Atletico, Leganes Draw In Dramatic La Liga Fixture

Atletico Madrid’s Serbian forward Ivan Saponjic (L) heads the ball during the Spanish league football match Club Atletico de Madrid against Club Deportivo Leganes SAD at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on January 26, 2020. AFP

 

Atletico Madrid’s goalscoring troubles resurfaced as they drew 0-0 at home to a struggling Leganes side that finished with a defender in goal after the dismissal of Ivan Cuellar.

Atletico crashed out of the Copa del Rey in midweek after losing to third-tier Cultural Leonesa, and Sunday’s latest setback would appear to rule Diego Simeone’s team out of title contention.

They are now winless in four games, their surprise cup exit preceded by a 2-0 loss at Eibar in La Liga last weekend and defeat by Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.

Atletico could finish the day 10 points behind city rivals Real, who travel to Real Valladolid later, ahead of next week’s Madrid derby at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Simeone admitted on Saturday his “life is consumed by Atletico” and while his stock among the club’s fans remains largely undiminished, there are concerns about his team’s direction of travel.

“Honestly, we’re not talking about the coach in the changing room,” said Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

“We all speak with him as players and we’re here to get better and to play football the fans enjoy.

“But what pleases supporters is to see their team win. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case these past few matches. We’re going through a bad patch.”

Having sold French striker Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona, scoring goals has been Atletico’s fundamental weakness this season. They have managed only 22 in 21 league games, the same number as Real Mallorca in 17th.

Angel Correa and Alvaro Morata both tested Cuellar in the first half while Recio went close for Leganes with a curling strike that was deflected over by an Atletico defender.

Substitute Ivan Saponjic headed over for Atletico in stoppage time before bottom side Leganes were forced to play the final minutes with left-back Jonathan Silva in goal after Cuellar was shown a second yellow card for time-wasting.

Atletico continue to negotiate with Paris Saint-Germain over the signing of Edinson Cavani but even if the French club can be persuaded to sell this month, Cavani’s arrival may come too late.

Setien Suffers First Defeat As Valencia Shock Barcelona

Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi gestures during the Spanish league football match Valencia CF against FC Barcelona at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia on January 25, 2020.  AFP

 

Quique Setien’s honeymoon period lasted less than a fortnight as he tasted his first Barcelona defeat on Saturday in his second La Liga game in charge after a 2-0 loss to Valencia.

A Jordi Alba own goal and Maxi Gomez’s strike at Mestalla raise early doubts about Setien’s appointment and give Real Madrid the chance to move three points clear at the top of the table when they visit Real Valladolid on Sunday.

Barcelona had most of the ball but their opponents had the best chances as Gomez missed a penalty and also hit the crossbar in the first half. Gabriel Paulista saw a third goal ruled out late on.

While performances under previous coach Ernesto Valverde were stodgy and familiar failings went unresolved, he left a side in first place.

Setien promised a new style but few will cheer a team that loses. Despite dominating possession, Barcelona did little with it and as Valencia grew in confidence, they ceded control too.

“There are things they have not understood or maybe we have not have explained ourselves well,” Setien said afterwards. “In the first half, quite frankly, we were bad.”

The question is whether Setien is trying to impose too much too soon and perhaps whether this group are even well-suited his ideas.

“The players have to adapt to the coaching staff to understand,” said Sergio Busquets. “There were some good things but we have to improve.”

Valencia climb to fifth and continue to improve under Albert Celades. This success came without their captain Dani Parejo and, largely, without star striker Rodrigo Moreno, who has been linked with a January move to Barcelona.

The hosts hardly touched the ball for the first six minutes, their fans whistling as they urged a more aggressive approach.

But the plan was to sit and absorb and it worked, with Barcelona unable to cut through or create a single clear chance.

 Valencia dangerous 

And when Valencia did intervene, they were more dangerous too. With their first attack, they won a penalty as Jose Gaya slipped past Gerard Pique and would surely have scored from eight yards before being brought down.

Pique was booked and, with Parejo absent, Gomez stepped up, only for his driven shot to be well saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, albeit with the help of half a yard’s headstart off his line.

Barca were riding their luck. Sergi Roberto’s header cannoned off Pique but fell just close enough for Ter Stegen, who parried a Gomez shot onto the crossbar and almost spilled another to Kevin Gameiro.

Referee Gil Manzano puts his hands together as if to apologise after failing to play advantage when Ferran Torres was clear but the frustration of Valencia’s fans turned to ecstasy shortly after half-time.

Pique’s flicked header landed at the feet of Gomez, whose driven effort took a cruel deflection off Alba and flew in.

Setien traded the patience of Arthur Melo for the physicality of Arturo Vidal and Rodrigo came on to a rousing reception.

Barcelona exerted some pressure and Lionel Messi led the way, hauled to the ground by Francis Coquelin and then denied by a brilliant Gabriel tackle. He fired past the post, headed wide and saw a curling free-kick saved.

Yet just as a Barcelona equaliser began to feel inevitable, Valencia struck again. A quick throw caught Alba out of position and Torres did well to cut inside and switch to Gomez. He took a touch and curled into the corner.

Gabriel thought he had a third after volleying in from a corner but VAR persuaded Manzano there had been a push. When Messi ballooned a late free-kick and threw his arms up in despair, Valencia knew their win was secure.

AFP

Zidane Defends Bale After Latest Injury Set-Back

 

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane defended Gareth Bale on Saturday after the Welshman picking up another injury and also said Eden Hazard is close to a return. 

Bale will miss Madrid’s La Liga game against Real Valladolid on Sunday after he sprained his ankle during Madrid’s Copa del Rey win over Unionistas de Salamanca on Wednesday. Bale had opened the scoring in a 3-1 victory.

It is his third injury this season. Bale spent just over a month out before Christmas with calf and thigh problems.

He missed Real Madrid’s Spanish Super Cup triumph in Saudi Arabia through illness earlier this month and the game against Unionistas was his first match back.

“When he is available, which is the most important thing, he is fine,” Zidane said in a press conference on Saturday.

“The pity is that the other day he hurt his ankle and he is now unavailable.

“He is as unhappy about it as anyone, he would like to be with us, to train and play, but it’s a small thing. I hope to see him back with us on Monday.”

Bale’s relationship with Zidane has been tense in the past and he came close to leaving Real Madrid last summer, before a move to China fell through.

The 30-year-old is not expected to be sold mid-season but a departure could suit everyone in the summer.

Asked if he was tired of defending Bale, Zidane said: “The other day he scored. I will always defend my players. They are my players, they train every day, they fight for each other.

“There is a good dynamic, all the players are desperate to wear the badge of Real Madrid. They all have their own history but I don’t see that as a bad thing. It is true Gareth has had some injuries and you can’t do anything about that.

“You can think what you want but when I am with him, what he wants is to be available, to be with the team.”

Bale’s recovery could coincide with a return for Hazard, who has also endured an injury-interrupted season since his move from Chelsea last summer.

The Belgian sustained a fracture in his foot in November but has begun light training, meaning he could feature in the derby against Atletico Madrid on February 1.

“I cannot say when he will be back but he has started to touch the ball again,” Zidane said. “His progress is good, he no longer feels pain. Starting Monday, he will start working individually with more ballwork.”

Hazard missed almost a month at the start of the season with a hamstring strain before injuring his foot on November 26 against Paris Saint-Germain.

Real Madrid are unbeaten in 18 games and sit second in La Liga, behind Barcelona on goal difference.

ta/pb

Madrid Go Top Of La Liga After Sevilla Win

Real Madrid's Brazilian midfielder Casemiro (C) vies with Sevilla's French defender Jules Kounde (L) during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Sevilla FC at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on January 18, 2020. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP
Real Madrid’s Brazilian midfielder Casemiro (C) vies with Sevilla’s French defender Jules Kounde (L) during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Sevilla FC at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on January 18, 2020. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Real Madrid climbed above Barcelona to top La Liga on Saturday as Casemiro scored twice in a gritty 2-1 win over Sevilla. 

Casemiro’s double proved the difference amid a three-goal flurry early in the second half, with Luuk de Jong briefly drawing Sevilla level.

Madrid were underwhelming at the Santiago Bernabeu, at times reverting back to the stodgy days of last season when the team struggled for goals under Julen Lopetegui, who is now in charge of Sevilla.

Yet with Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos all missing from their starting line-up, this might be the kind of victory that could prove crucial to their hopes of winning the title in May.

Sevilla stay fourth, eight points off the top.

Barca can reclaim first place on Sunday when they face Granada at Camp Nou, where Quique Setien will be overseeing his first game since being appointed early last week.

Setien has said he will not be happy if his team win while playing badly but Zinedine Zidane is likely to be less choosy.

His Madrid side are now 17 games unbeaten, a streak that has included them winning the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia last weekend. Ramos, who is still recovering from an ankle injury, paraded the club’s latest trophy on the pitch before kick-off.

Benzema came on in the second half after shaking off a dead leg but Bale’s absence was more mysterious. The Welshman missed the trip to Jeddah through illness but had returned to training on Tuesday.

Lopetegui was back at the Santiago Bernabeu for the first time since he was sacked by Madrid last season, 138 days after they appointed him, and his Sevilla side arguably deserved more.

Converting impetus into goals has been their problem all season, and so it proved again.

After an even start, they gradually took charge and as the home crowd grew frustrated, Sevilla grew in confidence too.

De Jong thought he had scored when he was given a suspicious amount of space in the area to head in from a corner and VAR showed his marker Eder Militao had been blocked albeit only by a small, but seemingly deliberate, step from Nemanja Gudelj.

Marcelo was lucky not to concede a penalty for a shirt-pull.

Sevilla were controlling the midfield and denying their opponents routes through to the front three. Yet 12 minutes into the second half, some creative brilliance saw Madrid take the lead.

Sergio Reguilon, bought by Sevilla from Madrid last summer, scuffed his clearance and after Casemiro muscled through on the edge of the area, Jovic found him again with a deft backheel. Casemiro chipped the ball in and pointed at Jovic in celebration.

Sevilla could have wilted but instead they equalised, only to concede again five minutes later.

First, Raphael Varane, Casemiro and Marcelo all missed tackles and after Munir El Haddadi stumbled, De Jong took over, banging the ball into the far, bottom corner.

Yet parity was short-lived as Casemiro nodded in Lucas Vazquez’s cross from a standing start after being given too much space by Jules Kounde.

Toni Kroos might have added a third for Madrid late on after a racing run by Vinicius Junior but Vazquez almost gifted Sevilla an equaliser after a dreadful backpass. Youssef En-Nesyri, signed from Leganes on Friday, flashed wide.

 

AFP

‘Ruthless’ Real Madrid Thrash Getafe

Real Madrid’s Welsh forward Gareth Bale (TOP) vies with Getafe’s Spanish goalkeeper David Soria during the Spanish league football match between Getafe CF and Real Madrid CF at the Col. Alfonso Perez stadium in Getafe on January 4, 2020. OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

 

Real Madrid made an impressive start to the year as they picked apart a robust Getafe side to win 3-0 in La Liga on Saturday. 

Raphael Varane was the instigator of two goals at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, first pressuring Getafe David Soria into a missed punch and an own-goal before himself heading home a cross from Toni Kroos.

“I’m happy with his performance but it’s especially important when Sergio Ramos isn’t there, to have another leader,” said Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.

Luka Modric then added a third deep into injury-time after a brilliant first-time pass by Gareth Bale had set Madrid away on the counter-attack.

Victory sends Zidane’s side top of the table briefly at least, one point above Barcelona, who play later on Saturday against Catalan rivals Espanyol.

Getafe remain seventh and very much in the race for Champions League qualification. Another excellent season under coach Jose Bordalas is proving last year’s remarkable top-four challenge was far from a fluke.

But their usually stubborn defence was overly-generous as Soria’s mistake and then a free header put Madrid in charge before Modric completed what was, in the end, a comfortable win.

“We did it and we did it by fighting,” Zidane said.

Without either Ramos, who was suspended, or Eden Hazard, who continues to nurse an ankle injury, this looked an awkward fixture for Zidane’s team on the back of a two-week winter break.

Instead, they keep the pressure on Barcelona before travelling to Saudi Arabia next week, where they could face a Clasico final in the Spanish Super Cup, with Valencia up first on Wednesday in the last four.

Hazard will stay at home after Zidane confirmed on Friday the Belgian will not return until later this month at the earliest.

His worryingly extended absence has offered a reprieve for Isco, who started again, and Bale, who twice should have scored in the second half, only to tee up Modric via substitute Fede Valverde.

At the other end, Thibaut Courtois appears finally to be finding his best form after a rocky start since his summer move from Chelsea. Courtois made three strong saves before Varane’s second gave Madrid breathing space.

“He saves us two or three times in the first half, he was key,” said Zidane.

Getafe’s success under Bordalas has been built upon tenacity as well as discipline and hard work, with right-back Allan Nyom particularly eager to make his presence felt on Bale early on.

Yet one late challenge too many earned Nyom a yellow card and Madrid a dangerous free-kick that led to the opener shortly after the half-hour mark.

Kroos’ cross was put back in by Ferland Mendy on the opposite side and while Soria sprung out to punch, he failed to connect and only succeeded in sending the ball bobbling into his own net.

Karim Benzema tested Soria at his near post but Courtois was the busier of the two keepers. He palmed away a stinging volley from Mauro Arambarri, pushed out a drive from Faycal Fajr and then blocked a close-range header from Leandro Cabrera.

Getafe’s frustration was compounded eight minutes into the second half when an unmarked Varane nodded in Kroos’ whipped cross and the home side never looked like being revived thereafter.

Bale tried to chip Soria and then go round him but made amends for his misses in injury-time.

Mendy twisted free before feeding Bale, who curled the ball beautifully, first time and on the turn, into the path of the sprinting Valverde. He could have scored himself but instead set up Modric, who finished into an open net.

AFP

Real Sociedad Hold Barca To Draw Ahead Of El Clasico

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (R) vies with Real Sociedad’s Spanish midfielder Mikel Merino during the Spanish league football match between Real Sociedad and FC Barcelona at Anoeta stadium in San Sebastian on December 14, 2019. ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

 

Barcelona gave Real Madrid the chance to go top of La Liga ahead of Wednesday’s Clasico at Camp Nou as they were held to a 2-2 draw by high-flying Real Sociedad on Saturday. 

A mistake by Barca’s usually excellent goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen gifted la Real an equaliser in a thrilling contest at Anoeta between two of the division’s most attacking teams.

Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez looked to have turned the game around after Mikel Oyarzabal scored an early penalty but Real Sociedad claimed a deserved point as Ter Stegen parried into the path of Alexander Isak.

Madrid will pull two points clear at the top of the table if they win away at in-form Valencia on Sunday, which could prove a significant psychological boost ahead of their crunch meeting with Barcelona in midweek.

Real Sociedad, meanwhile, move to within three points of Sevilla in third and showed why many have them circled as genuine challengers for Champions League qualification this season.

Barca may have had one eye on their next encounter, particularly given renewed fears of unrest around the Clasico, which had to be postponed in October due to Catalan independence protests.

Yet Real Sociedad were excellent value for their point, with Martin Odegaard, the Norwegian playmaker on loan from Real Madrid, delivering a majestic display to help his parent club’s title bid.

Barcelona were on the ropes for much of the first half an hour as Real Sociedad moved the ball quickly through the lines, with Odegaard the orchestrator.

Odegaard gave Sergio Busquets a torrid time and too often Barca were opened up through the middle. On one occasion, Nacho Monreal might have shot but chose to cross, forcing Gerard Pique into a last-ditch clearance.

 Simple finish

The home goal though came from a corner as Busquets was spotted tugging Diego Llorente’s shirt. The offence seemed minor but referee Javier Alberola had a clear view. Oyarzabal made no mistake from the spot.

Barcelona were yet to create a genuine chance but in the 38th minute they were level as Suarez freed Griezmann, who drew the goalkeeper before scooping his finish brilliantly into the net.

The visitors improved after half-time and were ahead within four minutes of the restart. Busquets clipped a ball over the top of Llorente, who stepped up at the wrong time, allowing Lionel Messi to skip free. He generously sidefooted left to Suarez, who had an open goal.

Pique almost made it 3-1 but his header was cleared off the line by Mikel Merino. Instead Real Sociedad levelled. Monreal’s cross caused panic and Ter Stegen parried the ball straight to Isak, who had a simple finish five yards out.

Both teams pushed tentatively for a winner, perhaps wary of each other’s threat on the break.

Pique was adamant he deserved a penalty in injury-time as he and Llorente were both guilty of pulling each other’s shirt at the back post.

AFP

Real Madrid Go Top After Alaves Win

Real Madrid’s players celebrate after Spanish defender Sergio Ramos (2ndL) scored a goal during the Spanish league football match between Deportivo Alaves and Real Madrid CF at the Mendizorroza stadium in Vitoria on November 30, 2019.
ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

 

Sergio Ramos scored a goal and conceded a penalty as Real Madrid battled past Alaves on Saturday to go top of La Liga before Sunday’s game between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. 

Barca and Atletico face off at the Wanda Metropolitano and Madrid did all they could to take advantage, with Dani Carvajal the unlikely matchwinner in a gritty 2-1 victory over Alaves.

“We know at these grounds that teams give everything against Madrid,” said Marcelo. “It’s in these matches that leagues are won.”

“We fought until the end,” added Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.

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Ramos had headed them in front shortly after half-time only to concede a needless penalty for throwing his arm across Joselu, which Lucas Perez converted before Carvajal poked in.

Madrid pull three points clear of Barcelona and six ahead of Atletico, who have played a game more than the top two. Sevilla, in third, host Leganes on Sunday. Alaves stay 13th.

A 1-0 defeat at Mendizorrotza 13 months ago came three weeks before Julen Lopetegui was sacked as a coach but this time Madrid showed the kind of steel that was so painfully lacking last season.

On a wet and windy afternoon in the Basque country, Zidane’s side never showed the verve and creativity that was so impressive in the draw against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.

But this was a gutsy performance that means they have now won six and drawn two of their last eight matches in all competitions, with the Clasico against Barcelona next month fast approaching.

“A few weeks ago people were saying a lot about this team,” said Zidane. “But we have to stay the same, stay calm and keep working because this is just the start.”

Gareth Bale made his first Madrid start since October 5 after recovering from a calf injury and his first too since his controversial celebration with Wales earlier this month, which sparked anger among his club’s supporters.

Bale hit the post in the first half but faded and was replaced by Rodrygo after Alaves’ equaliser.

With Eden Hazard out injured, Isco also kept his place while Alphonse Areola was given a rare outing in goal ahead of the rested Thibaut Courtois.

Kroos The Provider

Madrid were lucky not to concede another penalty early on as Aleix Vidal slalomed inside Ramos and then Eder Militao, whose dangling leg caught Vidal’s foot. Referee Guillermo Cuadra felt the fall was exaggerated.

At the other end, Bale hit the post with a header and Karim Benzema latched onto a quick throw but instead of shooting, hooked the ball back for Isco whose effort was saved.

Alaves grew in confidence as the rain grew heavier yet Madrid regrouped at half-time and took the lead soon after as Ramos was given a free header to glance in Toni Kroos’ crossed free-kick.

But after scoring his sixth goal of the season, Ramos gifted Alaves an equaliser in the 66th minute by outmuscling Joselu in the penalty area, only to throw an arm across the forward’s chest. Perez made no mistake.

Bale went off for Rodrygo and Alaves might have been able to build on their momentum if they had consolidated.

Instead, parity lasted three minutes as Isco met Luka Modric’s cross at the back post and while Pacheco did brilliantly to save, Carvajal reacted faster than Victor Laguardia to the rebound.

Perez almost drove in a late equaliser but Marcelo made a diving block and Ximo Navarro’s header had to be clawed away by Areola as Madrid held on.

AFP

La Liga Confirm El Clasico Date And Time

 

La Liga Football League have confirmed El Clasico’s date and time.

In a tweet by the league on Wednesday the game will be played on Wednesday, December 18 at 20:00 CET.

Barcelona were due to host Real Madrid at the Camp Nou on October 26, but the match was postponed due to the crisis in Catalonia.

Barcelona Stumble To Home Draw Against Slavia

File Photo: Barcelona’s Spanish coach Ernesto Valverde 
Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Ernesto Valverde is under mounting pressure at Barcelona after his team followed up their La Liga defeat by Levante with a goalless draw at home to Slavia Prague on Tuesday in the Champions League.

Lionel Messi hit the crossbar in the first half but that was as close as Barca came during a disjointed display that risks dragging Valverde’s team back into the fight for qualification from Group F.

Barcelona sit four points ahead of both Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan, whose game in hand comes against each other later on Tuesday. Barca play Dortmund at home next but will hope progress is secured before their final game at the San Siro.

The likelihood is they have already done enough to make the last 16 but Valverde will again face scrutiny, this blunt performance coming only three days after his side were beaten 3-1 by Levante in La Liga on Saturday.

If that loss was defined by three goals conceded in seven mad minutes, this one was far less dramatic, a story of stodgy possession in front of their own fans, whose displeasure made for an increasingly sour atmosphere at Camp Nou.

As a dejected Messi stood with his hands on his hips in the centre circle at the final whistle, not even the blast of the stadium music could drown out the whistles.

Slavia’s players saluted their own supporters like they had pulled off a remarkable upset.

After all, this was only the third time in 29 Champions League matches that Barcelona have failed to win at home, the other two against Juventus and Tottenham last season, when the Catalans had already qualified.

Their night was made worse by Jordi Alba being forced off at half-time with a hamstring injury while Gerard Pique’s yellow card means he will be suspended for the game against Dortmund.

Slavia’s pace in attack caused Barcelona problems in the first 45 minutes, which for the home side was illuminated only by the occasional moment from Messi.

Clement Lenglet almost conceded an early penalty when Marc-Andre ter Stegen pushed a pull-back into the defender’s chest while Pique accepted his booking after being robbed of the ball by Peter Olayinka.

Olayinka, Slavia’s gangly forward, was particularly lively as he teed up Lukas Masopust for a shot inside the area before skipping away from Nelson Semedo, who also had to take a yellow card.

Barcelona were sloppy in possession and lacklustre out of it. Ousmane Dembele was erratic and Antoine Griezmann, still playing on the left despite Luis Suarez’s injury, was quiet.

It was up to Messi to lift the mood and he almost scored with a brilliant run from the halfway line that began with a drop of the shoulder and ended with a bending shot against the crossbar.

Both sides had goals ruled out for offside either of half-time, which was greeted by whistles from the home fans, who grew increasingly restless as Barca failed to improve.

They whistled again at Dembele when he was replaced by Ansu Fati and there were groans at mistakes too, like when Semedo headed out for a corner or Lenglet miscontrolled for a throw.

Messi went close but his finish at the near post hit the goalkeeper before Ivan Rakitic, on for Sergio Busquets, curled over late on. When Arturo Vidal stretched but fell short at the far post, the game was up.

Barcelona Slip To Shock Defeat After Levante Goal Flurry

Barcelona’s Argentinian Forward Lionel Messi (R) celebrates scoring the opening goal with Barcelona’s French forward Antoine Griezmann (L), Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (2L) and Barcelona’s Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal during the Spanish League football match between Levante UD and FC Barcelona at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium in Valencia, on November 2, 2019. JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Lionel Messi scored again but was helpless to prevent Barcelona conceding three goals in seven minutes on Saturday as Levante stormed to a surprise 3-1 victory in La Liga. 

Messi converted a first-half penalty at the City of Valencia stadium for his sixth goal in five games only for Levante to stun the defending champions with an incredible treble shortly after the hour.

Jose Campana and Borja Mayoral scored in the 61st and 63rd minutes before Nemanja Radoja added a third in the 68th to finish Barca off and give Real Madrid the chance to move top of the table later on Saturday.

La Liga: Morata Scores As Atletico Hold Alaves To Draw

Atletico Madrid’s Spanish forward Alvaro Morata (3L) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Spanish league football match between Deportivo Alaves and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Mendizorroza stadium in Vitoria on October 29, 2019. ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

 

Alvaro Morata scored his third goal in as many games but it was not enough for Atletico Madrid as they were hit by a stunning late equaliser on Tuesday in a 1-1 draw against Alaves. 

Morata came off the bench at Mendizorrotza and his smart finish looked like it would prove the winner in a tight contest between two of La Liga’s most stubborn defences.

But Atletico missed chances to add a second and were punished in the 83rd minute as Lucas Perez beat Jan Oblak with a superb long-range strike to earn Alaves a hard-earned point.

Diego Simeone had hailed Oblak as the best goalkeeper in the world after Atleti beat Athletic Bilbao on Saturday but there was little the Slovenian could do about one of the goals of the season so far.

Yet Atletico will still lament two points dropped and a result that leaves them fourth in the table, a point behind surprise leaders Granada.

Diego Costa had been dropped against Bilbao but was restored to the starting line-up at the expense of Morata, despite the Spaniard scoring last weekend and hitting the winner against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League last week.

With a difficult trip to Sevilla to come on Saturday, Simeone rested other key players too, like Thomas Partey and Koke, both of whom came on in the second half, as well as Kieran Trippier.

Alaves had conceded only one goal in their five previous homes games this season and chances were almost non-existent in the first half.

Both teams showed more ambition in the second 45 minutes though as Joselu headed wide for Alaves and Atletico’s Renan Lodi saw a shot whistle past the far post.

Morata came on in the 60th minute and was welcomed with a crunching challenge by Victor Laguardia but the striker was not deterred and struck the opener 10 minutes later.

It was a brilliant passage of forward play as he chested down Oblak’s punt up-field, played a slick one-two with Angel Correa before sliding in a cool finish.

He should have made it two soon after but a poor backpass went unpunished and Correa was then denied by the foot of Fernando Pacheco after some excellent work by Thomas.

The slender advantage left Atletico vulnerable and Lucas delivered the game’s stand-out moment seven minutes from the end. Saul Niguez and Lodi might have made it more difficult for the 31-year-old to cut in from the right but Lucas made the most of the space.

His stinging shot from 25 yards beat the right hand of Oblak and soared into the top corner.

Mallorca Dethrone Real Madrid As La Liga Leaders

Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Sergio Ramos gestures during the Spanish league football match RCD Mallorca against Real Madrid CF at the Iberostar estadi stadium in Palma de Mallorca on October 19, 2019. JAIME REINA / AFP

 

Real Mallorca handed Real Madrid their first league defeat of the season on Saturday, to leave Barcelona who beat Eibar 3-0 earlier on top of La Liga.

Junior Lago scored what will be the only goal of the game just seven minutes in with the much-criticised Thibaut Courtois failing to stop the first shot sent his way.

Newly-promoted Real Mallorca held on after that, putting on a disciplined defensive display to the delight of their fans at the Estadi de Son Moix in Palma.

The victory lifted them out of the relegation zone and marks a step back for Zinedine Zidane whose men have failed to convince in the league and face a battle to avert disaster in the Champions League after failing to win their first two group clashes.

Real Madrid had come into the game deprived by injury of several first-team members. Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Dani Carvajal, and Raphael Varane were unavailable and Eden Hazard was left out after his wife gave birth.

In their absence, Zidane fielded an attack-minded team with Isco and James Rodriguez getting the nod in midfield, while Vinicius Junior and Luka Jovic joined Karim Benzema upfront.

Eder Militao partnered Captain Sergio Ramos at centre-back, while Alvaro Odriozola replaced Carvajal at right-back.

Fans would have expected Real to easily pick up all three points, Lago Junior’s beautiful early strike put Mallorca on course for victory.

Odriozola, in particular, had a poor game being partly at fault for the first goal and picking up a second yellow card late in the second half to leave a Real Madrid side already short of ideas with a mountain to climb.

Not only did they fail to accomplish the task, but they were also fortunate not to concede a second goal as they left themselves exposed on occasions as they pushed for an equaliser.