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Rediff.com  » Sports » Football Briefs: Real stage comeback, Costa strikes in Atletico win

Football Briefs: Real stage comeback, Costa strikes in Atletico win

Last updated on: February 19, 2018 16:53 IST

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Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio celebrates with teammate with Dani Carvajal after scoring their third goal against Real Betis in their La Liga at Estadio Benito Villamarin, Seville on Sunday

IMAGE: Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio celebrates with teammate with Dani Carvajal after scoring their third goal against Real Betis in their La Liga at Estadio Benito Villamarin, Seville on Sunday. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters

Real Madrid mounted a stirring second-half comeback helped by Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos to win 5-3 at Real Betis in a thrilling La Liga game on Sunday, demonstrating their awesome power in attack as well as their vulnerabilities.

Second-placed Atletico Madrid earlier won 2-0 at home to Athletic Bilbao as they cut the gap behind leaders Barcelona back to seven points after Diego Costa scored his first league goal in six weeks to finish off the resilient visitors.

 

Marco Asensio headed Real, who are fourth, in front after 11 minutes but Aissa Mandi nodded an equaliser in the 33rd before the visitors' Nacho Fernandez diverted a fumbled Keylor Navas save into his own net to give Betis the lead four minutes later.

A party atmosphere had gripped the Benito Villamarin stadium but locally-born Real captain Ramos punctured the mood, as he has done so often in recent years, making it 2-2 with a towering header from a corner five minutes into the second half.

Gareth Bale then spurned two good chances and it was left to hot-shot winger Asensio to put Real back in front with a strike across goal to complete a blistering counter-attack.

Ronaldo then looked to have sealed the win for Real with a net-busting strike from a tight angle in the 65th.

Substitute Sergio Leon pulled a goal back for Betis in the 85th minute to set up a tense finish but Real substitute Karim Benzema pounced in added time for Madrid's 13th goal in three games to seal the three points, leaving Betis in ninth.

Real have 45 points from 23 games, 17 behind runaway leaders Barcelona, although they can climb above Valencia into third place if they win their game in hand at Leganes on Wednesday.

"It was an end-to-end game, a crazy game but everyone likes games like that," Real coach Zinedine Zidane told reporters.

"We were up against opponents that are playing fantastic at the moment and we're happy with the result in the end. I won't think too much about the three goals we conceded, but instead about the five we scored."

Real have had one of their worst seasons in recent memory but have returned to their ruthless best in their last three games, particularly in attack, hammering Real Sociedad 5-2 in their previous league game and then beating high-flying Paris St Germain 3-1 in their Champions League last-16 first leg.

Zidane made five changes from the team that started against PSG, bringing in Bale, Lucas Vazquez, Asensio and Mateo Kovacic for Luka Modric, Benzema, Isco and the injured Toni Kroos.

"We started the game very well then we sat back and when we did that it was a different game. The second half was completely different, we were spectacular," he added.

E\rlier, Diego Simeone's Atletico side were made to fight for victory in a typically physical encounter with Bilbao but French forward Kevin Gameiro broke the Basque side's resolve in the 67th minute with a low finish into the far bottom corner.

Costa, who missed the 4-1 win at FC Copenhagen in the Europa League last 32 tie in midweek with a knock, was denied a penalty in the first half but sealed the win with a near-post finish in the 80th after latching on to a through ball from Gameiro.

The former Chelsea striker had been sent off for jumping into the stand to celebrate with Atletico fans after netting his last league goal against Getafe on Jan. 6 and toned down his celebration this time as he had already been booked.

Napoli and Juventus continue see-saw battle in Serie A

Napoli stayed one point ahead of Juventus at the top of Serie A on Sunday after both teams won their ninth league games in a row, this time beating SPAL and Torino 1-0 respectively.

Napoli captain Marek Hamsik thought he had scored a second, was booked for smashing into the corner flag and, to add insult to injury, saw the goal chalked off by the video assistant referee (VAR) after a two-minute delay.

In the later game, AC Milan missed a penalty and had a goal ruled out by VAR in a 1-0 win over Sampdoria which extended their unbeaten run to 10 matches in all competitions.

The pattern at the top was the same as the previous three weekends when Juventus, chasing a seventh successive title, played first, won and briefly went top only to be pulled back by their rivals.

Juventus will also play first for the next three rounds of matches, a situation which has drawn complaints from Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri.

Brazilian midfielder Allan finished off a typically incisive Napoli move to score the only goal in the sixth minute at rain-soaked San Paolo stadium.

Hamsik's second-half goal was ruled out for offside and, although replays showed it was the right decision, the incident raised more questions about the use of the video technology being trialled in Serie A, among others, this season.

Napoli's stadium announcer, known as "Decibel Bellini" had gone through his entire ear-splitting celebratory routine and relegation-threatened SPAL were ready to kick off before the referee signalled that he was reviewing the goal.

Napoli have 66 points from 25 games with Juventus on 65 and AS Roma a huge 15 behind in third place.

Juventus overcame an early injury to striker Gonzalo Higuain as they bounced back from their disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League to edge their less glamorous neighbours in the Derby della Mole.

"This was not a response (to the Tottenham game). Today, we produced a great performance and I'm proud of the lads and to coach this group," said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Higuain appeared to twist his ankle and soldiered on for another 10 minutes before being replaced by Federico Bernadeschi, who set up the goal when he pulled the ball back for Alex Sandro to tap in just after the half hour.

Juventus have won seven and drawn one of their last eight matches against Torino.

Milan midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura sidefooted the winner from Davide Calabria's cross after 13 minutes in an eventful game at San Siro.

The hosts, who pulled level on 41 points with sixth-placed Sampdoria, could have gone ahead earlier but Ricardo Rodriguez's weak penalty was saved by Emiliano Viviano.

Leonardo Bonucci thought he had added a second before halftime until VAR intervened. Milan had celebrated and Sampdoria were ready to restart when the decision was finally made, but replays showed that it was clearly offside.

Table-propping Benevento twice came from behind and then beat Crotone with an 89th minute goal by Cheick Diabate, the Malian scoring 12 minutes after coming on for his debut following his move on loan from Osmanlispor.

Benevento stayed bottom with 10 points while Crotone have 21, four above the relegation zone.

Erick Pulgar scored with a long-range free kick in the 88th minute to give Bologna a 2-1 win over Sassuolo in the day's other game.

Lyon dropped in race for second after Lille draw

Olympique Lyonnais lost touch in the race for second place in Ligue 1 after they squandered a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw at Lille on Sunday.

Burkina Faso striker Bertrand Traore struck twice before the break, but the hosts fought back with goals by Nicolas Pepe and Luiz Araujo to salvage a point.

The result put Lyon on 49 points from 26 games, seven behind second-placed Monaco who thrashed Dijon 4-0 on Friday.

Lille dominated possession but OL were the more clinical as they went ahead in the 21st minute when Traore tapped in after keeper Mike Maignan had released a Memphis Depay cross into his path.

Traore found the back of the net again one minute from the break with a shot on the turn inside the area. He came close again in stoppage time with a curled effort that flew just wide of the top corner.

Lille, who are 17th on 27 points, reduced the arrears on 65 minutes, Pepe firing home from Araujo's cross.

He returned the favour by setting up Araujo, who beat Anthony Lopes with a fierce shot from 25 metres nine minutes from time.

Hawkeye apologises for confusing VAR graphic

Hawkeye have apologised after a faulty graphic caused confusion during a video assistant referee (VAR) review in Manchester United's 2-0 defeat of HuddersfieldTown in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday.

United midfielder Juan Mata thought he had scored a goal in the first half but his effort was ruled out after officials determined, using VAR technology provided by Hawkeye, that he was offside.

The still image shown by broadcaster BT Sport to explain the decision contained an uneven line meant to show that Mata was beyond the last defender and in an offside position.

Hawkeye insisted that a correct image, with a straight line, was used to make the decision. However, the incident highlighted the teething problems of VAR being trialled in some FA Cup ties.

"A technical error led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawkeye to BT Sport on Saturday," a statement from Hawkeye, who also provide ball-tracking technology in cricket and tennis, said on Sunday.

"To confirm, the VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise."

Former UK soccer coach jailed for 30 years for child sex abuse

Ex-football coach Barry Bennell has been jailed for 30 years on 50 counts of child sexual abuse by a judge who called him the "devil incarnate," the BBC reported on Monday.

The 64-year-old Bennell, once a scout for Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra, abused 11 boys aged eight to 15 between 1979 and 1990 on an "industrial scale", Liverpool Crown Court had heard.

"To those boys you appeared as a god... in reality you were the devil incarnate," Judge Clement Goldstone said. "You stole their childhoods and their innocence."

Half of the jail term will be served in custody with the rest on licence, plus another one year licence period, the BBC reported.

Bennell was charged in November 2016 after prosecutors received a file of evidence from Cheshire Police.

In testimony, several victims estimated Bennell had sexually abused them on more than 100 occasions.

Bennell had been previously convicted three times of child abuse. He received jail sentences in the UK and in the US in 1995, 1998 and 2015.

Allegations of child sex abuse in English soccer from the 1970s through to the 1990s have shocked Britain and led to deep soul-searching in the game amid fears hundreds of young boys might have been involved.

Cologne fined 50,000 euros for misbehaving fans

Bundesliga basement side FC Cologne have been fined 50,000 euros ($62,000) after their fans misbehaved at five different league matches this season, the German Football Federation (DFB) said on Monday.

The incidents included one in a match at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach where three Cologne supporters disguised themselves as stewards to enter the visiting fans' section and steal a flag.

Other offences included the use of pyrotechnics and displaying a banner which insulted Dietmar Hopp, the software billionaire owner of Hoffenheim, the DFB said.

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