to six games, their longest run since 1999​. (AFP) 

BAYERN’S YOUNG GUN

Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies became the youngest Bayern Munich goalscorer since Roque Santa Cruz in 1999, a year before the former was even born, in Sunday’s 6-0 demolition of Mainz. Bayern are level on points with Borussia Dortmund as they bid for an eighth successive Bundesliga title, but the meek nature of their Champions League exit against Liverpool posed questions about the future of a number of aging stars. With a clear-out on the horizon in Bavaria, the 18-year-old Davies, acquired last July in a $13 million move from MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps, could soon be given the opportunity to stake his claim as a core component in a new Bayern generation.

Alphonso Davies is making a name for himself at the Allianz Arena. (AFP)

LIGHT AT END OF ROAD FOR MONACO

With their Ligue 1 status under threat, Monaco’s decision to cut short a failing experiment with Thierry Henry in January and replace him with predecessor Leonardo Jardim has paid off handsomely. Friday’s 1-0 win at second-place Lille, enjoying their best points return at this stage of the campaign since 1948, extended Monaco’s unbeaten run since his return to seven games in Ligue 1. They remain just two places above the relegation play-off spot but are eight points clear of Guingamp and recent form suggests they will surely avoid the drop.

Under Jardim Monaco are making a very impressive tilt at avoiding relegation. (AFP) 

TITLE WAIT FOR AJAX LOOKS SET TO CONTINUE

Champions League quarter-finalists Ajax slumped to a 1-0 defeat away to AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Eredivisie to drop five points behind leaders PSV Eindhoven. PSV won 1-0 at VVV Venlo over the weekend courtesy of a late strike by Mexico international Hirving Lozano. Ajax, who won the last of their record 33 Dutch championships in 2014, must now win their clash with PSV in Amsterdam on March 31 if they are to remain in the title race.

Are Ajax and Daley Blind to go anohter year without winning the Dutch title? (AFP) 


Sensational Fury crushes Wilder in heavyweight title rematch

Updated 14 sec ago

Sensational Fury crushes Wilder in heavyweight title rematch

  • Britain’s Fury dominated the American champion Deontay Wilder
  • The fight drew a star-studded crowd

LAS VEGAS: Tyson Fury reigns again as a heavyweight world champion after battering Deontay Wilder to a stunning seventh-round stoppage in their World Boxing Council title rematch.
Fourteen months after their dramatic split-decision draw, Britain’s Fury dominated the American champion — who had blood dripping from his left ear and leaking from his mouth when referee Kenny Bayless called a halt as Wilder’s corner threw in the towel.
“The king has returned to the top of the throne,” said Fury, who had dropped Wilder in the third and fifth rounds as he remained unbeaten while handing Wilder the first defeat of his career.
The self-styled “Gypsy King” from northern England — who was carried to the Las Vegas ring on a golden throne — had put on a boxing masterclass in their first fight on December 1, 2018, but he was clearly ready to brawl from the opening bell on Saturday.
A massive right from Fury knocked down Wilder in the third leaving him on wobbly legs and although he went down again moments later it was ruled a slip.
A huge left to the body had Wilder down again in the fifth, and Fury was raining blows on Wilder when Bayless called a halt at 1:39 of the seventh round after one of Wilder’s corner team hurled a white towel into the ring to save him from further punishment.
A point deduction in the fifth round for holding was barely a blip for a dominant Fury. Two of the judges had the Briton winning every round, while the third judge gave one round to Wilder.
The 34-year-old American suffered his first defeat in 44 fights, falling to 42-1 with 1 drawn and 41 knockouts.
The “Bronze Bomber” was unable to surpass Muhammad Ali’s record of 10 successful heavyweight title defenses.
“Even the greatest have lost and come back,” Wilder said. “I make no excuses. This is what big-time boxing is all about.”
Fury regained a piece of the heavyweight title more than four years after beating Wladimir Klitschko for the WBA, IBF and WBO belts — and after depression, drink and drug problems had threatened to end his career.
“I just want to say a big shout out to Deontay Wilder,” said Fury, who improved his own unbeaten record to 30-0 with one drawn and 21 knockouts. “He manned up. he really did show heart of a champion.
“I hit him with a clean right hand and dropped him, and he got back up and battled on into round seven.
“He is a warrior, he will be back, he will be champion again.”
As the pro-Fury crowd of 15,816 at the MGM Grand cheered, Wilder briefly protested the stoppage.
“I just wish that my corner would have let me went out on my shield,” he said. “I’m a warrior.”
Wilder’s fierce punching power had been on full display when he knocked Fury down twice in their first fight in Los Angeles — the Briton miraculously climbing off the canvas in the 12th round to hang on for a share of the spoils.
With new trainer Javan “Sugarhill” Steward in his corner, and more than 16 pounds heavier than the first encounter at 273 pounds, Fury was on the attack early, backing Wilder up with his jab and landing several hard shots in the opening round.
Fury failed to produce the second-round knockout he had predicted, but he was clearly in control.
The fight, arguably the biggest heavyweight collision since Lennox Lewis bludgeoned Mike Tyson into submission on the banks of the Mississippi River in 2002, drew a star-studded crowd.
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes was ringside, so were Mark Davis, owner of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders and Raiders coach John Gruden.
Retired NBA greats Magic Johnson and Jerry West were on hand, as was current Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green.
Former heavyweight world champions Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield were acknowledged in the ring before the bout — a nod to the fact that boxing’s one-time glamor division was back in the spotlight.
Top Rank president Todd duBoef told ESPN that with gate receipts of $16.9 million Saturday’s fight broke the record for a heavyweight fight in Las Vegas, passing the $16.8 million set by the title rematch between Lewis and Holyfield in 1999.
It’s a far cry from the record $72.2 million in gate receipts generated by the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao clash in 2015.
But Wilder-Fury III would be another big draw — and set the stage for a mega unification fight against Britain’s Anthony Joshua, the WBA IBF and WBO champion, for the undisputed title.

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