European roundup: Lionel Messi leaves it late to put Barcelona top

Observer sport and agencies on 7 March 2020

Lionel Messi kept his nerve from the penalty spot to give Barcelona a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad in La Liga to return his side to the top of the table. Barça’s all-time top scorer calmly chipped the ball into the net in the 81st minute after the Sociedad defender Robin Le Normand had been penalised following a VAR review for hitting the ball with his arm as he contested a cross.

The penalty was awarded at a time when Barcelona were struggling to cope with Sociedad’s flowing counter-attacks, with the away side missing several chances to take the lead in a bold second-half display. Sociedad’s frustration at conceding the penalty was heightened when their former player Antoine Griezmann appeared to push over the defender Nacho Monreal in the area but no foul was awarded.

Barcelona looked to have scored a second goal deep in injury time when Jordi Alba slotted in a cross from the substitute Ansu Fati but another VAR review determined that the teenage forward had been narrowly offside when he received the ball from Messi. The victory took Barcelona back to the top of the standings on 58 points although Real Madrid, on 56, can restore their place at the league summit by beating Real Betis.

Earlier in the day Atlético Madrid missed the chance to get back into the top four when they were held to an entertaining 2-2 draw with third-placed Sevilla following a frantic first half. Sevilla went ahead through Luuk de Jong but Atlético levelled with a penalty from Álvaro Morata after a VAR review determined that Diego Carlos had handled the ball.

Atlético then took the lead with a heavily deflected shot from João Félix, only for Sevilla’s Lucas Ocampos to level from the spot right before half-time, after another VAR review decided he had been fouled by Kieran Trippier.

Diego Simeone’s side went all out for a winner after the interval but were unable to get past the impressive keeper, Tomas Vaclik.

The Japanese forward Takefusa Kubo scored as Mallorca defeated Eibar 2-1 for a first away win in the league this season. Kubo, on loan from Real Madrid, scored with a low shot from outside the area after Dani Rodríguez had opened the scoring for the visitors. Eibar’s lone goal came from Pedro Bigas in injury time.

In Germany Borussia Dortmund scored once in either half, through Thorgan Hazard and Achraf Hakimi, to edge past the hosts Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-1 and take over second place in the Bundesliga with their seventh win in their last eight league matches.

Hazard gave the visitors the lead when he shook off three defenders, turned to create space and curled in with his left foot in the eighth minute. Gladbach struck back five minutes after the restart with a Lars Stindl tap-in but Dortmund hit back when Hakimi latched on to a Jadon Sancho through-ball, raced into the box and beat Yann Sommer.

Earlier RB Leipzig played out a lacklustre 0-0 at Wolfsburg and have now dropped to third place following their second consecutive draw. Leipzig, who host Tottenham in the Champions League on Tuesday, hardly made an impact in the first half but tried their luck early in the second with shots from Yussuf Poulsen and Marcel Sabitzer. Wolfsburg hit back with two chances of their own, Max Arnold and Xaver Schlager both firing narrowly wide.

Bayer Leverkusen moved into the top four on 47 points with a dominant 4-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt featuring two goals from Paulinho.

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