European roundup: Real Madrid triumph, Messi scores twice in Barca win

Ferland Mendy of Real Madrid celebrates with teammate Lucas Vazquez (L) after scoring their side’s first goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 match between Atalanta and Real Madrid at Gewiss Stadium in Bergamo, Italy, February 24, 2021. /CFP

Ferland Mendy of Real Madrid celebrates with teammate Lucas Vazquez (L) after scoring their side’s first goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 match between Atalanta and Real Madrid at Gewiss Stadium in Bergamo, Italy, February 24, 2021. /CFP

Ferland Mendy scored a stunning late winner as Real Madrid clinched a tough victory against 10-man Atalanta, while Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona beat Elche to move within five points of La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid.

Mendy popped up with a late winner to earn lackluster Real Madrid a 1-0 win over Atalanta in Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg.

Real’s task appeared to have been made much easier after Atalanta’s Remo Freuler was sent off in the 17th minute for denying Mendy a goal-scoring opportunity.

Against the 10 men, however, Zinedine Zidane’s side, which was missing several high-profile players due to injury, struggled to break down the hosts, and Real had only one shot on target in the rest of the first half.

Atalanta continued to defend doggedly after the interval, but Mendy’s superb strike in the 86th minute gave the Spanish side a slender lead to take into the second leg.

Manchester City’s midfielder Bernardo Silva (front) celebrates with teammates after scoring his team’s first goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 match against Borussia Moenchengladbach at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, Hungary, February 24, 2021. /CFP

Manchester City’s midfielder Bernardo Silva (front) celebrates with teammates after scoring his team’s first goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 match against Borussia Moenchengladbach at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, Hungary, February 24, 2021. /CFP

In another Champions League last-16 match, Manchester City eased to a 2-0 victory over Borussia Moenchengladbach, extending their winning run to 19 games in all competitions.

City, who are unbeaten in their last 26 matches, have a huge advantage for the March 16 return leg in Manchester after their Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva headed in a pinpoint Joao Cancelo cross in the 29th minute to put them in front.

Silva then headed on another cross from man of the match Cancelo in the 65th minute for Gabriel Jesus to stab in.

“It was a good game for us, a good win, very important,” scorer Silva said.

“We know how tough this competition can be. You make a mistake and you’re out. So we tried to play simple, make no mistakes, control possession as we always do and create chances and score goals.”

“It was a very good game for us, but it’s not over yet,” he said.

Striker Sergio Aguero came on as a substitute after a lengthy absence from Pep Guardiola’s team, who have won their last 12 away games in all competitions, setting a new record for an English top-flight side.

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L2) celebrates with teammates after scoring a second goal during the Spanish league football match between Barcelona and Elche at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, February 24, 2021. /CFP

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L2) celebrates with teammates after scoring a second goal during the Spanish league football match between Barcelona and Elche at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, February 24, 2021. /CFP

Elsewhere in La Liga, Messi scored twice as Barcelona overcame an uninspiring first half to beat Elche 3-0 at home and keep leaders Atletico Madrid in their sights.

The Catalans created little in one of their worst first-half displays at the Camp Nou this season, but found a breakthrough early in the second when Martin Braithwaite released Messi with a classy backheel and the Argentine did the rest.

Barca, which failed to hold onto a narrow lead in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at home to Cadiz, got an all-important second goal in the 69th when Frenkie de Jong received the ball after some clever play from 18-year-old Pedri.

The Dutchman burst through the middle of the pitch and laid the ball off for Messi to dribble into the net for the 18th league goal of the season, extending his lead at the top of the scoring charts.

Left back Jordi Alba struck the third goal from another Braithwaite assist to round off a victory that took Barca back above Sevilla and into third in the standings on 50 points, five behind Atletico but having played a game more.

“This will help our confidence a lot,” said Alba.

“The draw (with Cadiz) was a huge blow to the whole team and showed that if we are not at our 100 percent best, we find it very hard to win. We struggled on Sunday and in the first half here too, but we were better in the second and the goals arrived.”

Source(s): Reuters

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