Thursday, February 22, 2024

The Latest Football News and Opinions From 90 Minutes Online

What's 6ft 7' and plays like Messi? Find out in this week's Liga review...

Jorge Valdano in Saturday's 'MARCA' newspaper described Nicola Zigic - the on-loan 6 foot 7' Santander striker - as someone 'who produces above, the things that Messi does below' and for more than an hour on Sunday it was Racing Santander and their 'Messi of the skies' that had the upper-handf. 


Lionel Messi had, however, been somewhat restricted in his influence on the match from his position on the substitutes’ bench, but that all had to change of course when the giant Serbian put away a Pereira won penalty in the 56th minute, forcing Guardiola to send on his young superstar to try and rescue a result. 



The fact that he promptly did so, scoring within 5 minutes of his introduction and again with just 10 minutes remaining, is - in a season in which Messi has undoubtedly blossomed into the the world's best footballer - perhaps beyond suprising.  


That Barcelona finished the game with just 9 men however will be rather shocking, not least because of their now drastically depleted defensive options. With Puyol out injured and Marquez and Pique presumably ineligible too (after both centre backs were sent off for double yellow card offences on Sunday) we can, failing any last minute transfer dealings, expect an exceptionally thread-bare back-line for their upcoming mid week semi-final cup tie with Mallorca. 


Messi's match-winner was Barcelona's 5000th league goal, but the young Argentinian still has a very long way to go if he is to match Real's Raul- who this Saturday became his club's all time top scorer with a remarkable 307 career goals for Madrid.  


His goal came just after half-time through a trademark predatory strike and put Madrid 1-0 up. 9 minutes later Robben continued his red hot streak of form with another finely taken goal that fired the nail in Numancia's coffin. 


Athletico Bilbao were the only other team of the 'Copa del Rey' semi finalists to taste victory this weekend, and even they left it very late. 


In another enthralling match at San Mames, Bilbao twice came from behind, first through Yeste who put a cracking finish on some great wing play and a pull back pass from Llorente and then in the second half through a blistering strike from in-form Llorente. But it was subsitute Susaeta who was to be the hero of the day when with just 5 minutes remaining, he fired a well taken header into the top left hand corner to the roar of delight of 'the Lions' of Bilbao. 


Meanwhile, Mallorca and Sevilla - the remaining cup candidates - both came unstuck with 1-0 defeats. Mallorca failed to recover from Osasuna's early 'Rifle' strike. 'Rifle' being the nickname earned by  Osasuna's clinical striker, Walter Pandiani, who has now scored 5 times this season - a strike rate of a goal every 120 minutes.But what is most impressive is that he has reached that tally from just 12 goal-scoring chances - with only one of which off-target! 


A much changed Sevilla side were once again unable to beat 10-man opposition as they too fell behind early. Sporting's Diego Castro blasted a header past Palop in the 16th minute and then despite the sending off of Canela and Kanoute coming on, Sevilla, for all their efforts couldn’t find a way through the Gijon defence. 


The fact that Valencia managed to scrape a 3-2 victory at home to Almeria means they now lie just 1 point behind Sevilla in 4th place. Joaquin opened the scoring for Valencia and a brace for Almeria's Negredo Fulham (supposedly bid for by Fulham today)and Valencia's Villa followed but despite Almeria's superiority in the second half, Valencia clung on for the 3 points. 


Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid continued to plummit, losing 2-1 at home to Vallododid.The board will reportedly decide today if Javier Aguirre will continue at the helm of an Atletico side still without a win in 2009.  


Deportivo's 3-0 victory over Villareal meant they leapt to 6th place. Whilst red cards made a world of difference in the two drama filled score-draws that complete this week's round of fixtures. 


Betis were 2-0 up after just 9 minutes in their home match with Getafe, with goals from Juanma & Gonzalez. A red card for Juande minutes later turned the momentum Getafe's way. A quick fire brace from Uche in the second half took the game to 2-2, and in the end only a late penalty miss by Soldado prevented Getafe taking all 3 points. 


Nico Pareja gave Español the lead on the hour but he could never have imagined the reverse of fortunes that - after goalkeeper Karmeni saw red for a tackle on Ruben - would find the Argentianian midfielder between the sticks, goalkeeper gloves on, awaiting a penalty!



Had he saved it he'd have surely made it into Español legend, but instead Ruben dusted himself off and sent him the wrong way with a coolly taken injury time spot-kick.

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