Apr 142016
Lionel Messi (left) failed to score for the fifth game in a row for Barcelona

Barcelona are “in a hole” and “finding it difficult to score goals” admitted boss Luis Enrique following their shock Champions League quarter-final defeat.

The holders were beaten 3-2 on aggregate by Spanish rivals Atletico Madrid, who won the second leg 2-0.

“The team are sad. We aren’t at our best at the moment, nor our most effective,” he said.

“I’m 99.9% to blame, no 100. That’s why I am the coach, the most responsible. We all have to improve.”

Antoine Griezmann scored both goals for Atletico at the Vicente Calderon, while Lionel Messi failed to net for the fifth club game in a row.

“It is clear that we are not in our best form, especially if you consider how we were playing before, but we need to lift ourselves,” added Enrique.

It is only the third time in 11 years that Barcelona have not reached the semi-finals of the Champions League.

They are three points clear of Atletico at the top of La Liga, but have lost three of their past four games in all competitions.

“It was the game we predicted, although perhaps I didn’t expect Atletico to play so deep. It wasn’t our best day,” added Enrique, who won the treble in his first year in charge at Barca.

“We have to stay calm and think that we still have two competitions where we are in the running.

“Everyone can choose the explanation. To give mine I have to analyse the performance. It is not our best time, but it is not the time to be nervous.”

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Apr 142016

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FA Cup: West Ham 1-2 Manchester United highlights

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says winning the FA Cup is more important to the club than for him.

The Red Devils beat West Ham 2-1 on Wednesday to set up a semi-final against Everton at Wembley on 23 April.

Van Gaal, 64, is expected to leave his position at the end of the season – one year before his contract expires.

“I said I wanted a title and I am happy but it is not important for me, it is important for the club, the players and the team,” said the Dutchman.

Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals to give United a victory in the quarter-final replay at Upton Park that keeps alive their hopes of avoiding a third successive season without a trophy.

Pressure eases on Van Gaal?

Louis van Gaal has won trophies at every club he has managed

“Louis van Gaal’s future has been a matter for debate since the first links with Jose Mourinho emerged in the days before Christmas when he was sacked by Chelsea,” writes BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty.

“Several times Van Gaal has walked to the precipice as the Mourinho murmurs grew louder – then produced a moment that pulls him back and suggests he may yet have the chance to see out the final season of his contract at Manchester United.

“And so it proved again as United recovered from the heavy loss at Spurs on Sunday to reach the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley against Everton with a fine win at West Ham United.

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Louis van Gaal praises performance

“Van Gaal can now offer up the possibility of the first trophy since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement as evidence he should be given the chance to continue at Old Trafford.

“There is still a top-four place and the FA Cup on United’s agenda. While they remain there results like this mean Van Gaal can still talk about a future at the club. The stakes were that high.”

Rashford ‘should go to the Euros’

Marcus Rashford has scored twice as many goals as any other Manchester United player since making his debut on 25 February

West Ham started strongly but Manchester United coped with the early pressure before taking the lead through a brilliant Rashford strike.

The 18-year-old opened up space for himself with some neat footwork before finding the top corner with a sublime finish.

Rashford has now scored six goals in 11 appearances since making his debut against FC Midtjylland on 25 February.

His performance impressed BBC Radio 5 live pundit Danny Mills, who believes he has done enough to earn a place in the England squad for Euro 2016.

“If you’re in good form, why not take him as a substitute?” said Mills. “If you need to change a game, bring him off the bench.

“Andy Carroll won’t be fit. I know he scored a hat-trick at the weekend against Arsenal, but he was anonymous against Manchester United and unless you give him perfect service into the box there is no real game plan. He only really plays one way.”

No fairytale FA Cup finale at Upton Park

Upton Park – also known as the Boleyn Ground – has been West Ham’s home since 1904

There was added disappointment for West Ham. They were playing in their final FA Cup game at Upton Park before they move to the Olympic Stadium, and a huge crowd turned out hoping to witness a positive send off.

However, despite rallying late on after James Tomkins’ goal, they failed to match Manchester United for large periods of the game.

“Man United nullified the threat for 70-80 minutes,” said Match of the Day pundit and former England and Newcastle striker Alan Shearer.

“There was no energy and then they got that goal from James Tomkins and they came alive.”

Slaven Bilic accepted that Manchester United were the better side.

He said: “We were really good for the first 15 minutes and the last 20 minutes but other than that their passing was much better than ours, their composure on the ball was much better than ours.

“We tried to create and we had more than enough chances to equalise but the quality of our passing was not the best.”

Hammers ‘can be a force next season’

Dimitri Payet had a rare off night for West Ham against Manchester United

Despite their FA Cup exit, West Ham can still finish the campaign strongly.

They are sixth in the Premier League – just five points off the top four.

Whatever happens in the remaining six games, Hammers legend Sir Trevor Brooking expects them to be a force next season.

“If they can get three or four really good purchases, they’ll be dangerous next season,” he said.

“They’re playing a brand of football, with a new stadium, where players will want to come.”

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Apr 142016
Barcelona lost for the first time in 11 Champions League games

Holders Barcelona suffered a shock Champions League exit as Antoine Griezmann’s double sent Atletico Madrid into the semi-finals.

Barca arrived in Spain’s capital with a 2-1 advantage from the first leg but poor defending allowed the unmarked Griezmann to power home Saul’s cross.

Saul headed against the bar as Barca toiled before Griezmann scored a late penalty after Andres Iniesta handled.

Barca were denied a penalty when Gabi handled just inside the area.

The defeat ended Luis Enrique’s hopes of securing a La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey treble, while Atletico join Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Real Madrid in Friday’s semi-final draw (11:30 BST).

Relive the action from Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-finals

Barcelona have lost three of their last four games in all competitions

Barcelona’s players surrounded the referee after Gabi clearly handled inside the area though he was standing outside it, the referee awarding only a free-kick.

Listen again:‘Simeone is the archetypal baddie’

But Barca were a shadow of the team that conquered Europe so convincingly last season and have now lost three of the last four games in all competitions.

In addition, Lionel Messi failed to score for the fifth game in a row for his club, and Neymar and Luis Suarez were frustrated by excellent home defending.

On the rare occasions Suarez managed to work an opening he found Jan Oblak in fine form on a great night for Atletico.

Barca’s bad-tempered exit

The tie was littered with late challenges – there were eight bookings in total – while there were two flashpoints as Barca exited the competition on a bad-tempered note.

Suarez caught Uruguay team-mate Diego Godin with an elbow that left the Atletico defender with a swelling above his eye.

Diego Godin points to his eye after a clash with Luis Suarez

And another scuffle between the top two clubs in Spain broke out when Neymar appeared to lash out at Juanfran from behind.

Barca enjoyed 77% possession and had more shots than Atletico , yet could not disguise their frustration as they were undone by Griezmann’s double.

History repeats itself

This was the eighth meeting in 15 months between the sides, with Barcelona having won the previous seven.

Indeed, Atletico’s most recent win over their oppoents was at this stage of the Champions League two years ago.

Barcelona suffered a 2-1 aggregate defeat in 2014 with Diego Simeone’s side eventually reaching the final – only to lose 4-1 to Real Madrid after extra time.

Simeone will be confident after this fine performance that his side can go one better this time.

Wait goes on for Messi

Lionel Messi’s touch map shows the Barcelona forward did not make contact with the ball inside the Atletico Madrid penalty area.

Messi remains on 499 career goals, just as he has done since 30 March when he scored for Argentina.

He has gone 452 minutes without scoring for Barcelona.

On Wednesday, Messi did not look like finding the net as he failed to register a shot on target in a Champions League game for the first time since 2014 – also against Atletico.

The 28-year-old cut a frustrated figure as Godin and Lucas Hernandez produced commanding performances at the heart of the home defence.

Messi’s last touch of the game was a free-kick on the edge of the area, when they should have had a penalty, which flew wide.

It summed up Barcelona’s night.

Man of the Match – Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)

Antoine Griezmann got the goals but Atletico Madrid’s defending was just as important. No one was more immense at the back than Diego Godin (left) as Suarez, Neymar and Messi failed to find the target.

The stats you need to know

  • No team has still ever retained the Champions League since its inception in 1992/93.
  • Only Diego Costa in 2013/14 (8 goals) has scored more for Atletico Madrid in a Champions League season than Antoine Griezmann has for them this campaign (6).
  • It was Griezmann’s third Champions League brace this season, after scoring two in both matches against Galatasaray
  • Barcelona failed to score in a Champions League game for the first time since April 2014, which was also against Atletico Madrid.

What’s next?

Barcelona are three points clear at the top of La Liga with six games remaining. They will look to put this result behind them when they entertain Valencia on Sunday (19:30 BST)

Atletico host Granada on the same day at 17:15 BST.

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Apr 142016

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FA Cup: West Ham 1-2 Manchester United highlights

Manchester United will face Everton in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley after showing class and then character to beat West Ham United.

In the final FA Cup game at Upton Park before the Hammers move to the Olympic Stadium, visiting manager Louis van Gaal once again engineered a result when he needed it most.

Marcus Rashford gave Van Gaal’s men the lead in this quarter-final replay after 54 minutes, the 18-year-old collecting a pass from Anthony Martial before curling a magnificent finish into the top corner past West Ham keeper Darren Randolph.

And when Marouane Fellaini bundled in Martial’s cross 13 minutes later it looked all over – only for West Ham to mount a fierce siege in the closing minutes.

Relive Man Utd’s win over West Ham

FA Cup more important to Man Utd than me – Van Gaal

Visiting keeper David de Gea, who gave a virtuoso display, had already saved superbly from Michail Antonio when James Tomkins stooped bravely among flying footwear to head in and give West Ham hope with 11 minutes left.

The hosts finally hammered at Manchester United’s defence with De Gea saving once more from Andy Carroll and Cheikhou Kouyate, the latter ruled narrowly offside as he headed in a rebound.

With Wayne Rooney coming on for the final four minutes in his first appearance in two months after a knee injury, it ended as a very satisfactory night for Van Gaal and his side.

David De Gea was at his best for Manchester United, making eight saves which included a fantastic double save to deny Cheikhou Kouyate and Andy Carroll.

Van Gaal’s high-wire act on show again

Manchester United defender Phil Jones described this tie as a “defining moment” in their season – and manager Van Gaal has had plenty of those as he has been surrounded by speculation about his future.

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Louis van Gaal praises performance

And in this managerial high-wire act, Van Gaal has always seemed able to steady a stumble by pulling out a result when he needed it most.

Van Gaal has fought off his critics with crucial wins at Liverpool and Manchester City as well as progressing in the FA Cup – and the heat was on again here after the comprehensive 3-0 loss at Tottenham on Sunday and more reports of player unrest at his methods.

There was no sign of discord here in a performance that showed control for the first 70 minutes and grit for the last 20 to send United to Wembley and offer Van Gaal the chance to answer his critics with a trophy.

Manchester United’s young guns lead the way

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Marcus Rashford’s great goal gives Man Utd lead

De Gea will rightly take the plaudits for another display of the kind that has offered his side some respite in their darkest moments – but Van Gaal’s willingness to risk young talent paid a rich dividend here.

Youngster Rashford was replaced at half-time at White Hart Lane, his manager unhappy with his performance, but he produced the moment of class that shifted the emphasis and momentum in United’s favour here.

As he did when scoring the winner at Manchester City, Rashford showed a clinical edge and natural talent to score that wonderful opener.

And in defence, Timothy Fosu-Mensah showed tremendous maturity, a tower of strength when the Red Devils needed him most. He was powerful in the air and in the tackle.

Manchester United have had their difficulties, but in these two 18-year-olds and Martial they have talent they can build around.

Danny Mills – take Rashford to Euro 2016