Real maintain two-point lead

- Agence France-Presse, MADRID

Apr 7, 2017-

Alvaro Morata scored twice as Real Madrid maintained a two-point lead over Barcelona at the top of the Spanish League by making light of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale’s absence in a 4-2 win at Leganes.

Earlier Lionel Messi’s brace on his return from suspension and Luis Suarez’s stunning overhead kick helped Barcelona beat Sevilla 3-0. Real boss Zinedine Zidane gambled on the strength of his squad ahead of a mammoth 18 days which sees the Madrid giants welcome Atletico Madrid and Barca to the Santiago Bernabeu and also meet Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

However, the Frenchman was rewarded as the likes of Marco Asensio, James Rodriguez and Morata took their chance to shine. As well as their slender lead, Real also have a game in hand over Barcelona. “It is not taking a risk, I have a great squad,” said Zidane. “I am always asked about the reserves and the starters, but we are all in the same boat. We are doing great things together, but we still have a long way to go and we will need every player.”

Asensio’s storming run set up the opener for Rodriguez on 15 minutes as he weaved past three Leganes defenders before squaring for the Colombian to tap home his sixth goal of the season. Morata’s looping header and then calm finish into the top corner from Mateo Kovacic’s pass looked to have put Real out of sight inside 23 minutes.

Yet, on Real’s first ever La Liga visit to Butarque, the hosts had something to celebrate before half-time as Gabriel Pires and Luciano Neves took advantage of some slack Real defending to cut the deficit to 3-2 before half-time. The visitors quickly restored their two-goal cushion just three minutes into the second-half, though, when Leganes captain Martin Mantovani contrived to punch the ball into his own net.

At the Camp Nou, Messi looked rested rather than rusty after being banned for his last two outings for club and country as he took his tally for the season to 43 goals in 41 games. Sevilla’s visit offered boss Jorge Sampaoli a final chance to make his case for the Barca job at the end of the season. But defeat continues Sevilla’s slump and a sixth straight game without a win sees them remain three points behind Atletico Madrid in the battle for third place.

Messi fired an early warning as he blasted a shot off the underside of the bar from outside the area after just three minutes. Sevilla had two glorious chances to open the scoring as Steven N’Zonzi fired too close to Marc-Andre ter Stegen when clean through before Vitolo headed over when unmarked inside the area. “Barca don’t need many chances to score. We had two one-on-ones and we couldn’t take them,” said Sampaoli.

Suarez made no such mistake as he caught Messi’s deflected cross flush with an overhead kick to break the deadlock with his 31st goal of the season. Barca’s star front three were all involved for their second on the counter-attack as Suarez turned Neymar’s cross back into Messi’s path to slot low past Sergio Rico. Messi doubled his tally six minutes later when he volleyed home a loose ball inside the Sevilla area.

“The first half we played at a top level,” said Enrique. “We arguably even deserved to have a bigger lead.” Sevilla’s misery was complete when Spanish international Vitolo was sent off in stoppage time for a second yellow card.

 

La Liga results

Leganes    2-4    Real

Barca    3-0    Sevilla

Depor    0-0    Granada

Alaves    0-1    Osasuna 

Gijon    0-1    Malaga 

Standings

Teams    P     W     D     L     GF    GA     PTS

Real    29     22    5    2    78    30    71

Barca    30     21    6    3    88    26    69

Atletico    30     18    7    5    55    23    61

Sevilla    30     17    7    6    52    37    58

Villarreal    30     14    9    7    42    23    51

Bilbao    30     15    5     10    39    33    50

Sociedad    30     15    4     11    43    41    49

Eibar    29     12    8    9    47    41    44

Espanyol    30     11     10    9    42    42    43

Celta    28     12    5     11    43    46    41

Alaves    30     10     10     10    29    37    40

Las Palmas    29    9    8     12    45    48    35

Valencia    29    9    6     14    41    51    33

Betis    30    8    7     15    32    47    31

Malaga    30    7    9    14    34    47    30

Depor    30    6     10     14    31    46    28

Leganes    30    6    9     15    25    46    27

Gijon    30    5    7     18    31    58    22

Granada    30    4    8     18    26    62    20

Osasuna    30    2    8     20    30    69    14

Published: 07-04-2017 08:48

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