European roundup: Barcelona stroll, Inter go top and Bayern win late

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Antoine Griezmann were all on target in a convincing 4-1 home win over Alavés on Saturday which ensured they will finish 2019 top of La Liga. Griezmann put the hosts ahead in the 14th minute with a wonderful first-time strike into the bottom corner from a Suárez cutback and Arturo Vidal also knocked home a pass from the Uruguayan to round off a dominant first-half display.

Alavés midfielder Pere Pons pulled a goal back in the 56th minute with a diving header, leading to brief period of disarray for the home side, who were fortunate not to concede an equaliser. But Messi eased their nerves with a magnificent curling strike from outside the box to restore the two-goal cushion in the 69th minute and Suárez finally got on the scoresheet with a penalty in the 75th.

Barça lead the standings on 39 points from 18 games, three clear of second-placed Real Madrid who host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. In the early game third-placed Sevilla beat Real Mallorca 2-0 away thanks to goals from Diego Carlos and Éver Banega, while Valencia grabbed a 1-1 draw with Real Valladolid thanks to Manu Vallejo’s equaliser four minutes into added time.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice to lead Internazionale to a comfortable 4-0 win over lowly Genoa as they rejoined Juventus at the top of Serie A. Roberto Gagliardini and 17-year-old Sebastiano Esposito were also on target as Inter pulled level with Juventus on 42 points from 17 games.

Inter lead with the better goal difference although if teams finish the season level on points, the head-to-head rule is used. The win was a relief for Inter, who had drawn their last two league matches and been knocked out of the Champions League with a home defeat by Barcelona in between.

Bayern Munich’s Joshua Zirkzee and Serge Gnabry scored late goals to give them a 2-0 win over VfL Wolfsburg. The Dutch teenager Zirkzee, who also scored in stoppage time in their 3-1 midweek win over Freiburg, slotted in three minutes after coming on as a substitute and Gnabry doubled their lead in the 89th to lift Bayern to 33 points in third place.

In the final round of games before the winter break RB Leipzig stayed top with a 3-1 win over Augsburg. Leipzig needed second-half goals from Konrad Laimer, Patrik Schick and Yussuf Poulsen to grab victory and move on to 37 points, two clear of Borussia Mönchengladbach, who drew 0-0 with Hertha Berlin in the capital.

Kylian Mbappé scored two sublime goals and Neymar and Mauro Icardi also netted as Paris St Germain crushed Amiens 4-1 to go into the Ligue 1 Christmas break seven points clear of Marseille with a game in hand. Mbappé also hugged a young fan wearing a Santa hat who made it on to the pitch and produced a book from under his jacket for the World Cup-winning forward to sign as he was escorted off by security.

It took an own goal from Sofiane Alakouch to break the deadlock for Marseille against second-bottom Nimes, with Dario Benedetto and Dimitri Payet adding a goal each in a 3-1 win that keeps them in touch with PSG at the top of the standings. Wissam Ben Yedder struck twice in the second half as Monaco came back from a goal down to thrash Lille 5-1, a defeat which sends the visitors down to fourth in the table after Rennes beat Bordeaux 1-0.

source: theguardian.com