5 Things... Messi reaches another landmark

By Sports Desk September 03, 2018

Atletico failed to have a shot on target for the first time in a LaLiga match in 1778 days.

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  • Barcelona 3 Levante 0 (4-2 agg): Dembele at the double as Barca advance Barcelona 3 Levante 0 (4-2 agg): Dembele at the double as Barca advance

    Ousmane Dembele's brace and a second-half goal from Lionel Messi ensured Barcelona beat Levante 3-0 at Camp Nou, as they comfortably overturned a first-leg deficit to progress to the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.

    Trailing 2-1 in the tie, Ernesto Valverde handed a start to Messi and he played a part in both of Dembele's goals before making sure of the aggregate victory by finding the net himself just after the break.

    However, Levante president Quico Catalan had already said his club will challenge Barcelona's progression, with reports in Spain suggesting the LaLiga champions fielded an ineligible player in the previous meeting.

    Defender Chumi featured in that game, even though he had been due to serve a suspension after picking up five bookings in the Segunda Division B, and Catalan told reporters prior to kick-off on Thursday that Levante would lodge an official complaint to the Royal Spanish Football Federation.

    The selection of Messi, who did not feature in the first leg, was an indication of Barcelona's intent to progress, and the Argentinian twice came close to scoring in the opening 25 minutes, with goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez parrying away a free-kick before diverting another try wide with his foot.

    Yet Barca soon went ahead on aggregate as Dembele benefitted from two moments of good fortune to score twice in as many minutes.

    First, the ball looped up off the Frenchman and went in following Erick Cabaco's desperate slide tackle, before Dembele's weak finish from a tight angle was helped in by Fernandez's foot to make it 2-0.

    Messi was then played in by Dembele only to see his effort from point-blank range denied by Fernandez, the keeper then thwarting Philippe Coutinho and Messi again before the break.

    Barca's aggregate lead was only a solitary goal until Messi finally got on the scoresheet nine minutes into the second half.

    Dembele was involved as he threaded a superb pass through to Nelson Semedo, who squared the ball for Messi to slot past Fernandez for the home side's third.

    A hat-trick alluded Dembele, though, as he fired just wide late on, while the woodwork denied Emmanuel Boateng scoring for Levante in stoppage time.
     

    What does it mean? Barca through, for now

    Levante president Catalan's comments prior to kick-off did not serve as a distraction to Barcelona, who did the job on the pitch. As it stands, they will be in Friday's last-eight draw, though the powers-that-be may have something to say about that.

    Dembele at the double

    He only scored four times in his debut campaign at Camp Nou but Dembele already has a dozen in 2018-19. There was a degree of luck in both of the 21-year-old's first-half goals, but his link-up play with Messi suggests he is beginning to feel more at home.

    Chance to impress passes Coutinho by

    Dembele is not the only one to have experienced early struggles in his Barcelona career, with Coutinho as yet failing to hit the same heights he reached at Liverpool prior to his January 2018 move. The Brazilian, who was withdrawn for Luis Suarez just after the hour mark, has still not scored from open play since October.

    What's next?

    Leaders Barcelona will look to make it seven wins in a row in LaLiga when they host Leganes on Sunday, with Levante hosting Real Valladolid on the same day.

  • Jamaica international Gordon seals deal with USL club OKC Energy Jamaica international Gordon seals deal with USL club OKC Energy

    Jamaica international Omar Gordon has joined USL Championship club OKC Energy in a move away from Jamaican Premier League club Montego Bay United.

    The 27-year-old striker is fresh from completing a loan spell at USL Western Conference team San Antonio where he made a solid impression.  Gordon scored six goals in seven appearances and notched four assists.

    Locally, Gordon made a measurable impression with 125 appearances for Montego Bay United, a club he joined in 2011.  He scored 37 goals and helped the club to the Jamaican National Premier League title in 2014 and 2016.

    Energy FC Head Coach Steve Cooke admitted he was pleased to have acquired the player’s services.

    “Having watched him at close quarters playing for San Antonio last year, we always knew he was a threat against us, “Cooke said.

    “He’s big, he’s strong, he’s powerful and he’s got the pace to get in behind – great 1-v-1 attacking defenders. I think he can contribute goals, assists and really take the game to the other teams.”

    Gordon has also previously competed on loan in the United States with Indy Eleven during the 2016 season when he recorded three goals in 20 appearances for the club. 

  • Levante to lodge complaint over Barcelona Copa selection Levante to lodge complaint over Barcelona Copa selection

    Levante president Quico Catalan has confirmed his club will lodge an official complaint to the Spanish Football Federation over their Copa del Rey tie with Barcelona, with reports suggesting the LaLiga champions fielded an ineligible player in the first leg.

    Barca slipped to a surprise 2-1 loss in the first meeting last week, their first defeat in all competitions since a 4-3 reverse at home to Real Betis last November.

    Ernesto Valverde named a much-changed line-up for that fixture, including selecting Chumi in his starting XI.

    However, the Barcelona B defender was due to serve a suspension after picking up five bookings in the Segunda Division B.

    The return leg was held at Camp Nou on Thursday and Catalan confirmed Levante will go the authorities and make a legal case over the matter, regardless of whether they advance or not.

    "It is not an easy situation, us sporting people like to win on the pitch," Catalan said to reporters prior to kick-off.

    "Whatever happens, Levante will go before the federation with this situation tomorrow (Friday).

    "There will be a complaint if we do not qualify. And if we do, there will be a report to the federation to explain what has happened.

    "We understand there is sufficient precedent which allows Levante to, unfortunately, go ahead to the Federation with these facts.

    "Our legal department will keep working and will work all night to prepare the details of the statement we will send tomorrow. But we understand that we have the precedent and the solid foundations to do so."

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