SPORTS: JUST LIKE OLD TIMES IN LANDMARK MATCH FOR MESSI, SUAREZ & NEYMAR

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The Argentine scored a free-kick for the
third game running as the Uruguayan
reached 100 goals and the Brazilian ended
his scoring drought

As responses go, this one was pretty
emphatic. Barcelona had been below par
in their first two games so far this year,
with Neymar and Luis Suarez particularly
under the spotlight. Against Athletic Club,
however, it was just like old times for the
MSN.
Neymar had not netted since October 19
prior to this game and midway through the
first half, he had gone 1,000 minutes
without a goal. He has been contributing,
though, and averaged almost an assist per
match (0.8) before this cup clash.
He looked to have added another when he
put through Luis Suarez for the Uruguayan
to slot home in the first half, but the strike
was wrongly ruled out for offside. Minutes
later, however, the same combination put
Barca in front. Neymar crossed and Suarez
volleyed home his 100th Barca goal – in
only his 120th appearance for the Catalan
club.
It was also the 300th goal scored by
Lionel Messi (124), Suarez (100) and
Neymar (76) since the trio started playing
together at the start of the 2014-15
campaign. Three hundred goals in two and
a half seasons.
Early in the second half Neymar then won
a penalty which he converted himself. It
was no more than he had deserved in a
bright showing and now 2-0 up on the
night and 3-2 ahead in the tie, Barca
seemed safe.
But a lapse in concentration at the other
end by Sergi Roberto allowed Barcelona-
born Enric Saborit to head home for
Athletic and as extra-time loomed large,
there was also the need for caution –
because if the Basques scored, Barca
would need two.
More than caution, however, Barca needed
inspiration and as in the first two matches
of this calendar year, it came from a Messi
free-kick. The Argentine, who had netted
stunning set-piece strikes against Athletic
at San Mames and away to Villarreal in his
last two games, added another here as he
curled a superb shot in off the post to net
from free-kicks in three consecutive
matches for the first time in his career.
So after a landmark match for Messi,
Suarez and Neymar, Barcelona advance to
the last eight of the competition for the
seventh season in a row – and with Atletico
and (most likely) Real Madrid still in the
Copa del Rey, it is going to be a tough one
to win this time around.
Having started the year with a loss and a
draw, this result will also give Barca some
confidence and Luis Enrique hailed his star
player afterwards. “Messi doesn’t remind
me of anyone,” he said. “There is nobody
better than Messi. He makes the others
better.”
He is right about that, but on Wednesday
the Argentine was ably assisted by both
Suarez and Neymar. In the end it was
another glorious night for the MSN and
with the trident in this form, Barca are still
capable of beating absolutely anyone.

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Posted in Sports

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