Ri­vals de­fend Ney­mar after crit­i­cism for late-game an­tics

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Even ri­vals are com­ing out to de­fend Ney­mar after his late-game an­tics got him into trouble in the Span­ish league.

The Brazil for­ward use his ball trick­ery in Barcelona’s 5-1 win over Le­ganes last week, prompt­ing a wave of crit­i­cism from peo­ple who ac­cused him of show­ing off and try­ing to pro­voke op­po­nents. Ney­mar ap­peared to ig­nore the un-writ­ten con­ven­tion that top play­ers should not make lesser op­po­nents look fool­ish.

Three key former play­ers who turned coaches sup­ported Ney­mar yes­ter­day, the day be­fore Barcelona’s game against ri­val Atletico Madrid.

With the vic­tory safely se­cured on Satur­day, Ney­mar used back­heel passes and other nifty moves against Le­ganes de­fend­ers. He scored one of the team’s goals in the 44th minute and was fouled in­side the area — lead­ing to a penalty kick con­verted by Lionel Messi in the 55th.

Real Madrid coach Zine­dine Zi­dane said he didn’t think Ney­mar was dis­re­spect­ing his op­po­nents.

Barcelona coach Luis En­rique said Ney­mar’s style shouldn’t sur­prise any­body.

Re­newed ri­valry

Barcelona is brac­ing for an­other hard-fought match against Atletico Madrid.

The teams meet to­day in the first big game of the season in Spain — the first en­counter be­tween the clubs since Atletico elim­i­nated Barcelona quar­ter­fi­nals of last Champions League.

Barcelona is sec­ond in the stand­ings with nine points, three less than leader Real Madrid. Atletico is fourth, four points be­hind Madrid after four rounds.

Both teams have their top play­ers avail­able and are boosted by huge wins.

Barcelona was stunned at home by pro­moted Alaves two weeks ago but re­bounded with a 5-1 rout of Le­ganes on Satur­day. It also trounced Celtic 7-0 in the Champions League. Atletico be­gan the league with con­sec­u­tive draws but picked up the pace with a 4-0 win at Celta Vigo and a 5-0 thrash­ing of Sport­ing Gi­jon. in the season’s

Re­in­forced Madrid

Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Gareth Bale are ex­pected to re­turn to Real Madrid’s start­ing lineup for the game against un­beaten Vil­lar­real at the San­ti­ago Bern­abeu to­day.

The Span­ish pow­er­house has a chance to set a record with its 17th straight league vic­tory. Madrid is tied with Pep Guardi­ola’s Barcelona from the 2010-11 season, which won 16 in a row.

Madrid is the only team to have won all four matches to start the league and has a three­p­oint lead over Barcelona and Las Pal­mas.

Ron­aldo and Bale were rested in the team’s 2-0 win at Es­panyol on Sun­day after a hard­fought 2-1 win over Sport­ing Lis­bon League.

Zi­dane will not be able to count on de­fender Pepe be­cause of a knee in­jury sus­tained at Es­panyol. La Liga in the Champions

Yes­ter­day Malaga-Eibar ..................................... 2-1 Sevilla-Betis ...................................... late To­day Celta Vigo-Gi­jon Real Madrid-Vil­lar­real Barcelona-Atl. Madrid Granada CF-Ath Bil­bao Real So­ciedad-Las Pal­mas To­mor­row Dep. La Coruna-Le­ganes Osasuna-Es­panyol Va­len­cia-Alaves

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