Lionel Messi scored his first goal of the season as Barcelona beat Sevilla 4-0 on Sunday to climb into second place in the La Liga standings behind Real Madrid.
The Catalans, however, ended the game with nine men as Ousmane Dembele and debutant Ronald Araujo were sent off.
The victory saw Barca leapfrog Atletico Madrid into second place on 16 points, two behind leaders Real who they meet in three weeks’ time at the Camp Nou.
Atletico Madrid are third on 15 after drawing 0-0 at Real Valladolid on Sunday.
Barcelona rode their luck in the early stages of the game as Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla made an ambitious start but failed to take their chances.
While the Catalans were ruthlessly efficient and scored three times in eight first-half minutes.
Luis Suarez gave the champions the lead with an outstanding bicycle kick in the 27th minute and their Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal then got a crucial touch on a tame shot from Arthur Melo to double the lead in the 32nd.
Frenchman Dembele, who started ahead of 120 million euro (107 million pounds) signing Antoine Griezmann, made it 3-0 in the 35th with a superb solo dribble and finish.
Barca captain Messi scored from a free kick in the 78th to finally get off the mark in a season blighted by injuries but there was a sour end to the game for Ernesto Valverde’s side.
Uruguayan defender Araujo had made his debut by replacing the injured Jean-Clair Todibo but was sent off 14 minutes later for a last-ditch challenge on Javier Hernandez, while Dembele was dismissed for protesting the decision.
Referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz explained in his report that he showed Dembele a straight red card for saying “very bad, you are very bad” and waving his arms at him.
The forward will be suspended from Barca’s next La Liga game at Eibar and is in danger of missing the ‘Clasico’ against Real, as players who have said similar words to referees in recent seasons have been handed two-game bans.
Barca’s scorer Vidal said they deserved the big victory.
“We were superior to them the whole time, we were always putting them under pressure and we are worthy winners,” he told reporters.
“We were up against a team who are good with the ball and on the wings but we dominated them in those areas.”
Lopetegui’s last visit to the Camp Nou was a painful affair as his then Real Madrid side were hammered 5-1 by Barca in his final game in charge before being sacked, and this was a similarly galling experience for the former Spain coach.
His Sevilla side created three clear chances to take the lead but missed them all as Dutch striker Luuk de Jong was thwarted by keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and then missed the target, as did Brazilian midfielder Fernando.
The luckless De Jong then had a chance to strike back for his side early in the second half but hit the post, one of 16 attempts for Lopetegui’s side, who only found the target four times. Barca had 15 shots, with eight on target.
“It’s a crushing and undeserved defeat,” said Lopetegui. “We played very well, we were brave and we tried to do what we had worked on in training but we couldn’t take our chances.”
Sevilla midfielder Fernando added:
“We had so many chances to score, but if you switch off for one second at the Camp Nou you get punished.”
Covid-19: I tested positive after the premier league suspension, Brendan Rogers, reveals
Leicester City head coach, Brendan Rodgers, has revealed that he had the novel COVID-19 after the Premier League was suspended in March.
Rodgers, who said he has now fully recovered from the virus, disclosed this in an interview with BBC radio.
The 47-year-old said:
“My wife and I had it [COVID-19] just after the Premier League was suspended.
“One week later, I started to struggle, I had no smell and taste, and it was the same with my wife.
“I could hardly walk, and It reminded me of climbing mountain Kilimanjaro, as you climb higher you get more breathless.
“I went for a run, and I could not do it. I was so weak and had a weird sensation for three weeks of having no taste.”
Rodgers is now the second manager in the Premier League to confirm he had the virus after Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta.
Apollo Crews: Nigerian-born wrestler wins first WWE US Champion title
Nigerian-born America wrestler Sesugh Uhaa popularly known as Apollo Crews has clinched the United States Championship on Monday Night Raw.
The 32-year-old heavily built fighter, dethroned former champion, Andrade, to win his first-ever title in the WWE rings.
According to newsmen, the immediate ex-champion didn’t respond well to the defeat handed to him by his opposition
The victory would delight Crews after stopping the person who prevented him from participating in the Money in the Bank ladder match.
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Reacting to his victory, he wrote;
Reports reveal that the 32-year-old had booked his place in the men’s event ahead of his clash with Andrade on the April 27 edition of Raw.
However, he tweaked his knee over the course of the bout, and El Idolo subsequently targeted it to such an extent the referee called for the bell.
Russia to allow some spectators in stadiums when top flight matches resume
Russia’s Sports Minister said on Friday he welcomed a decision by the authorities to allow spectators into stadiums when matches in the country’s top professional football league resume next month.
The Russian Premier League halted matches in mid-March because of the COVID-19 crisis and is set to resume action on June 21.
“It’s important that the football championship resumes in the presence of spectators, even though small in number,” Russian news agencies quoted Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin as saying.
“I watched Bundesliga matches. The mood is very strange. There isn’t enough emotion. Without spectators, the matches do not look the way we are used to.”
Several European professional leagues resumed matches this month, including German’s top professional league, but without spectators.
Russia’s consumer health watchdog agreed on Thursday that stadiums could welcome spectators at Russian Premier League matches if they took up no more than 10 percent of a given venue’s capacity.
League champions Zenit St Petersburg currently leads the standings on 50 points after 22 matches played.
Lokomotiv Moscow and Krasnodar are second and third respectively, nine points behind the leaders.
Earlier this month, Russia said it would allow foreign athletes competing in its domestic sports leagues to enter the country even though its borders remain closed to foreigners.
It said the move was designed to help clubs resume training.
As of Friday, Russia had recorded 387,623 cases of the novel coronavirus, the third-highest reported total in the world after the U.S. and Brazil
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