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lessons from Spanish La Liga – report

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Barcelona and Valencia were the big winners of a La Liga weekend that saw Real Madrid’s title defence stumble once more in a bad-tempered capital derby at Atletico Madrid.

Barca now lead Real and Atletico by 10 points, a margin no side has ever overcome to win La Liga.

Valencia remain the closest challengers, just four points back, but had to ride their luck to win at Espanyol and set up an enticing showdown with Barca at Mestalla next weekend.

Here, AFP Sports looks at five things we learned from the La Liga weekend:

Barca win twice over in Madrid

Even Barca boss Ernesto Valverde admitted the scoreline was flattering but once again without shining, his side got the job done as Luis Suarez snapped a five-game goal drought with a double in a 3-0 win at Leganes on the south side of Madrid on Saturday afternoon.

Paulinho even came off the bench to notch his fourth La Liga goal of the season, matching the total sum provided by Real’s famed ‘BBC’ front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.

Barca then had the luxury of sitting back and watching Real and Atletico bruise and batter each other across the capital hours later on Saturday night for a result that only damaged both of their title credentials.

Aggressive Atletico

Diego Simeone insisted he was with Antoine Griezmann “to the death” as long as he remains in the Atletico family despite once again being hauled off 15 minutes from time amid jeers from the home fans.

The rest of the Atletico performance suggested they may have taken Simeone’s words a little too literally.

Sergio Ramos was left bloodied and with a broken nose from a flying Lucas Hernandez boot, Angel Correa smashed a ball into Benzema’s face and Stefan Savic escaped with a yellow card when he should have seen red for a horrendous lunge on Toni Kroos.

READ ALSO: Premier League: Liverpool Mohammed Salah Makes History, Breaks Robbie Fowler’s Record

Atletico ended the night with six bookings as they rediscovered the aggressive streak shown by Simeone’s sides of seasons past. Now they just need the results to follow.

Getafe get revenge

Beating a side that very recently gave you the sack 4-1 must be pretty sweet. It must be all the sweeter, though, when the firing came after winning promotion.

Alaves relieved Jose Bordalas Jimenez of his duties after leading them back to the top flight for the first time in over a decade in 2016 as he was deemed not good enough for La Liga.

Bordalas then repeated the trick by bringing Getafe back to La Liga and now has the Madrid side in the top half of the table. Alaves, meanwhile, remain joint bottom.

Ayestaran’s unlucky 13

Only Las Palmas’s inferior goal difference is keeping Alaves off the bottom as Paco Ayestaran stretched the worst ever losing streak for a La Liga coach to 13 games.

That run combines his final days at Valencia and his first six matches with the Canary Islanders.

Whether he gets the chance to snap the streak at Real Sociedad next weekend remains very much in doubt.

Baston back on the scoresheet

Thirteen months on since his last league goal, Swansea City’s club record signing found the net again. Unfortunately for the Swans, it was for Malaga.

Borja Baston ended his barren run in style to cap a comeback for the Andalusians to beat Deportivo la Coruna 3-2 and move off the foot of the table.

Baston was a hot prospect when Swansea splashed out £15.5 million ($20.5 million, 17.4 million euros) for him in the summer of 2016 after netting 19 goals for Eibar.

However, his career has been in freefall since and he had been publicly criticised by Malaga boss Michel for his attitude in recent weeks before coming off the bench to be the hosts’ hero on Sunday.

Barcelona

I’m really grateful to our fans, Messi speaks after netting hat-trick

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Barcelona talisman, Lionel Messi, was given a standing ovation by Real Betis supporters, after scoring his 33rd La Liga hat trick in their 4-1 win at the Benito Villamarin on Sunday.

Messi opened the scoring with a free kick and added the second before the break after a brilliant Luis Suarez assist.

He completed his treble late on with an exquisite chip, after Suarez and Loren Moron had exchanged goals.

The third Messi strike, which killed off any late hopes of a Betis comeback, drew an ovation from the home supporters which the Argentine international says he has never previously experienced.

“I don’t ever remember a night like this [being applauded by rival supporters].

“I’m really grateful for the way the fans responded. I honestly don’t remember an ovation like that [from rival fans],” Messi told Movistar.

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Sadio Mane top highest goal scorer in Premier League

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Following the conclusion of match-day 31 of the English Premier League, EPL, on Sunday, below are the current highest goal scorers chasing the Golden Boot in the English top-flight league.

Liverpool forward, Sadio Mane scored in his side’s 2-1 win over Fulham on Sunday to take his tally to 17 goals so far this season.

Everton stars, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison scored in their side’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea on Sunday to take their tallies to 12 goals each.

See top 20 of Premier League highest goal scorers so far below:

18 gaols: Sergio Agüero (Manchester City).

17 goals: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal), Harry Kane (Tottenaham), Sadio Mane (Liverpool).

15 goals: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).

13 goals: Eden Hazard (Chelsea).

12 goals: Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal), Raúl Jiménez (Wolves), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton), Richarlison (Everton), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United).

11 goals: Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth), Son Heung-Min (Tottenham), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Joshua King (Bournemouth), Glenn Murray (Brighton).

10 goals: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham).

Meanwhile, the match-day 32 of the English Premier League will resume coming weekend.

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Dogo explains as Sunshine Stars FC held to goalless draw in Akure by Enyimba

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Sunshine Star Football Club of Akure have played a goalless draw with Enyimba International Football Club of Aba in the match 11 of the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL, at the Akure Township Stadium.

The week 11 fixture saw the Enyimba team doing most of the defensive playing, while the Akure-based team, Sunshine Stars FC’s strikers could not prove their potency within the box 18 of the Aba team after series of chances.

Reacting after the match which saw his team drop two points at home, the Sunshine Stars FC coach, Kabiru Dogo, who described the performance of his boys as not too good, disclosed that it was due to logistic problems within the club.

“As a coach, I’m not happy for the outcome of the match, as you can see my team played one of their best games today but we could not get the goals in the area of attacking, because football is all about goals, I could not say we did well, we didn’t do well, but there is room for improvement.

“We had opportunities to bring in new strikers into the team but due to some problems and logistics within the club, we had to manage what we have,” the Sunshine coach stated.

On his own part, the Head Coach of Enyimba International FC, Usman Abd’allah, who lauded his team’s spirit at getting the deserving one point away from home, maintained that it will help in boosting the mental stability of his boys in subsequent fixtures.

“A draw is a good one for us, even though we came here for the three points because the last two away matches because we were able to grab two point each from that match. But we thought we are going to get our first three away points but we had one point, it’s okay.

“At this moment, we are one step ahead because we are now picking up because the away points we have been getting is helping in replacing those we have lost. It’s a recovery of what we lost against Lobi Stars.

“I like the result and the fighting spirit of my boys,” Usman stated.

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