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La Liga: Real Madrid see off Celta to return to top

January 03, 2021 09:52 IST
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Real Madrid's Marco Asensio celebrates with teammates on scoring their second goal against Celta Vigo at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, Madrid in La Liga on Saturday.

IMAGE: Real Madrid's Marco Asensio celebrates with teammates on scoring their second goal against Celta Vigo at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, Madrid in La Liga on Saturday. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

Real Madrid beat an in-form Celta Vigo 2-0 at home on Saturday thanks to a goal and assist apiece from Spanish pair Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio, putting the side above city rivals Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga.

The win took the Spanish champions to the summit on 36 points, one ahead of second-placed Atletico who have three games in hand and on Sunday visit Alaves.

Real were smarting from a surprise 1-1 draw at struggling Elche in their last match and were missing captain Sergio Ramos, who was out with a stomach bug.

 

But they got off to an ideal start thanks to a towering header from Vazquez, who out-jumped two Celta defenders to power home a cross from Asensio.

Vazquez returned the favour early in the second half to tee up Asensio after Madrid had recovered the ball high in Celta's half. Zinedine Zidane's side comfortably saw out the victory, ending Celta's unbeaten run of six games under new coach Eduardo Coudet.

"We said before the game that after slipping up against Elche we wanted to show our usual aggression and win the ball back high up the pitch," said Vazquez.

"Right now every game is key, we are on a good run, we didn't expect to draw the other day but the team is in good shape and if we keep playing like this we'll be fighting for everything."

Celta had won five of their previous six league games since Argentine Coudet took charge in November after Oscar Garcia was sacked, taking them from the bottom of the standings to within striking distance of the European places.

The trip to Madrid was their biggest test so far and they almost took the lead when talismanic striker Iago Aspas ran through and knocked the ball past keeper Thibaut Courtois but Real defender Nacho recovered to clear it off the line.

Madrid broke immediately with a long ball to Asensio, whose cross was nodded in by Vazquez.

Real nearly doubled their lead when Dani Carvajal tried his luck from outside the box and saw his shot whistle past the post.

Celta had failed to pull off their usual style of intense pressing and they suffered a huge blow when Aspas, La Liga's joint-top scorer with nine goals, was forced off in visible pain with a suspected muscle injury.

Asensio's goal moments later delivered a knockout blow and they later also lost forward Nolito to an injury.

Sevilla keeper Bono denies Betis from spot in derby draw

Sevilla had goalkeeper Bono to thank after they earned a 1-1 draw away to local rivals Real Betis on Saturday but the point was not enough to prevent them dropping out of the top four in La Liga.

Sevilla are now fifth in the standings on 27 points after Villarreal took their place in fourth on 29 following a 2-1 win at home to Levante earlier on, thanks to goals from Fernando Nino and Gerard Moreno. Betis are ninth on 20 points.

Bono saved a penalty from French forward Nabil Fekir in the 75th minute to keep his side level after a penalty from Sergio Canales had cancelled out a strike from Suso in the 48th minute.

The derby was in danger of being postponed after four Betis players, including captain Joaquin, tested positive for COVID-19 but the match went ahead after the rest of the squad returned negative tests.

Betis were also missing key players William Carvalho and Marc Bartra through injury but Manuel Pellegrini's side dominated the first half.

They could not, however, make their early pressure count and Canales and Fekir both failed to hit the target with clear chances.

Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui had started without Ivan Rakitic and striker Youssef En-Nesyri and turned to both players at the start of the second half.

The double change had an immediate impact as Moroccan forward En-Nesyri raced towards a loose ball after good pressing from Lucas Ocampos and sent it into the path of Suso, who slotted into the near bottom corner with one touch.

Betis soon had a chance to respond when Diego Carlos fouled Loren Moron and Canales sent Bono the wrong way to equalise.

Fekir then won a penalty when he was fouled by Marcos Acuna but this time Bono guessed the right way and made the save.

"I feel like we have let two points escape today. We should have taken the lead in the first half after our excellent performance and we feel more pain for missing the penalty," said Betis's Loren.

Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui added: "We were too focused on the referee and at times we looked like our heads weren't in the game but picking up a point at this ground is always positive, even though we came here to win."             

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Source: REUTERS
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