Tuesday 24 January 2017

Barca in driving seat but Ronaldo keeps Real in race

Published 09/05/2016 | 02:30

Barcelona's Lionel Messi in action. Photo: Albert Gea/Reuters
Barcelona's Lionel Messi in action. Photo: Albert Gea/Reuters

Barcelona closed in on the La Liga title by thrashing local rivals Espanyol 5-0, as Atletico Madrid dropped out of the race after losing 2-1 at Levante.

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A Cristiano Ronaldo brace helped Real Madrid to a 3-2 win that prevented Barca lifting the title.

The victory left them one point behind Barca on 87, while Atletico have 85 with one game remaining.

The Catalans went ahead in the eighth minute when Lionel Messi curled a 22-yard free-kick into the top corner with a magnificent finish.

Luis Suarez stretched the hosts' lead with two goals in the second half, before Rafinha and Neymar completed the rout.

Atletico took the lead at Levante in the first minute through Fernando Torres, but the relegated home side fought back, equalising through Victor Casadesus before Giuseppe Rossi grabbed the winner in stoppage time.

Real were without goalkeeper Keylor Navas, defender Dani Carvajal, midfielder Luka Modric and winger Gareth Bale through injury, but went ahead thanks to a thunderous low finish from Cristiano Ronaldo in the 26th minute.

Karim Benzema scored the second before the break but Rodrigo Moreno, who was later sent off, pulled one back for Valencia after half-time.

Ronaldo added his second a few minutes later, before Andre Gomes scored a sumptuous consolation goal for Valencia.

Barca knew any slip-up could prove fatal to their title hopes, but Messi's brilliant curled free-kick got them off to an ideal start, although they were aggrieved when Ivan Rakitic had a goal harshly ruled out for offside and Messi had a strong penalty appeal turned down.

Messi laid on the pass for Suarez to smash in the second in the 52nd minute and the Uruguayan headed in a third to move on to 37 goals for the league season.

Brazilian midfielder Rafinha pounced on an embarrassing error by goalkeeper Pau Lopez to score his first goal since returning from a serious knee injury. Neymar added the fifth by tapping in Suarez's low cross following a scooped pass from Dani Alves.

In Germany, Bayern Munich secured a record fourth consecutive Bundesliga title on Saturday after a 2-1 victory at Ingolstadt 04 eased the disappointment of their midweek Champions League exit.

The Bavarians clinched a 26th German league crown, and their first silverware of the season, thanks to two goals from top scorer Robert Lewandowski in the first half.

Elsewhere, PSV Eindhoven retained the Eredivisie title after a dramatic final day saw them win 3-1 away to PEC Zwolle, as rivals Ajax were held to a surprise 1-1 draw at relegation battlers De Graafschap.

Ajax went into yesterday's matches top of the table with a superior goal difference.

PSV were crowned national champions for the 23rd time after a first-half goal from Jurgen Locadia (34) and a brace from captain Luuk de Jong (43 and 67) secured what was, in the end, a comfortable victory.

Irish Independent

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