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Footballers"s Football Column – Ross Allen: Signing Matt Le Tissier is great but he won"t take penalties off me

ROSS ALLEN: Our fixture pile up is tough – up at 5am, fly to England at 7am, game at 3pm and back home for 9pm… and then ANOTHER match the next day!

PUBLISHED:

08:25 GMT, 24 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

13:13 GMT, 24 April 2013

Ross Allen

Ross Allen is a British centre forward with a better strike rate than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. He has scored 53 goals in 37 games for Guernsey FC this season, but more impressive is his contribution to an incredible fixture pile-up that has seen the club in the middle of 20 games in 36 days. In his debut Footballers' Football Column he writes about that sequence, which started on April 1 and ends on May 6, and came about through postponed home matches in winter and an unlikely run to the FA Vase semi-final… Oh and a certain team-mate called Le Tissier.

Footballers Football Column: Ross Allen

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GUERNSEY'S FIXTURE RUN-IN

DATE
TEAM
VENUE
SCORE
01/04/2013
Windsor
Away
W 6-1
05/04/2013
South Park
Away
W 2-0
06/04/2013
Cove
Home
L 1-2
07/04/2013
Camberley
Home
D 2-2
09/04/2013
Farnham
Away
W 2-1
12/04/2013
Horley
Home
W 4-1
14/04/2013
Raynes Park Vale
Home
W 4-3
16/04/2013
Hanworth Villa
Away
L 2-1
18/04/2013
Badshot Lea
Away
D 2-2
20/04/2013
Hanworth Villa
Home
W 5-1
21/04/2013
Chessington & Hook Utd
Home
L 2-0
24/04/2013
Colliers Wood Utd
Away

26/04/2013
Ash United
Home

27/04/2013
Molesey
Home

28/04/2013
Sandhurst Town
Home

30/04/2013
Bedfont Sports
Away

03/05/2013
Dorking
Home

04/05/2013
Hartley Wintney
Home

05/05/2013
Epsom & Ewell
Home

06/05/2013
Farnham Town
Home

The season started off well, we were around the top of the table. Then this FA Vase run kicked off. We knew that was a great opportunity to show what we could do on a national scale and get more publicity. We did really well but that was always a bit of a bonus and we were focusing more on the league.

Then November hit and everything just started to stall. Unfortunately our pitch just didn’t hold up against the weather. We share it with our local rugby team. It wasn’t their fault at all but the pitch just couldn’t handle it. It was underwater for the best part of two months.

Unfortunately it’s at the bottom of a low-lying part of the island and the rain just drains down there from the hills. It’s part of an athletics stadium so it’s not really been there for football in the past. We adopted it last season. It’s the best place for us and has an 800-seater stand. It’s great for the crowd. We had ten home games between November and the end of January and I think we might have had one or two of those games on with the winter being so bad.

It was a nightmare and really set us back. We didn’t get any rearranged away games. It got to the point where it didn’t look like we could make a serious bid for the title. We just didn’t know when we were going to get all these league games in. All we had was this FA Vase run, which was incredible because most of the games were drawn away.

That was fortunate because we wouldn’t have played them if they were at home. But when we started getting league games back on as the weather got better, the Vase games clashed. So we had to push more back. As we got further in the Vase we saw that as a great opportunity to do something, there was always a sniff of Wembley.

Dangerman: Ross Allen has scored 53 goals in 37 games for Guernsey

Dangerman: Ross Allen has scored 53 goals in 37 games for Guernsey

In a league of his own: Allen has a better strike rate than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

In a league of his own: Allen has a better strike rate than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

More from The Footballers' Column…

The Footballers' Football Column – Carolyn Radford: We aim to take Mansfield to the Premier League within five years, but we need to avoid the play-offs… because last time I was arrested!
23/04/13

KEVIN BETSY: It's the business end, players start falling out… You get on-loan players who just don’t care plus the ones too easily found on the treatment table
19/04/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Leon Osman: We will miss 'Fizzer' Neville but he'll miss us too… And why Leighton Baines is no Hank Marvin
18/04/13

ROB SEGAL: Footballers who come through the ranks at English clubs never get the contracts they deserve… players from overseas get more money and it makes no sense
15/04/13

MARTIN ALLEN: Winning titles is not all about money. City pay the big wages but it is United are at the top of the table… they have spirit, tenacity and drive and I hope my squad is similar to Fergie's in that way
12/04/13

KEVIN NOLAN: West Ham need big European nights at the Olympic Stadium and Big Sam is the man to deliver the dream
09/04/13

ROHAN RICKETTS: Footballers think they are untouchable… but the reality is life without a contract can be very tough
07/04/13

CRAIG ROCASTLE: There's a lot of expectation when you have my surname.. but now I'm trying to make a name for myself in the indoor league in America (as soon as I learn the rules)
03/04/13

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

We got through to the semi-finals last month, started getting a few more league games in, then the schedule came out. We were all shocked. We didn’t really know the rules but we thought they might extend the season into the middle or end of May and give us a bit more leeway. But that’s not how it turned out.

Guernsey is such an amazing place, everyone comes together as a community – you’ve got 60,000 people on your side and everything fighting for the same thing. Everyone saw it as a challenge and one we are thriving to take on.

We lost our two-legged semi-final against Spennymoor.

That was always a tough ask but we showed character, losing 4-1 on aggregate. They’ve got pedigree and we always knew we were the underdogs. For the home leg everyone rallied together to get friends, family, anyone who is interested in football down. We had a crowd of 4,290, which is huge for us. It was an amazing day, full of green all the way around the pitch. That definitely gets you buzzing.

To get to the semi-finals in only our second year of being formed is a great achievement, something we should be really proud of. It was disappointing to miss out on Wembley but we had a game two days later so we didn’t have much time to be too despondent. We bounced back with a 6-1 win.

This congested run is very hard, very tiring, but we know what we are doing. We play in the Island Games every year. The tournament is only a week so you play three games in a row, your three group games, then you have a day off, then the semi and the final. In the Isle of Wight in 2011 we played five games in six days with an 18 man squad. So we’ve done this before. We’re the best team in the country to be prepared and adapted to this kind of challenge.

We have to fly to all our away games using Aurigny Air Services. Our recent match at South Park, in Surrey, was a Friday night game, kick off at 7.45pm. We flew to Gatwick and stayed at the airport hotel. I scored two as we won 2-0. But we had a match the following evening so after staying over we woke up the next morning at 7am, for the 8.30am flight back to Guernsey.

We tried to get some rest, some food, then it was a 7.45pm kick off that evening. Then there was a 1.30pm kick off the day after that. That’s the mad one. You get home Saturday night after the game at about 11pm but have a game the next afternoon.

How do we get through it We have amazing staff who are all volunteers but committed to making sure we’re rested, getting massages, and things like that.

People have actually come to games and revealed they are qualified masseurs. They say: 'I read about your fixtures in the paper, can I offer my services' They come into the dressing room and do it for free. The boys really appreciate it. These little things are going to make all the difference, recovery is so important.

Beautiful setting: Allen enjoys living in Guernsey and says the community all comes together

Beautiful setting: Allen enjoys living in Guernsey and says the community all comes together

Lionel Messi

Cristiano Ronaldo

Simply the best: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are two of the best players in the world – but Allen has a better strike rate than both players

We’ve probably got a good 25 players signed on now. A few extra have joined us, who did play last season but for various reasons haven’t been able to commit to as much this season. They can’t go to away games because of families but are itching and raring to go for the home games.

Before each game the coaching staff ask everyone: 'Are you alright to start tomorrow night if I choose you' There will be more of that than just the manager picking the team. They don’t want to pick someone who is struggling and will have to come off early because they are knackered.

People will put their hands up if they aren’t doing well – because they will probably play the next day. We’ve got enough mature lads in our squad to know it’s a team effort – no one man will do every game, the full 90 minutes.

If it’s a weekend game we’re up at 5am in the morning for the red-eye. That’s a 7am flight. We get to England, have a bit of food, hang about at the airport. Then head up to the game for a 1pm or 3pm kick off. Then we fly back that evening and get home around 9pm. It’s a full day commitment. For people with families that’s one of their weekend days.

Out of the cup: Guernsey were beaten in the FA Vase semi-final by Spennymoor Town

Out of the cup: Guernsey were beaten in the FA Vase semi-final by Spennymoor Town

Staying put: Allen says he has no desire to leave Guernsey and play elsewhere

Staying put: Allen says he has no desire to leave Guernsey and play elsewhere

Luckily I don’t have any wife or kids. I try not to get too tied down otherwise I’ll start missing games. Everyone’s got full time jobs because none of us get paid. We’ve got a few in teaching, a lot at banks in the town, really varied. I work for an online company. It’s a bit more flexible – not just a 9 to 5. We get all travel covered thankfully.

I’ve scored more than 50 goals this year – more than 100 since we formed – but that’s my job, we play such an attacking game. Our head coach Tony Vance was a striker and that’s how he wants to play the game. It suits us really well because we’ve got pace, we get good width and I’m always getting in the box, getting the goals. My team-mates do a lot of the work.

I’m not looking to move on. I had trials for years and it was something I wanted to do when I was a little bit younger. But I’m 26 now and some people would say that’s quite old in football terms. I’m lucky this has come around – I think all our players were just playing local football back in Guernsey and that gets a bit stale, you’re playing against the same people each week. We played Jersey every year. But it’s not really enough. So it was perfect timing in my career for this to happen.

Le God: Matthew Le Tissier is life president of Guernsey

Le God: Matthew Le Tissier is life president of Guernsey

Magnificent seven: Le Tissier could pull on his football boots again for Guernsey this season

Magnificent seven: Le Tissier could pull on his football boots again for Guernsey this season

It will be good to have a rest when the season is done. It’s been a long one. We’ve got a month to go. It will be nice to have a break, maybe go on holiday – but we’ll be straight back on it in July with the FA Cup qualifiers. It will be a nice month or so that we have off.

Matt Le Tissier is our president and he comes down for a few games – but we seem to lose any he watches! It’s great to have him involved – he gives us a shout out every now and again on Soccer Saturday. He’s put us on the map a little bit but I think our football is generally doing that itself.

Matt has been re-registered to play and he warmed up with us recently, which was great. It was good to see him as he’s been so supportive since the start. You could still see his touch was there. But if he does end up playing at some point this season, he won’t be taking over my penalty taking duties!

Bayern Munich v Barcelona – live Champions League

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE LIVE: Bayern Munich v Barcelona – as it happens from the Allianz Arena

).

25min: GOAL! BAYERN MUNICH 1-0 Barcelona

It's been coming and finally the German side's pressure pays off. A corner eventually finds Dante inside the area and his headed effort back across goal is powerfully nodded home by Thomas Muller.

22min: Bayern are slightly fortunate to win a corner as Jordi Alba was adjudged to have failed in keeping the ball in play, but Robben's set-piece is punched clear by Valdes before the visitors win a free-kick for an infringement inside the box.

19min: The home side continue to look dangerous as they go forward but whether it's by handball or other means, the Barcelona back-four isn't struggling too much to cope with the German side. Going forward though it's a different story as Lionel Messi and Co have yet to get into the game.

Clash of the titans: Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery fight for the ball

Clash of the titans: Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery fight for the ball

16min: A strong penalty claim from Bayern Munich, as Philipp Lahm's shot is clearly blocked from a raised Pique arm. It's very subtle from the defender but he is very fortunate to get away with that.

14min: From InfostradaLive:

Bayern have never lost a CL semifinal match at home (5W – 1D). Their only draw was in April 1995: 0-0 against Ajax.

11min: A very even opening to a game which neither side has yet to take control of. Barcelona's passing looks better at this stage but it's Valdes who has had to make the only save of the match so far.

Aiming low: Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben sees a shot saved by Barcelona's Victor Valdes

Aiming low: Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben sees a shot saved by Barcelona's Victor Valdes

8min: In fact one or two players are slipping on other areas of the watered pitch as Barcelona win their first corner, which is headed wide by Gerard Pique.

5min: The home side have settled now but we have the bizarre case of a waterlogged pitch.

There's been no rain in Munich today but the centre-circle is holding standing water from what is most likely from the sprinklers that watered the pitch before the game.

2min: It takes nearly 80 seconds for Bayern to touch the ball but they carve out the first opportunity. Arjen Robben's through pass feeds in Javi Martinez, and after the forward returns the favour with a cut-back, the winger's low shot is well blocked by Victor Valdes.

Ready to go: The players arrive on the pitch at the Allianz Arena

Ready to go: The players arrive on the pitch at the Allianz Arena

Kick-off: Away we go at the Allianz Arena as Barcelona possession is immediately jeered by the home crowd.

19.41: Both sets of teams are on the field, as the home fans raise red and white cards to represent Bayern Munich's colours.

19.36: From InfostradaLive:

Bayern are the first German team to play two consecutive Champions League semifinals since 1998/1999, 1999/2000 and 2000/2001, when they themselves achieved this feat.

Preparing: Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer saves a shot warming up

Preparing: Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer saves a shot warming up

19.31: Viktor Kassai is in charge of tonight's game – with the Hungarian a lucky charm of some sort for Barcelona.

He oversaw their 4-0 win over AC Milan at the Nou Camp earlier this year and was also in charge of the 2011 Champions League final at Wembley where the Spanish side defeated Manchester United 3-1.

Bayern Munich last had the official in their 2-1 defeat at Real Madrid in last year's semi-final.

19.26: They may be stars everyone wants to see but Barcelona were greeted by jeers from the home fans as they took to the pitch for their warm-up.

19.23: Whatever you think of this current Bayern Munich team there is no denying how impressive their current form is. They have won 19 of their last 20 matches in all competitions – with that one blemish being the second-leg defeat against Arsenal in the last 16.

Jupp Heynckes' team have won all 13 Bundesliga games this year and are on course for the treble having reached the final of the German cup following a 6-1 semi-final win over Wolfsburg.

Club legend: Bayern president Uli Hoeness arrives at the Allianz Arena

Club legend: Bayern president Uli Hoeness arrives at the Allianz Arena

Flying the flag: Bayern Munich and Barcelona fans gathered outside of the Allianz Arena

Flying the flag: Bayern Munich and Barcelona fans gathered outside of the Allianz Arena

Flying the flag: Bayern Munich and Barcelona fans gathered outside of the Allianz Arena

19.18: From InfostradaLive:

Victor Valdes plays his 48th CL KO match, overtaking Ryan Giggs (47) as player with most CL KO appearances.

19.13: Full line-ups from the Allianz Arena:

Bayern Munich v Barcelona
Bayern Munich: Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba, Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Robben, Muller, Ribery, Gomez. Subs: Starke, Van Buyten, Shaqiri, Rafinha, Pizarro, Gustavo, Tymoschuk.

Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Bartra, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Sanchez, Messi, Pedro. Subs: Pinto, Fabregas, Villa, Thiago, Montoya, Abidal, Song.

Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)

19.08: From OptaPaolo:

25 – Bayern have always scored at home in the Champions League against Spanish opposition (13 games), scoring 25 goals in total. Assurance.

Way back when: Bayern Munich's Stefan Effenberg (right) tracks Barcelona's Sonny Anderson

Way back when: Bayern Munich's Stefan Effenberg (right) tracks Barcelona's Sonny Anderson

Revenge: First leg goals from Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry helped Barcelona thump Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the 2009 Champions League quarter-finals

Revenge: First leg goals from Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry helped Barcelona thump Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the 2009 Champions League quarter-finals

Revenge: First leg goals from Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry helped Barcelona thump Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the 2009 Champions League quarter-finals

19.05: Bayern Munich won two Champions League group stage meetings in 1998, but Barcelona finally triumphed over the German side when they strolled to a 5-1 aggregate victory in the Champions League quarter-finals four years ago.

In fact they effectively won the tie by half-time of the first leg at the Nou Camp, following a brace from Lionel Messi and strikes from Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o.

19.00: Despite their regular participation in Europe's top competition – these sides have only clashed in three previous seasons.

The first was in the 1996 UEFA Cup semi-final when Bayern edged through 4-3 on aggregate – a tie where in the clash at the Nou Camp, Sergio Busquets' (who starts tonight) father Carles featured – as did Pep Guardiola.

18.55: Mario Mandzukic is suspended for Bayern, so therefore Mario Gomez plays up top. The more agile Jerome Boateng starts in front of Daniel van Buyten.

French following: A fan holds a France flag with Bayern's Franck Ribery on the front

French following: A fan holds a France flag with Bayern's Franck Ribery on the front

18.50: So Messi returns for Barcleona and will lead an attack along with Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez. Marc Bartra starts in defence in place of injured pair Javier Mascherano, Carlos Puyol and the suspended Adriano.

18.45: Barcelona starting XI:

Valdes, Alves, Bartra, Pique, Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Alexis.

18.40: Bayern Munich starting XI:

Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba, Schweinsteiger, Martinez, Robben, Muller, Ribery, Gomez.

On the move: Mario Gotze (centre) will join Bayern Munich this summer

On the move: Mario Gotze (centre) will join Bayern Munich this summer

18.35: Bayern Munich have already been making headlines today, after it emerged Mario Gotze will join the club from Borussia Dortmund for 32m in what will be Pep Guardiola's first signing when he takes over at Munich this summer.

A huge statement of intent that, with the 20-year-old midfielder one of Europe's most highly sought after players.

18.30: From OptaJean:

1 – Barcelona have only won one of their 6 competitive encounters with Bayern Munich (D2, L3). Stress.

18.25: The fact that Barcelona are not huge favourites (if they are favourites at all) to win tonight shows just how far Bayern Munich have come this season.

They continue to shine in Europe of course but their domestic form has been nothing short of devastating – it should be quite a contest.

Back in business: Lionel Messi is poised to return for Barcelona

Back in business: Lionel Messi is poised to return for Barcelona

18.20: It's been a lovely sunny St. George's Day in the UK, and the weather is looking good in Munich too ahead of tonight's game. It's 16 degrees at the Allianz Arena where fans are already arriving.

18.15: No full team news yet but it seems Lionel Messi is fully fit for Barcelona, having not featured since coming off the bench in the quarter-final win against Paris Saint-Germain in the last round. That's a big boost for Barca who have stuttered at times on their travels around the continent this term.

18.10: There may be no English teams left but what a final four we have in this season's Champions League!

As it turns out it will be a double dose of Spain v Germany, and while Real Madrid are favourites to edge past Borussia Dortmund, it appears much closer between Bayern Munich and Barcelona – the latter of course, the main event this evening.

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On the ball: Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger trains in preperation for the semi-final

On the ball: Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger trains in preperation for the semi-final

A 17-year-old Argentine recreates Trevor Sinclair magic with a stunning bicycle kick

17-year-old Argentine recreates Sinclair magic with stunning bicycle kick

By
Thom Drake

PUBLISHED:

00:07 GMT, 19 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

00:51 GMT, 19 April 2013

As the most difficult art to master, and the most spectacular to witness, the overhead kick is a part of the game which can brings gasps of delight or sniggers of derision.

So when an Argentinian 17-year-old can pull this off in an international against bitter rivals Uruguay there must be something special about him.

Sebastian Driussi opened the scoring for Argentina under 17s in their 3-3 draw with a goal everyone present will remember.

Scroll down for video

Control: Driussi picks the ball up on his chest after a deep cross...

Control: Driussi picks the ball up on his chest after a deep cross…

Unbelievable: He then acrobatically connects with the ball as defenders stand off him

Unbelievable: He then acrobatically connects with the ball as defenders stand off him

Over the top: His shot then beats the keeper, who is left with absolutely no chance

Over the top: His shot then beats the keeper, who is left with absolutely no chance

The forward plays for River Plate, but brought back memories of Trevor Sinclair's wonder strike for QPR against Barnsley in the FA Cup.

Both goals were from outside the box, with Sinclair taking his first time from the cross, while Driussi controlled the ball and held off a defender before smashing it into the net over the keeper.

Could Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Ezequiel Lavezzi be welcoming a new talent into their midst

What a strike! Trevor Sinclair's stunning overhead kick against Barnsley in the 1997 FA Cup

What a strike! Trevor Sinclair's stunning overhead kick against Barnsley in the 1997 FA Cup

VIDEO Sebastian Driussi recreates Trevor Sinclair's overhead kick

VIDEO And how about the original….

She"s in safe hands! Fabregas posts photo of newborn daughter after making another Champions League semi-final

She's in safe hands! Fabregas posts photo of newborn daughter after making yet another Champions League semi-final

By
Gerard Brand

PUBLISHED:

17:09 GMT, 11 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

19:09 GMT, 11 April 2013

Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas admitted yesterday was the happiest day of his life.

No, it wasn't just the fact he had made it through to an incredible fourth Champions League semi-final, but more the fact his girlfriend Daniella Semaan had given birth to their first child.

Newborn: Fabregas posted this picture of his daugther Lia Fabregas Semaan grasping his finger

Newborn: Fabregas posted this picture of his daugther Lia Fabregas Semaan grasping his finger

Fabregas played 62 minutes last night as his side reached the last four of the Champions League after a 1-1 draw with Paris Saint-Germain at the Nou Camp saw them go through on away goals.

And it was the former Arsenal midfielder who made way for Lionel Messi with PSG leading 1-0, with the Argentinian changing the game for the hosts.

Game changer: Fabregas made way for Messi in the 62nd minute, ultimately changing the game

Game changer: Fabregas made way for Messi in the 62nd minute, ultimately changing the game

But even better news was around the corner, and he tweeted: 'Yesterday it was the happiest day of my life, our daugther Lia Fabregas Semaan was born. Both her and Daniella are doing very well.'

The 25-year-old then posted a picture of his newborn daugther grasping his finger, and he'll want to get his hands on his own prize at the end of May, having won just one of the four semi-finals he has been involved in with Arsenal and Barcelona.

Fabregas and his Barcelona teammates will discover who stands in their way of another Champions League final tomorrow, with the draw for the semi-finals taking place in Nyon at 11am BST.

Champion: If Fabregas plays in the last four, it will be his fourth Champions League semi-final appearance

Champion: If Fabregas plays in the last four, it will be his fourth Champions League semi-final appearance

Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas

Lionel Messi proves he is human after being foiled by a Japanese moving robot

Man v Machine: Messi proves he is human after all… as he is foiled by a Japanese moving robot

By
Andy James

PUBLISHED:

11:25 GMT, 8 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

02:48 GMT, 9 April 2013

This might be the only way for managers to stop Lionel Messi in his tracks – by signing a Japanese goalkeeping robot.

Messi has been branded a killing machine after rattling in 57 goals this season.

His exploits have left managers in La Liga and throughout Europe tearing their hair out as just how to halt the Argentine striker.

Scroll down for video

Man v machine: Messi prepares to step up against the robot

Man v machine: Messi prepares to step up against the robot goalkeeper

Not spot on: Messi steps up for his penalty (above) and sees his spot-kick saved (below)

Not spot on: Messi steps up for his penalty (above) and sees his spot-kick saved (below)

Messi pen:

But the Barcelona frontman, considered by many as the game's greatest ever player, struggled when the man took on the machine in a game show broadcast on Japanese TV.

Messi took three penalties against the moving piece of cardboard – but missed his first two spot-kicks.

He is human after all then.

VIDEO Messi goes head-to-head with a robot in a penalty shoot-out

Messi takes on robot in penalty shoot-out

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Barcelona: Cesc Fabregas hat-trick Eric Abidal returns after transplant

Fabregas scores hat-trick but Abidal gets Nou Camp ovation on emotional return

By
Lee Bryan

PUBLISHED:

21:59 GMT, 6 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

08:45 GMT, 7 April 2013

Cesc Fabregas scored the first hat-trick of his career as Barcelona moved closer to the Primera Division title with a 5-0 victory over Real Mallorca, but the main story was the return to action of Eric Abidal after a year out following liver surgery.

The home side were also inspired by
head coach Tito Vilanova, who was on the Nou Camp touchline for the
first time since January after undergoing treatment for cancer.

Abidal's appearance brought the crowd
to their feet, with the Frenchman given a standing ovation when he
replaced Gerard Pique in the 70th minute.

Happy return: Barcelona's Eric Abidal received a rousing reception

Happy return: Barcelona's Eric Abidal received a rousing reception

Happy return: Eric Abidal

The 33-year-old former France
defender, who was passed fit to return to training with his team mates
last month, is a huge favourite with the Barca fans.

In a pitch-side television interview with Spanish broadcaster Canal Plus, Abidal thanked the cousin who provided part of his liver for the procedure.

'It was a very special moment for me after a year out,' said Abidal, wearing a shirt with 'Merci mon cousin' on the front.

Tribute: Abidal shows a shirt to thank his cousin who donated his liver

Tribute: Abidal shows a shirt to thank his cousin who donated his liver

'I want to thank my cousin as without him I would not be here today. It is a unique moment,' he added.

Abidal's return is well timed as Barca centre backs Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano and full back Adriano are all out injured at a critical stage of the season.

In the game itself, it was Fabregas who commanded the spotlight. In the injury-enforced absence of Lionel Messi, he scored three and
set up two for Alexis Sanchez as Barcelona romped home.

Main man: Cesc Fabregas scored his first competitive hat-trick as the league leaders romped to victory

Main man: Cesc Fabregas scored his first competitive hat-trick as the league leaders romped to victory

Main man: Cesc Fabregas scored his first competitive hat-trick as the league leaders romped to victory

Mallorca held their own but it was no surprise when Barcelona made the breakthrough with two goals in two minutes.

Fabregas carried the ball from midfield and played a one-two with Alexis before steadying himself and coolly slotting the ball home across goalkeeper Dudu Aouate.

Mallorca's heads went down and in the 22nd minute they found themselves 2-0 adrift. This time Fabregas cut inside on the left of the area before unleashing a shot which Aouate pushed away from goal only for Alexis to follow up and fire home.

On the scoresheet: Alexis Sanchez was also on target in Barcelona's facile victory

On the scoresheet: Alexis Sanchez was also on target in Barcelona's facile victory

In the 37th minute an intricate passing move ended with Fabregas laying a first-time ball off to Alexis on the right of the area which he reciprocated for Fabregas to drill home.

The former Arsenal captain was involved everywhere and a minute later he provided a superb pass over the top for Alexis, who had got between two defenders, controlling the ball with his right before slotting home with his left.

Fabregas wrapped up his hat-trick seconds after the restart when he collected Iniesta's threaded ball and checked inside the defender before slotting home from close range.

Sergio Aguero to miss Argentina"s World Cup qualifiers and return to Manchester City

Aguero to miss Argentina's World Cup qualifiers in bid to recover for City's title
run in

By
Declan Warrington

PUBLISHED:

20:19 GMT, 20 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

20:39 GMT, 20 March 2013

Sergio Aguero has revealed he is to return to Manchester City as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury and will consequently miss Argentina's World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela and Bolivia.

The international forward hasn't featured for the Premier League champions since their 2-0 victory over Chelsea on February 24 and in his absence City's form has suffered but he today insisted he is confident about being available for the season's run in.

'My knee is better but the squad's physicians would rather have me be safe and stick with the treatments until it's completely healed,' Aguero tweeted.

Saying his goodbyes: Sergio Aguero with Argentina team-mates Lionel Messi and Ezequiel Lavezzi

Saying his goodbyes: Sergio Aguero with Argentina team-mates Lionel Messi and Ezequiel Lavezzi

'It's a pity to miss out on the national squad matches but I'll be cheering for Argentina from Manchester, while I finish the recovery.'

The possible return of Aguero to City's first-team squad would represent a significant positive for under-pressure manager Roberto Mancini, whose side hope to take advantage of any potential points league leaders Manchester United may drop and at the very least finish second.

In the Argentinian's absence, Mancini has used both Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko who have both consistently been linked with summer exits from the club.

Returning: Aguero is unquestionably one of City's key players

Returning: Aguero is unquestionably one of City's key players

Lionel Messi Tokyo Madame Tussauds with David Beckham

Beckham and Messi the stars of the show in Tokyo Madame Tussauds

By
Bill Rungay

PUBLISHED:

16:31 GMT, 13 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

16:54 GMT, 13 March 2013

When Cristiano Ronaldo claimed that God sent him to earth to play football, Messi said: ‘I didn’t send anybody’.

We all thought that was a joke; however it appears that the Argentine was in Tokyo pointing to the skies last night at the same time as he was in Barcelona scoring twice to help his team progress in the Champions League.

Is he really God Can he be in two places at once Sadly not.

Lifelike: A Lionel Messi waxwork is unveiled at Madame Tussauds in Japan this week

Lifelike: A Lionel Messi waxwork is unveiled at Madame Tussauds in Japan this week

Matchwinning performance: Messi scored twice as Barcelona beat AC Milan 4-0 on Tuesday night

Matchwinning performance: Messi scored twice as Barcelona beat AC Milan 4-0 on Tuesday night

A visitor poses with the wax figure of Lionel Messi at the Madame Tussauds exhibition in Tokyo, Wednesday, March 13, 2013.(AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

Madame Tussauds in Tokyo, Japan are reopening this Friday, exhibiting 60 wax figures of Japanese and worldwide stars. These include Messi and England’s finest patriot, Mr David Beckham.

Beckham, now of Paris Saint-Germain, can be seen in his LA Galaxy kit doing sit ups on a bench.

Laid Beck: A David Beckham model can also be found at the museum

Laid Beck: A David Beckham model can also be found at the museum

TOPSHOTS Paris Saint-Germain's English midfielder David Beckham

Many tourists and fans will be at Friday’s reopening in Tokyo, however Messi and Beckham will both have their eyes on the Champions League quarter-final draw, where their sides could possibly meet each other.

Ronnie Wood at Barcelona v AC Milan

Rolling Stone axeman Wood spotted in the Nou Camp getting plenty of satisfaction

By
John Drayton

PUBLISHED:

20:45 GMT, 12 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

21:41 GMT, 12 March 2013

Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood knows plenty about hot tickets. But usually people are buying them for his shows.

On Tuesday it was Wood shelling out, as he treated his wife Sally to an evening of high quality football as Barcelona faced AC Milan in the Nou Camp.

Many claim the Stones are rock's greatest band and Wood found himself watching someone else at the top of his trade too, as Lionel Messi went on a rampage.

Excited: Ronnie Wood enjoying the action with his wife Sally... and with a cigarette (below)

Excited: Ronnie Wood enjoying the action with his wife Sally… and with a cigarette (below)

Smokin'

Ruby Tuesday: Ronnie Wood and his wife Sally were in the Nou Camp to see Barca take on Milan

The Barca star painted it black with two stunning first half strikes to rock Milan, who had come to Spain with a two-goal lead.

The first was some real hot stuff – the Argentina international finished exquisitely from outside the box.

Messi then shattered Milan's advantage with his second, sending Barcelona fans out of control.

Barcelona went on to win 4-0, thanks to additional strikes from David Villa and Jordi Alba, leaving Milan firmly under their thumb.

You got me rocking: Lionel Messi celebrates after turning the tie on its head

You got me rocking: Lionel Messi celebrates after turning the tie on its head

Barcelona 4 AC Milan 0: Match report – Lionel Messi strikes twice to send Catalan giants through

Barcelona 4 AC Milan 0 (4-2 on aggregate): Magical Messi makes mockery of Italian giants and Villa seals the deal

PUBLISHED:

21:34 GMT, 12 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

21:58 GMT, 12 March 2013

Lionel Messi put in another astonishing display to lead Barcelona to the quarter final of the Champions League following a dominant display against AC Milan at the Nou Camp.

Two goals down from the first leg, Messi was on target after just five minutes and although Christian Abbiati was at his best to repel the home side, he could do little to stop Messi doubling Barca's lead five minutes before the break.

David Villa – preferred by Jordi Roura to Cesc Fabregas – scored a vital third before Jordi Alba's injury time strike settled the tie.

Magical: Lionel Messi celebrates after vanquishing Milan's first leg advantage

Magical: Lionel Messi celebrates after vanquishing Milan's first leg advantage

Ecstasy: Gerard Pique roars with delight after Messi's second put the teams level on aggregate

Ecstasy: Gerard Pique roars with delight after Messi's second put the teams level on aggregate

Match facts

Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Mascherano (Puyol 77), Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro (Adriano 83), Messi, Villa (Sanchez 74).

Subs not used: Pinto, Fabregas, Song, Tello.

Goals: Messi 5, 40, Villa 55, Jordi Alba 90.

AC Milan: Abbiati, Abate, Mexes, Zapata, Constant, Montolivo, Ambrosini (Muntari 60), Flamini (Bojan 75), Niang (Robinho 60), Boateng, El Shaarawy.

Subs not used: Amelia, De Sciglio, Nocerino, Bonera.

Att: 96,000.

Ref: Viktor Kassai (Hungary).

Milan struggled to deal with the
movement of an inspired Barcelona while they failed to create enough
chances with Victor Valdes rarely tested in the home goal.

It took just five minutes for Barcelona to reduce the deficit and take the lead on the night.

Xavi's intricate pass found Messi whose unstoppable curling effort into the top corner gave Abbiati no chance.

It was Messi's 52nd goal of the season
and he almost created one for Andres Iniesta moments later before
Philippe Mexes intercepted.

The home side were in full flow and
after 13 minutes Abbiati was forced into making a fantastic save to tip
Iniesta's effort on to the bar before Messi somehow shot wide following
up.

The stopper had to be in top form four minutes later to acrobatically tip Xavi's stinging effort around the post.

Poise: Messi bent the ball home from the edge of the box to get the scoring underway

Poise: Messi bent the ball home from the edge of the box to get the scoring underway

Great start: Before long Barcelona, thanks to Messi, had wiped out Milan's first leg advantage

Great start: Before long Barcelona, thanks to Messi, had wiped out Milan's first leg advantage

Quarter finalists

Barcelona
Borussia Dortmund
Galatasaray
Juventus
Paris St Germain
Real Madrid
Bayern Munich or Arsenal
Malaga or Porto

Even at this early stage it was a case
of when, not if, they were to draw level on aggregate and the home side
thought they should have had a penalty when Massimo Ambrosini collided
with Pedro inside the box.

However, the visitors survived and
slowly began to deal with the attacking onslaught of the home side,
whilst creating chances of their own.

The best fell to lone striker M'Baye
Niang who raced clear after breaking the Barca offside trap and although
he beat Valdes, his effort hit the post and away from danger.

Under siege: Abbiati pummels the ball away as Barcelona turned up the pressure

Under siege: Abbiati pummels the ball away as Barcelona turned up the pressure

Company: Messi is surrounded by Milan players but still manages to find a way to score

Company: Messi is surrounded by Milan players but still manages to find a way to score

At the double: Messi's second goal squeezes past Abbiati's outstretched left arm

At the double: Messi's second goal squeezes past Abbiati's outstretched left arm

Milan were made to pay just seconds later and again it was Messi who was the scorer.

Ambrosini lost out to Iniesta who fed Messi, who looked to be in an offside position when the ball was played.

The flag stayed down and the Argentinian cut inside and fired past a helpless Abbiati with his lethal left foot.

Pedro picked up a booking before the
end of the half for a foul on Ignazio Abate, meaning he would miss the
quarter-final first leg should they progress, while Mathieu Flamini was
also facing a suspension for a challenge on Pedro.

Barca began the second period much
like the first and after 55 minutes Xavi's pin-point pass eluded a
sliding Cristian Zapata to find Villa, whose left-footed finish gave the
Milan stopper no chance.

Pulling the strings: Xavi (left) was at his influential best as Barcelona dominated possession

Pulling the strings: Xavi (left) was at his influential best as Barcelona dominated possession

Shackled... or not: Milan tried to keep Messi under wraps but failed miserably

Shackled… or not: Milan tried to keep Messi under wraps but failed miserably

Easy does it: Villa steers home the third with panache

Easy does it: Villa steers home the third with panache

In a bid to increase their attacking options, Massimiliano Allegri brought on Robinho and Sulley Muntari for Niang and Ambrosini respectively.

With 15 minutes left goalscorer Villa was replaced by Alexis Sanchez, with Carlos Puyol coming on for Javier Mascherano shortly afterwards.

The home side were thankful for Jordi Alba's intervention after 81 minutes to deny Robinho a simple chance from close range, before Adriano came on for Pedro.

The win was sealed late on when Alba somehow gathered the strength to burst down the left to fire past Abbiati in what was another memorable Barca performance at the Nou Camp.

Watching on: Jordi Roura takes care of Barcelona in the absence of Tito Vilanova

Watching on: Jordi Roura takes care of Barcelona in the absence of Tito Vilanova

In tatters: Abbiati rages as Villa and Co celebrate their third goal of the night

In tatters: Abbiati rages as Villa and Co celebrate their third goal of the night

Perfect show: Villa celebrates in front of Barcelona's delighted fans after his superbly taken goal

Perfect show: Villa celebrates in front of Barcelona's delighted fans after his superbly taken goal

Spotted: Ronnie Wood (of Rolling Stones fame) was seen in the crowd with wife Sally

Spotted: Ronnie Wood (of Rolling Stones fame) was seen in the crowd with wife Sally

We're a team! Barcelona fans' message of unity for their players ahead of the clash

We're a team! Barcelona fans' message of unity for their players ahead of the clash