Section: La Liga

Champions League: Real Madrid 1-0 Atletico Madrid (agg 1-0)

Real Madrid’s Javier Hernandez scored an 88th-minute winner to settle a tense Champions League quarter-final against neighbours Atletico in the Bernabeu.

The visitors frustrated Real for the majority of the match, but the game opened up when Atletico’s Arda Turan was sent off in the 75th minute.

With the game heading for extra-time after the first leg ended 0-0, Cristiano Ronaldo drove forward and squared for Hernandez to slot home.

Real will join fellow La Liga heavyweights Barcelona, plus Germany’s Bayern Munich and Serie A side Juventus, in the final four yet none are likely to provide a sterner test of their attacking mettle than their cross-city rivals.

Atletico were well-drilled and extremely difficult to break down, but the tie turned in Real’s favour when Turan was sent off for a second bookable offence – the Turkish midfielder fouling Sergio Ramos.

Turan had been assigned to man-mark Ronaldo and he did the job to perfection during the time he was on the pitch.

With Real shorn of two of their attacking stars – Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema – through injury, they often looked short on ideas up front with Ronaldo struggling to escape Turan’s attentions.

Read more at BBC Sport

Champions League: Barcelona 2-0 PSG (agg 5-1)

Neymar stars as Barcelona ease past PSG into Champions League semifinals

Barcelona reached the Champions League semifinals for the seventh time in eight years after comfortably brushing aside the challenge of Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca did most of the damage in the first leg with a 3-1 win in Paris and they finished the job off with relative ease at the Camp Nou, with two first-half Neymar goals earning a 2-0 win.

Luis Enrique’s in-form side will now go into Friday’s mouthwatering draw for the last four along with Bayern Munich, with one of last season’s two finalists — Atletico and Real Madrid — joining them, as well as either Juventus or Monaco.

The 5-1 aggregate victory also keeps Barca firmly on course for the Treble, having already reached the final of the Copa del Rey and boasting a two-point lead in La Liga with six games to go.

Neymar broke the deadlock in the first leg and it was the Brazilian who got things up and running on Tuesday as well, although it was some Andres Iniesta magic that made it happen.

Iniesta, wearing the captain’s armband, missed the weekend win over Valencia through injury but showed no sign of any ill-effects as he brilliantly beat three players as he charged through the PSG midfield before threading a perfect pass into Neymar’s path.

The Brazilian did the rest, rounding Salvatore Sirigu and slotting into an empty net.

Dani Alves tested Sirigu with a long-range piledriver that the PSG keeper did well to parry, but he was beaten for a second time in the 33rd minute as Barca further strengthened their grip on proceedings.

Alves teased former Barca team-mate Maxwell on the right before floating in a left-footed cross that Neymar, having ghosted in behind David Luiz, easily headed past Sirigu.

The tie was as good as over, although PSG continued to battle and another of their ex-Barca contingent Zlatan Ibrahimovic — who had an effort correctly ruled out for offside in between Neymar’s strikes — almost brought them a goal midway through the second half.

The Sweden international, who missed the first leg due to suspension, ignored the run of an unmarked team-mate to try his luck from 25 yards out and his well-struck effort drew an awkward save out of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Edinson Cavani and Blaise Matuidi then tried to scramble the ball home with 10 minutes left as the French champions continued to probe, albeit against a Barca side that already knew the job was done.

Substitutes Lucas Moura and Ezequiel Lavezzi both also spurned openings to get on the scoresheet for Laurent Blanc’s men before Lionel Messi fired a shot just wide at the death for Barca, who have now won 23 of their 26 competitive games in 2015.

Read more at ESPN

Champions League: Atletico Madrid 0-0 Real Madrid

Gareth Bale missed a glorious chance as Atletico Madrid held rivals Real Madrid to a goalless draw in the Champions League quarter-final first leg.

Wales forward Bale was through on goal in the third minute, but was thwarted by Jan Oblak, who was impressive for the home side throughout.

The goalkeeper also made a crucial save from James Rodriguez, as Mario Suarez missed a late chance for Atletico.

The sides meet again in the second leg at the Bernabeu on 22 April.

Real are aiming to become the first team to win back-to-back European Cups since AC Milan in 1989 and 1990, having defeated Atletico in last season’s final.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men have now not beaten their opponents in seven meetings since claiming La Decima – their 10th European Cup – which includes a 4-0 La Liga thumping in February.

Read more at BBC Sport

Champions League: Barcelona 1-0 Man City

Barcelona ease past Man City as Sergio Aguero misses penalty

Lionel Messi and Barcelona turned on the style to dump Manchester City and their inspired goalkeeper Joe Hart out of the Champions League.

It was thanks to Hart’s heroics that Barcelona could manage only a 1-0 win at the Nou Camp.

Ivan Rakitic scored the only goal of another one-sided encounter between the two sides, completing a 3-1 aggregate win to secure the Catalan giants’ place in the quarterfinals.

City did show some spirit in the second half, and could have pulled one back when Sergio Aguero had a penalty saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen — but in truth the scoreline flattered them.

Barcelona were in a different league to the English champions, and Messi was simply outstanding.

One of the enduring images from the game will be his first-half nutmeg on James Milner, who was bamboozled and left on the turf by the Argentinian’s brilliance.

It said much for City’s night that their man of the match was comfortably Hart, who made a strong of brilliant saves in the second half to limit the damage.

The loss will leave City manager Manuel Pellegrini fighting for his future, but most coaches would have struggled against Barcelona in this mood.

City’s defeat meant the end of English involvement in the Champions League, after Arsenal and Chelsea’s defeats at this stage and Liverpool’s elimination in the group round.

Pellegrini changed tactics, deploying Aguero as a lone striker, but it was to little avail.

After being well beaten in the first leg, it always seemed likely City would follow their Premier League rivals out of the competition.

And so it proved as Barcelona set about them from the outset, looking in ominous form as Dani Alves forced a Vincent Kompany error and Neymar rolled a shot against the inside of a post.

Barcelona were relentless, with Messi at his ingenious best, continually wrong-footing City with masterful control and movement.

Messi combined brilliantly with Andres Iniesta in the box, but Hart came to the visitors’ rescue with a low save from the Argentinian.

City could not keep pace with the Spanish league leaders and four of their players — Fernandinho, Aleksandar Kolarov, David Silva and Samir Nasri — were booked inside the first 36 minutes. Nasri was lucky not to see red for hacking at the ankles of Neymar.

But by then City were already a goal down after Messi picked out Rakitic in space in the box with a brilliant cross. Rakitic controlled superbly on his chest and reacted quickly to lob the advancing Hart.

City’s torture continued as Messi, who had earlier been crudely hacked down on the touchline by Kolarov, reacted with great dexterity as Milner attempted to close him down out wide.

Messi simply flicked the ball back inside, nutmegging the England international and dumping him on the turf. Former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, watching in the stands, put his head in his hands in disbelief.

Barcelona almost had a second goal before the break as Luis Suarez, scorer of two in the first leg, broke clear and beat the advancing Hart only for his shot to bounce off the far post.

The one-way traffic continued as Hart saved from Iniesta, Rakitic and Jordi Alba in the opening minutes of the second half.

Pellegrini attempted to change his side’s shape, with Jesus Navas having replaced the ineffective Nasri at the interval. He pushed Toure forward, but Barcelona were not greatly troubled despite an increase in City possession.

One good opportunity did open up when Navas got to the byline, but there was no-one on hand to turn in his cross.

Barcelona had the menace to be able to kill the game at any moment, and Suarez lashed a shot into the side netting before Messi skipped past a challenge on a lightning counter-attack but was forced wide.

Alba thought he had scored a second when he snapped up a rebound after Hart blocked a Neymar shot, but offside was given.

Hart denied Neymar again on the hour and City were given a potential lifeline moments later as they broke up to the other end and Aguero fell as Gerard Pique challenged.

A penalty was awarded, but Aguero could not take advantage as Ter Stegen saved to his right.

It was not going to be City’s night, but Hart could still hold his head high, saving again from Suarez before the former Liverpool star hit the bar.

Hart saved brilliantly again from Messi in the last minute and Neymar was also frustrated by him in injury time.
 Read more at ESPN

Champions League: Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Atletico Madrid

Hakan Calhanoglu gave Bayer Leverkusen victory in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against last year’s finalists Atletico Madrid.

Calhanoglu scored the only goal on 57 minutes, firing into the top of the net after Karim Bellarabi’s backheel.

Atletico had midfielder Tiago sent off for a foul on Bellarabi – his second booking – and had a goal ruled out.

Fernando Torres thought he had scored with a header following a corner, but the ball had already gone out of play.

The result means the tie remains in the balance ahead of the second leg at Atletico’s Vicente Calderon on 17 March.

Leverkusen have won just one of their past five Bundesliga matches and none of their previous seven Champions League knockout games.

But the German side, who finished second to Monaco in Group C, started well and nearly took the lead on 14 minutes when Emir Spahic’s header was hacked off the line by Mario Mandzukic.

Spahic, who replaced suspended Turkey international Omer Toprak in Leverkusen’s defence, beat Miguel Moya again 11 minutes later, but his 25-yard drive struck the woodwork.

Atletico, who had lost just one of their previous nine away games in the competition, were outfought for much of the first half.

But Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno was forced to tip a cross off Antoine Griezmann’s head and then pull of a wonderful save from Tiago’s volley as the interval approached.

It was the hosts who took the lead, though, as Bellarabi drove into the area and backheeled the ball into the path of Calhanoglu, who smashed home.

Atletico boss Diego Simeone, who had to make two substitutions in the first half, responded by replacing Arda Turan with former Liverpool and Chelsea striker Torres.

The Spaniard had the ball in the Leverkusen net on 74 minutes, only for his close-range header to be ruled out.

And the visitors’ hopes of a comeback were all but ended when they were reduced to 10 men moments later, with Tiago shown his second yellow card after sliding in on Bellarabi.

Read more at BBC Sport

Champions League: Man City 1-2 Barcelona

Luis Suarez marked his first return to England since a £75m summer move to Barcelona with two goals that leave Manchester City on the brink of a Champions League exit.

The former Liverpool striker demonstrated the quality the Premier League has been missing – and which defenders have been spared – with two strikes in the opening half-hour to put Barcelona in command of this last-16 first-leg tie.

City improved after the break and were rewarded with Sergio Aguero’s strike but their growing momentum was halted when Gael Clichy was sent off for a second yellow card.

And even though they still face a mountainous task at the Nou Camp in the second leg on 18 March – they need to score at least twice to have a chance of progressing – they were spared an even tougher job after keeper Joe Hart saved Lionel Messi’s penalty from virtually the final kick of the game.

Uruguay international Suarez preyed on the uncertainty of City captain Vincent Kompany throughout and with Messi the orchestrator, Luis Enrique’s side tormented the Premier League champions in the first half.

Suarez ended this summer’s World Cup in Brazil in disgrace after bitingItaly’s Giorgio Chiellini but it was not enough to dissuade Barcelona fromtaking him from Liverpool to La Liga and this was an illustration of exactly why, the movement and menace a familiar sight to those who had watched him terrorise opponents in the Premier League.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini will take some heart from the manner in which they created chances in the second half but in reality Barcelona are now overwhelming favourites to progress as they took advantage of the timidity of an opposition, without suspended midfield talisman Yaya Toure, who showed them far too much respect in the first 45 minutes.

Aguero’s goal and Hart’s save offer a lifeline but it is flimsy at best and City will need to produce a special performance in Catalonia to reach the quarter-finals.

Suarez, so often cast in the role of the Premier League’s villain during his time at Anfield, was jeered when his name was read out before kick-off – but he soon turned the taunts back on his tormentors as Barcelona produced an imperious first half display.

He had already threatened before he put Barcelona ahead after 13 minutes, reacting quickly to fire a low, angled finish past Hart after Messi’s cross had rebounded off Kompany.

City’s lame approach was in contrast to Pellegrini’s claim that they would attack Barcelona and they were lucky not to fall further behind when a brilliant pass from Messi released Suarez in behind Kompany but Hart rescued City with a crucial block at the striker’s feet.

Barcelona only ever seemed a moment away from another goal – and so it proved when Suarez pounced for his second on the half-hour, showing great instincts to turn Jordi Alba’s cross at the near post.

Dani Alves sent a glancing effort off the bar before an agonising first half drew to a close for City and supporters who had suffered in silence for long periods as Barcelona went through their party pieces.

City, as they had to do, showed some attacking ambition after the restart and should have pulled a goal back when the unmarked Edin Dzeko headed straight at keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen from only six yards out.

Aguero, so industrious despite barely having any service worthy of the name, was then only inches off target as City finally looked capable of posing Barcelona problems.

The goal City had threatened finally arrived with 21 minutes remaining, Aguero taking an inventive David Silva backheel in his stride before beating Ter Stegen.

Suddenly there was hope for City, although some of that was extinguished as Clichy was sent off four minutes later after receiving a second yellow card for a mistimed challenge on Alves.

Messi had the chance to heap further punishment on City when he was fouled in the area by Pablo Zabaleta in the closing moments but Hart blocked his spot-kick and the Argentine headed wide of an open goal.

Read more at BBC Sport

Champions League: Schalke 0-2 Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcelo help Real Madrid to victory over Schalke

Real Madrid are on course to make the Champions League quarterfinals after a 2-0 victory at Schalke in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

Schalke went into the game as huge underdogs, having lost 6-1 at home and 3-1 away when they met Madrid at the same stage in last year’s competition, but they had looked the more likely to make the breakthrough at the start of the match.

However, the home side found themselves trailing on 26 minutes when Cristiano Ronaldo was allowed the space to head home for his 58th goal in 58 Champions League appearances, the Portuguese ending a goal drought that had approached five hours.

Schalke’s prospects then receded further when former Madrid forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had to be substituted before the break with a leg injury.

However, Huntelaar’s replacement, Felix Platte, came close to an equaliser on his Champions League debut as he smashed a shot against the crossbar on 74 minutes, with Atsuto Uchida unable to beat Iker Casillas from the follow-up.

Soon afterwards, Madrid had extended their advantage, with Marcelo unleashing a stunning right-footed strike into the top corner.

Read more at ESPN

La Liga: Cordoba 2-1 Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off for lashing out at Edimar as Real Madrid beat Cordoba 2-1 thanks to a dramatic late Gareth Bale penalty.

Cordoba took an early lead when Bebe fired a shot from distance against the arms of Sergio Ramos, and the referee awarded a penalty. Nabil Ghilas calmly converted from the spot.

Real struggled to create many chances in response, but Karim Benzema equalised after stabbing home Gareth Bale’s flick-on from a James Rodriguez corner.

In the second half, Cordoba continued to play brightly, despite gradually dropping deeper, and they almost took the lead against when Florin Andone lifted a volley over the head of Iker Casillas, only to see his effort bounce off the crossbar.

Real Madrid went close when Juan Carlos saved Benzema’s shot from the left, but minutes later Cristiano Ronaldo saw red for kicking out at Edimar after the two tussled for a cross, and also became involved with Jose Angel Crespo.

Minutes later, Bale won a penalty when Federico Cartabia was given a second yellow after he handballed his free kick. He fired his shot down the middle to win the game with minutes to spare.

Read more at Yahoo Sport

Copa del Rey: Real Madrid 2-2 Atletico Madrid (agg 2-4)

Fernando Torres struck his first goals since returning to Atletico Madrid, firing a brace in a 4-2 Copa del Rey aggregate win over holders Real Madrid.

Atletico led 2-0 from the first leg and Torres stunned the Bernabeu, smashing in left-footed after 49 seconds.

Sergio Ramos’s header levelled but, in the first minute of the second half, Torres beat Pepe to slide in a second.

Real needed three goals to win after Cristiano Ronaldo’s header but Atleti will meet Barcelona in the last eight.

Barca cruised to a 9-0 aggregate win over Elche, but for Atleti, the last-16 stage provided a stiffer test and significant bragging rights.

The La Liga champions inflicted a first domestic cup defeat on Carlo Ancelotti since he arrived to manage their city rivals in 2013.

Los Rojiblancos can also boast being five games unbeaten against Real this season, a record which looked certain to continue after less than a minute’s play in the Spanish capital.

Soon after Ronaldo stopped parading his Fifa Ballon d’Or award moments before kick-off, Torres plundered the opener, sweeping into the top corner from 10 yards with a first-time shot following Antoine Griezmann’s cross.

Torres, who left Atleti in 2007, had never scored at the Bernabeu with his boyhood club but, in for the unwell Mario Mandzukic, he left Real needing four goals to progress.

Ramos netted a last-minute leveller which spurred Real on to a 4-1 extra-time win over Atletico in last season’s Champions League final and he was in the right place when goalkeeper Jan Oblak – making just his fifth appearance – flapped at a set-piece delivery.

Swarms of white shirts peppered the visitors’ area and Ronaldo’s goal-bound strike was only kept out by Mario Suarez on the goal-line as Real dominated with 76% of possession in the opening half.

But Diego Simeone’s side only had 27% of the ball in the first leg and they again demonstrated the resilience he has instilled in them since taking over in December 2011.

The Argentine has delivered successive league finishes of fifth, third and first along with Europa League success in 2012 and a Copa del Rey triumph in 2013.

In Europa League, Champions League and Copa del Rey fixtures, he now has 16 successes from 18 two-legged ties and Torres’s second came at the perfect time, killing Real’s second-half hope.

He again collected a Griezmann pass before wrong-footing Pepe to fire under home keeper Keylor Navas.

Ronaldo – voted the greatest player in Portugal’s history on Wednesday –  headed in from six yards to reduce the arrears on 54 minutes before Torres was substituted to jeers from the home fans.

Karim Benzema could not turn their frustration to hope when he fired over from four yards as La Liga leaders Real relinquished their hold on Spain’s coveted domestic cup.

Read more at BBC Sport

La Liga: Real Sociedad 1-0 Barcelona

David Moyes’s Real Sociedad stopped Barcelona going top of La Liga thanks to an early own goal from Jordi Alba.

Real Madrid’s 2-1 defeat at Valencia earlier in the day would have allowed the Catalans to edge ahead in the title race if they had won.

But coach Luis Enrique started with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Dani Alves on the bench following the festive break.

And they were unable to inspire a fightback as Moyes secured a memorable second win as Sociedad manager.

Messi, Neymar and Alves only returned to training last Friday after an extended break in South America during the league’s Christmas shutdown.

Enrique took the gamble of starting without them for a fixture that has proved tricky for Barcelona in the past.

And so it proved again with their winless run at Anoeta now extended to six games.

In Moyes’s previous two home La Liga games, former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela had struck in the opening five minutes.

And while there was to be no repeat for Vela, Sociedad were still ahead after just two minutes as Alba headed a cross from Sergio Canales past his own keeper.

For a team which had already beaten Real Madrid and defending champions Atletico Madrid in San Sebastian this season, it was the perfect start.

Sociedad have been difficult to beat under Moyes, with just two losses in their previous seven matches since the former Manchester United and Everton boss took over in November, and they clung tenaciously to their lead.

They were helped by an insipid first-half performance from Barcelona, who rarely threatened an equaliser.

Sociedad went closest to a second goal when Canales turned sharply and tested former Socieded keeper Claudio Bravo at his near post.

Not surprisingly, Enrique sent on Messi at the start of the second half and waited just a further 12 minutes to introduce Neymar to try and spark an improvement.

Barcelona increasingly dominated possession and began to camp around the Sociedad penalty area.

But with a wall of blue and white shirts to pass, they could not turn their pressure into any meaningful chances.

Sociedad defended superbly with goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli making his one real save four minutes from time when dashing out to save at the feet of Luis Suarez.

Barcelona’s next La Liga game is against champions Atletico Madrid next Sunday.

Read more at BBC Sport