Lionel Messi scores on Argentina return to sink Brazil in Saudi Arabia

: Lionel Messi struck on his return to international duty Friday following a three-month ban as Argentina defeated fierce rivals Brazil 1-0 in a friendly in Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2019

Lionel Messi scores on Argentina return to sink Brazil in Saudi Arabia

  • The meeting between the two South American giants was the second in Saudi Arabia
  • Messi, who scored with a pair of free-kicks in his last game with Barcelona, twice threatened from set pieces

RIYADH: Lionel Messi struck on his return to international duty Friday following a three-month ban as Argentina defeated fierce rivals Brazil 1-0 in a friendly in Riyadh.
The Barcelona forward was suspended by CONMEBOL for accusing South American football’s ruling body of “corruption” after he was sent off in July’s third-place play-off with Chile at the Copa America.
Messi netted the only goal of the game at the King Saud University Stadium on 13 minutes, tapping home the rebound after his penalty was saved by Brazil goalkeeper Alisson.

--------

PHOTOS: Lionel Messi scores as Argentina beat Brazil in Riyadh

--------


His effort came shortly after Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus rolled a spot-kick wide for Brazil, who were playing without the injured Neymar.
Messi, who scored with a pair of free-kicks in his last game with Barcelona, twice threatened from set pieces in the second half before Liverpool ‘keeper Alisson beat away a powerful drive from Paredes.
Rodrygo, the 18-year-old who scored a sensational Champions League hat-trick with Real Madrid this month, made his Brazil debut as he replaced Willian for the final 20 minutes.
However, Brazil were unable to find an equalizer as their winless run since capturing the Copa America title extended to five matches.
The meeting between the two South American giants was the second in Saudi Arabia in little over a year. Brazil beat Argentina 1-0 in Jeddah in October 2018.
Brazil also defeated Argentina 2-0 at home in the semifinals of this year’s Copa America, a controversial match that left Messi complaining the hosts had benefited from favoritism.
Brazil will play a friendly against South Korea in Abu Dhabi on November 19, in their final game before South American qualifying starts for the 2022 World Cup in March.


Conor McGregor blasts Cerrone in 40 seconds in UFC return

Updated 19 January 2020

Conor McGregor blasts Cerrone in 40 seconds in UFC return

LAS VEGAS: Conor McGregor came back with a big bang.

McGregor stopped Donald Cerrone with a head kick and punches 40 seconds into the first round at UFC 246 on Saturday night, announcing his return to mixed martial arts with his first victory since 2016.

The Irish former two-division champion came out of a three-year stretch of relative inactivity and outside-the-cage troubles with a performance that echoed his greatest fights during his unparalleled rise.

After bloodying Cerrone’s nose with his first punch, McGregor (22-4) then floored Cerrone (36-14) only 20 seconds into the bout with a perfectly placed left kick to the head. He mercilessly finished on the ground to the delight of a sellout crowd of 19,040 at T-Mobile Arena.

“I feel really good, and I came out of here unscathed,” McGregor said. “I’m in shape. We’ve got work to do to get back to where I was.”

McGregor’s hand hadn’t been raised in victory since November 2016, when he stopped lightweight Eddie Alvarez to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two championship belts simultaneously. With his fame and fortune multiplying, McGregor fought only his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in 2017, and he lost a one-sided UFC bout to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in late 2018.

After a year spent out of competition and in repeated trouble with the law, McGregor got back into training and vowed to return to elite form. This dramatic victory over Cerrone indicated he’s well on his way, and McGregor has vowed to fight multiple times in 2020.

Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and veteran brawler Jorge Masvidal watched UFC 246 from cageside. Either man could be McGregor’s next opponent.

“Any one of these mouthy fools can get it,” McGregor yelled into the microphone. “Every single one of them can get it. It does not matter. I’m back and I’m ready.”

Cerrone is the winningest fighter in UFC history with 23 victories, a mark that reflects both his durability and commitment to an uncommonly busy schedule. Cerrone, who also holds the UFC record with 16 stoppage wins, had fought a whopping 11 times since McGregor’s win over Alvarez, and he was in the cage for the 15th time since he lost his only UFC title shot in December 2015.

But Cerrone’s last two fights were stopped when he took too much damage, and he couldn’t block McGregor’s decisive kick or recover from the punishment on the ground.

“I’d never seen anything like that,” Cerrone said. “He busted my nose, it started bleeding, and he stepped back and head-kicked me. Oh, man. This happened this fast?”

Although many observers have scoffed, the 31-year-old McGregor believes he can reclaim the fearsome form he showed during his meteoric rise to unprecedented MMA success. He won 15 consecutive fights during a five-year run from low-profile shows in Dublin to the world’s biggest MMA events, stopping five straight elite UFC opponents with punches on the way up.

McGregor walked to the cage at UFC 246 with the Irish flag wrapped around his shoulders. The bearded fighters touched gloves beforehand in an extension of this bout’s unfailing sportsmanship — not always a hallmark of McGregor’s previous bouts.

After the referee stopped the bout, McGregor peeled away briefly to celebrate, but quickly returned to comfort his disoriented opponent. When Cerrone’s grandmother, Jerry, entered the cage after the fight to hug her grandson, McGregor also hugged Jerry and got a kiss on the cheek.

Even after his prolonged absence — or maybe because of it — McGregor’s return is expected to be a huge seller on pay-per-view. The UFC said it made more than $11 million in ticket sales at T-Mobile Arena for the fourth-biggest gate total in the promotion’s history.

An eager sellout Vegas crowd showed up in person, with celebrities including Matthew McConaughey, Jeremy Renner and Dave Bautista, along with NFL stars Tom Brady, Christian McCaffrey, Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett and Jon Gruden.

Former bantamweight champion Holly Holm beat Raquel Pennington by unanimous decision in the penultimate bout of UFC 246. The 38-year-old Holm (13-5) had lost five of her seven fights since she memorably knocked out Ronda Rousey in November 2015.

On the undercard, 37-year-old flyweight Roxanne Modafferi pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent UFC history with a one-sided decision victory over previously unbeaten 21-year-old Maycee Barber, the UFC’s top 125-pound prospect.

Barber (8-1) injured her left knee during the bout, but Modafferi (24-16) was already dominating with the superior jiu-jitsu she has been practicing for Barber’s entire life. Modafferi was the biggest betting underdog on the UFC 246 card, facing 10-to-1 odds at some sports books.

Aleksei Oleinik, a 42-year-old heavyweight who made his pro debut in 1996, also beat Maurice Greene by submission in the second round.