Sunday 17 December 2017

Atletico fail to take advantage despite rare Barca slip-up

EUROPEAN ROUND-UP

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (C) is tackled by Levante's Pape Diop
Barcelona's Lionel Messi (C) is tackled by Levante's Pape Diop

Sevilla's Ivan Rakitic ruined Atletico Madrid's hopes of ending the weekend in top spot in La Liga with an equalising penalty in a 1-1 draw.

Earlier, Barcelona had dropped two points when they came from a goal down to rescue a 1-1 draw at mid-table Levante, opening the door for Atletico.

David Villa put Atletico ahead in the 18th minute at the Vicente Calderon and the home side looked to be coasting to victory until Juanfran hauled Carlos Bacca to the ground in the area in the 71st minute and Rakitic clipped home the spot-kick.

The result means Barca and Atletico, who drew 0-0 in Madrid the previous weekend, are level on 51 points at the top, with Barca ahead on goal difference.

Real Madrid gained further ground and sit just a point behind the joint leaders thanks to Saturday's 5-0 drubbing of bottom side Real Betis in Seville.

Earlier, Barca lacked inspiration, even with Lionel Messi back in the starting line-up.

Vulnerable at set-pieces, the defending champions fell behind in the 10th minute when Loukas Vyntra headed past Victor Valdes from a corner. Barca's equaliser also came from a corner when Gerard Pique nodded in nine minutes later but they struggled to create further chances.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a long-range goal worthy of his recently awarded Ballon d'Or to spark Real Madrid's 5-0 rout at Real Betis, a 25-yard on-the-run blast. Gareth Bale fired home a free-kick for his first goal since November 30, and further strikes followed from Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria and Alvaro Morata.

In Italy, Mario Balotelli's 82nd-minute penalty earned AC Milan's 1-0 victory over Verona.

Arturo Vidal's double helped Juventus to their 12th straight league win with a 4-2 triumph over Sampdoria, restoring the champions' eight-point lead. Inter Milan's troubles continued with a 1-0 defeat at Genoa.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice as Paris Saint-Germain thrashed Nantes 5-0 to maintain their five-point lead over Monaco at the top of the French league.

Irish Independent

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