I tried to copy Lionel Messi and LeBron James: Antoine Griezmann, Latest Football News - The New Paper

I tried to copy Lionel Messi and LeBron James: Antoine Griezmann

He curls his second goal in like Lionel, then celebrates with confetti like James

Antoine Griezmann copied Lionel Messi for the goal and LeBron James for the celebration, but it was his Barcelona show yesterday morning (Singapore time) after he scored twice in a 5-2 win over Real Betis.

Griezmann imitated the basketball superstar by tossing confetti into the air to celebrate his second goal at the Nou Camp, a curling effort into the corner that he said was inspired by watching Messi.

"I saw Leo do this in training, so I tried to copy him," said Griezmann.

"And for the celebration, I like the ritual that LeBron did so we tried to do it as well."

Yet Griezmann was the star - if only for the night with Messi in the stands, the Argentinian still short of fitness following a calf injury.

A brilliant Barcelona performance also delivered a resounding response to the doubts arising from their defeat by Athletic Bilbao the previous weekend, among them a reliance on Messi, the need for Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar and the future of Ernesto Valverde as coach.

But, as Carles Perez, Jordi Alba and Arturo Vidal made it three, four and five, the gloom was forgotten, along with Nabil Fekir's 15th-minute opener that had Betis level at half-time.

"After a defeat, there is always a big reaction," Griezmann said.

"We really wanted to play another game and, when so many players are missing, the team stepped up."

Loren Moron slammed a late strike into the top corner for Betis but, by then, the game was over as Barca ensured no further ground was lost on Atletico Madrid, who beat Leganes 1-0 earlier, or Real Madrid, who were held to a 1-1 draw on Saturday by Real Valladolid.

Barcelona will hope to have Messi back for the trip to Osasuna this Saturday but, with Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele both out for longer, Griezmann's display was timely.

Whether it also affects the club's attempts to prise Neymar from PSG remains to be seen.

"I have to admit it was a really important day for Griezmann given the absentees we had," Valverde said.

"He responded brilliantly. He dropped deep to help the midfield, but also pushed on and can lose his man brilliantly.

"For us, it's fundamental to have players who can clock up goals and the fact Griezmann debuted at the Nou Camp and scored is great news."

As for the team, Valverde was also pleased with how they reacted after Betis took the lead.

"I was pleased with how we did in the first half but, when you go behind, you always think that there's stuff to change.

"We needed to score and the goal to make it 1-1 changed things for the better and we might have even scored a second (before half-time).

"The game was high tempo and we like it that way."


The crowd also enjoyed a goal from the 21-year-old Perez, making his first Barca start, and a substitute appearance from Anssumane Fati, who at 16 years and 298 days, became the second youngest player to play for the club in La Liga.

Barcelona stay behind Atletico, who maintained their perfect start with another 1-0 win, this time over Leganes as Vitolo came off the bench to score a second-half winner.

Joao Felix, Atletico's 126 million-euro (S$194m) buy from Benfica and much-hailed replacement for Griezmann, was again quiet yet delivered the match's most memorable moment.

The 19-year-old's perfectly timed pass set Vitolo free after Felix had been picked out by Kieran Trippier, who was faultless on his second Atletico start. - AFP