Sunday, 25 February 2018

Leo Messi's moment of magic brought back memories of Ronaldinho Gaúcho

Lionel Messi's Ronaldinho-esque free kick surprised Barcelona

-Lionel Messi surprised his teammates and his manager with a free kick in Barcelona's win  against Girona which evoked memories of Ronaldinho's effort against Werder Bremen in 2006.

-Barca recovered from going 1-0 down to Girona in the third minute of Saturday's Catalan derby at  Camp Nou to win 6-1, with Messi producing a stunning first-half performance.

-The Argentine international set up Luis Suarez for the equaliser before beating three defenders  inside the box to give Barca the lead.

He then scored Barca's third, firing a free kick under the leaping Girona wall, before driving forward to feed Philippe Coutinho, who set up Suarez.

Asked after the game about Messi's free kick, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said in a news conference: "It's hard to get used to these things.

"Just when a player seems to have done everything, he goes and surprises you. We were waiting to see how he was going to beat the wall and then he goes underneath it.

"When you see it, you think 'ah, of course...' Leo makes it look easy, but it's not that easy."

Coutinho, who scored the fifth before Suarez added the sixth, completing his hat trick, says even the Barca players didn't know what Messi had up his sleeve.

"Leo is amazing," Coutinho told Movistar. "He fooled everyone with his goal from the free kick under the wall.

"It's incredible how good he is. With each game, I have a better understanding with him and with Suarez. [Messi's] very important for us."

Valverde started Barcelona's two record signings for the first time since having them both available, with Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele lining up alongside Messi and Suarez.

It worked to devastating effect, with all four involved in at least one of the goals as Barca extended their unbeaten start to the league season to 25 games while moving 10 points clear of Atletico Madrid, who play Sevilla on Sunday.

"Both [Coutinho and Dembele] are players we have high hopes for," Valverde added. "Coutinho plays well inside and out and he has a great shot on him, as he showed for his goal.

"Dembele offers more width, he's a winger and he's still very young. He has had problems with injuries which affected his adaption but now he's back for the important part of the season.

"When a player gets a goal, like Coutinho, it's a boost for their confidence, which players always need. I think that's what Dembele was looking for throughout the game. I think that, as the match progressed, they got better and better, especially Dembele."

Valverde also played down concerns over Gerard Pique, who was taken off in the second half with a knock, but not one which was related to his recent knee problems.

Nelson Semedo, meanwhile, will undergo tests on a hamstring injury on Sunday after being forced off in the final minutes of the game.

Jordi Alba picked up a late yellow card that will rule him out of Thursday's trip to Las Palmas but clear his slate ahead of the following game against Atletico. Suarez also appeared to go out of his way to pick up a booking, but referee Javier Alberola would not oblige.

Valverde would not confirm if his players were intentionally trying to get suspended, saying: "They are moments of the game and the referee decides. I have nothing to say about that. If we have a setback due to an accumulation of bookings, another player will play. We'll decide what we do."

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