Two steps forward

Barcelona, December 9

Cristiano Ronaldo got the better of Lionel Messi by scoring two penalties to lead Juventus to a 3-0 win at Barcelona, dealing them their first home defeat in the Champions League in seven years.

Ronaldo on Tuesday converted spot kicks for Juventus’ 13th-minute opener and a third goal early in the second half after US midfielder Weston McKennie doubled the advantage in the 20th.

Messi and Ronaldo briefly embraced with one arm behind each other’s back and exchanged a few words before kickoff at a Camp Nou that remains empty because of coronavirus restrictions.

But only Ronaldo enjoyed the revival of their longstanding rivalry that enthralled fans for almost a decade when he played at Real Madrid before leaving for Italy in 2018. Twice Ronaldo celebrated with his trademark leap, twist, and thrust of both arms downwards as he roared out his goals.

While Ronaldo benefited from errors by Barcelona’s defence, Messi was left to carry the workload for the frustrated hosts. The Argentina star was unable to beat Gianluigi Buffon on his five strikes between the posts. Juventus clinched first place in Group G on goal difference with the two sides finishing level on 15 points. Both teams had already qualified for the knockout round prior to the match. Ronaldo was unable to take the field for Juventus when they lost 0-2 to Barcelona in Turin in October after the Portugal forward had tested positive for Covid-19. Barcelona’s record of 38 home games without a loss in Europe’s top-tier tournament began in September 2013.

Leipzig beat United

Leipzig: RB Leipzig scored twice in the opening 13 minutes but had to survive a late comeback from Manchester United to cling on to a 3-2 win that sent them into the knockout stage and eliminated United. — Agencies

Never saw Messi as a rival, says Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo greets Lionel Messi before the match. Reuters

Barcelona: They defined the ‘El Clasico’ rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona for the past decade but Cristiano Ronaldo said he has always got on well with Lionel Messi and never saw him as a rival. Between them the pair have won the Ballon d’Or in 11 of the past 12 years.

“I have always had a cordial relationship with Messi,” Ronaldo said. “As I have said before, for 12, 13, 14 years (I have been) sharing prizes with him. I never saw him as a rival. He always tried the best for his team, and I tried the best for mine. I always got on well with him. I am sure he will say the same if you ask him. But we know in football, people always look for a rivalry to create more excitement.”

Ronaldo is hoping the win could provide an “injection of confidence” for Juventus, who are currently fourth in the Italian Serie A standings. Barcelona are also looking to recover from a below-par start to their domestic league campaign. “Messi is the same as ever (on the pitch),” Ronaldo said. “Barcelona are in a difficult moment, but they are still Barca. I am sure they will come out of it. All teams have bad runs, but Barcelona are a very good team.” Reuters

Players walk off over alleged racism

MANCHESTER: UEFA has opened a disciplinary proceeding into Tuesday’s Champions League match between Paris St Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir when players walked off in protest at after the Turkish club accused a match official of racism. The incident was sparked when Basaksehir’s assistant coach Pierre Webo was shown a red card for protesting against a refereeing decision and the Turkish side then alleged that the Romanian fourth official Sebastian Coltescu used a racist term towards the Cameroonian. The players from both teams left the field after about 10 minutes of discussions with Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan, a first in European football. The game, which was suspended after 13 minutes, will be completed today with new match officials. TV footage showed fourth official Coltescu saying in Romanian, “The black one over there. Go and check who he is. The black one over there, it’s not possible to act like that” after Webo vehemently protested against a refereeing decision. “Why he say negro?” Basaksehir substitute Demba Ba repeatedly asked match referee Hategan as confusion reigned on the touchline. The Romanian word for black is “negru”. Reuters

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