MADRID – Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo are having seasons for the record book.
Ronaldo notched his La Liga-record 41st goal when he scored off a header on a pass from Ángel di María in the 74th minute to lift Real Madrid to a 3-1 win over Sporting Gijón on April 14.
Ronaldo broke his own La Liga record, which he set last year. But he didn’t hold the mark by himself for very long.
About two hours after Ronaldo found the back of the net, Messi scored both goals in FC Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Levante to keep his team in second place heading into the “clásico” against rival Real Madrid on April 21. Real Madrid has 85 points, four more than FC Barcelona.
After Levante took a 1-0, lead, Messi tied the game in the 64th minute by blasting a shot into the back of the net. Eight minutes later, Messi pulled even with Ronaldo by scoring on a penalty kick to lift his team to victory.
Messi has scored 63 goals in all European competitions this year, which is four off the record of 67 held by Gerd Müller, who set the mark for Germany’s Bayern Munich during the 1972-73 season.
Ronaldo has scored 53 goals in all competitions this year, matching his career high.
Argentine duo powers England’s Manchester City
Argentines Carlos Tevez and Sergio Agüero combined for five of Manchester City’s six goals in its 6-1 over Norwich to remain in second place behind rival Manchester United in the Premier League standings.
Tevez scored three times and assisted on Agüero’s goal, when he found him with a back-heel pass that Agüero put into the back of the net in the 27th minute.
Tevez and Agüero each scored during a two-minute stretch in the second half before Tevez provided the exclamation point on the outburst with a goal with 10 minutes remaining.
Tevez appeared in his second straight game in the Premier League for the first time in 11 months as he continued to work himself back into the team’s good graces following months of turmoil. Tevez drew the ire of Mancini and Manchester City fans in September when it was alleged he refused to enter a Champions League match against Bayern Munich as a substitute. The 28-year-old was fined nearly US$1.9 million for gross misconduct, and his weekly salary of more than US$310,000 was withheld as he remained home in South America.
But Tevez returned to the team in February and steadily improved his conditioning to reclaim his starting spot.
“I am very happy that I played very well against Norwich, but the most important thing is that I want to say thank you to my colleagues for all the support they have given me since I arrived,” Tevez told City TV. “It wasn't easy coming back to training and to play, but they have given me a lot of support and the technical staff has been very good to me too. I really appreciate everyone's help.”
Manchester City, which hasn’t won a Premier League title since 1968, is in second place with 77 points, five behind Manchester United.
“Of course we can still win the title,” Tevez told City TV. “Obviously we have to put pressure on United. We just need to continue to play the way we are and we will arrive on top. Mathematically it’s not impossible.”
Brazil’s Maracanã Stadium open to the public
Brazilian officials have opened iconic Maracanã Stadium so visitors can watch the renovation in preparation for hosting the 2014 World Cup and the Confederations Cup in 2013.
The US$480 million project, which officials estimated is 45% complete, is expected to be finished in February of next year. The stadium also is expected to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics.
Brazil’s Santos celebrates its 100th birthday
The storied soccer team celebrated its 100th year of existence during a series of festivities, including bringing in its greatest player ever, Pelé, by helicopter, where he was greeted in Vila Belmiro by about 15,000 fans.
“I am very happy to reconnect with old friends today, but I am also sad because they are not all here,” Pelé, 71, told the crowd. “I’m sure they are present at God’s side during this beautiful occasion. I have always said that I did not do anything alone. Thanks to everyone who is in my company, and those who always have been. The legacy we have left Santos is one only God could understand.
He arrived at the party with the Copa Libertadores trophy, which Santos won in 2011 for the first time since Pelé led it to victory in 1963.
Pelé, who scored more than 500 goals for Santos during his 18-year career from 1956 to 1974, also led the Selecão to three World Cup titles.