Careless United undone by Messi double as Barca cruise into semis

United’s pair of early errors made this another night about Messi. (Reuters)
Updated 17 April 2019

Careless United undone by Messi double as Barca cruise into semis

  • United were undone twice in four minutes by Messi

BARCELONA: Lionel Messi pounced on two Manchester United mistakes to score twice and end their hopes of another Camp Nou comeback as Barcelona breezed into the Champions League semifinals on Tuesday.
After an excellent start, United were undone twice in four minutes by Messi, who first nicked the ball off the careless Ashley Young and then watched as a weak shot from distance squirmed underneath David de Gea.
Philippe Coutinho, in perhaps his best performance of the season, added a third with a curling effort into the top corner and by the end, an outclassed United might have been relieved the score was not more traumatic than 3-0, 4-0 on aggregate.
A dizzying opening spell, in which Marcus Rashford had hit the crossbar, was long-forgotten, even if it could offer Barcelona’s next opponents some encouragement.
Liverpool, who take a 2-0 lead to Porto on Wednesday, are the most likely obstacle between Barca and their first Champions League final since they last won this tournament in 2015. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane might feel encouraged.
Instead, United’s pair of early errors made this another night about Messi and ensured any faint hopes of repeating the comeback against Paris Saint-Germain, or even the famous 1999 rescue act against Bayern Munich, on this same pitch, were dashed.
Messi now has his 109th and 110th Champions League goals and, potentially, three extra matches to reduce the gap on Cristiano Ronaldo’s 126, after Juventus were dumped out by Ajax. Barcelona’s fans celebrated that too.
United’s coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had urged his strikers to be more lethal here but it felt ominous that even before kick-off, Rashford, Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez had hit 42 goals this season, while Messi on his own had 43.
Around an hour before kick-off, Alex Ferguson was on the side of the pitch, shaking hands with Ryan Giggs and sharing words with Solskjaer, the scorer of that goal against Munich here 20 years ago.
They could have hardly have asked for a better start. United were brilliant for eight minutes and could have been ahead within 30 seconds as Rashford raced onto a curving Paul Pogba pass and toed away a shot, which Marc-Andre ter Stegen bravely left to graze his own crossbar.
Barca were flustered, so much so the crowd even cheered with relief when Arthur Melo played his team’s first convincing pass.
Then, Barcelona had their own eight-minute flurry as United almost conceded a penalty, ruled out after Fred took the ball before bringing down Ivan Rakitic, and then did concede, twice, to Messi.
Both could have been avoided, even if Young’s turn on the edge of his own box was punished in devastating fashion. Young lunged in to atone for his mistake but Messi skipped away from him, poked it through Fred’s legs and then whipped the ball past into the corner.
The second was simpler. Fred and Scott McTominay closed in on Coutinho and the ball spilled out to Messi, whose dribbling shot with his right foot should have drawn a routine save. Instead, De Gea let is squirm under his body for 2-0.
Pogba lashed out at the increasingly influential Arthur and Barca could have had a third before half-time, De Gea scrambling across to save on the line when Sergi Roberto should have finished.
Messi could have had his hat-trick too after Luis Suarez found him with a superb cutback and there was an almost comical sequence in the second half when the Argentinian played with his United chasers before finally being bundled over by McTominay.
Rashford might have made it interesting if he had controlled Pogba’s ball over the top but Barcelona were in exhibition mode, helped by a vintage Coutinho curler after he had cut inside from the left.
Messi even attempted a bicycle kick and there were celebrations from the home fans when news went round that Ajax had taken the lead in Turin. They believe this is their year.


Sensational Fury crushes Wilder in heavyweight title rematch

Updated 23 min 45 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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