Real Madrid goes on top after gutsy win

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

Madrid, Spain - Ser­gio Ramos scored a goal and con­ceded a penalty as Real Madrid bat­tled past Alaves on Satur­day to go top of La Liga be­fore Sun­day’s game be­tween Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Barca and Atletico face off at the Wanda Metropoli­tano and Madrid did all they could to take ad­van­tage, with Dani Car­va­jal the un­likely match­win­ner in a gritty 2-1 vic­tory over Alaves.

“We know at these grounds that teams give ev­ery­thing against Madrid,” said Marcelo. “It’s in these matches that leagues are won.”

“We fought un­til the end,” added Madrid coach Zine­dine Zi­dane.

Ramos had headed them in front shortly after half-time only to con­cede a need­less penalty for throw­ing his arm across Joselu, which Lu­cas Perez con­verted be­fore Car­va­jal poked in.

Madrid pull three points clear of Barcelona and six ahead of Atletico, who have played a game more than the top two. Sevilla, in third, host Le­ganes on Sun­day. Alaves stay 13th.

A 1-0 de­feat at Men­di­zor­rotza 13 months ago came three weeks be­fore Julen Lopetegui was sacked as coach but this time Madrid showed the kind of steel that was so painfully lack­ing last sea­son.

On a wet and windy af­ter­noon in the Basque coun­try, Zi­dane's side never showed the verve and creativ­ity that was so im­pres­sive in the draw against Paris Saint-Ger­main on Wed­nes­day.

But this was a gutsy per­for­mance that means its has now won six and drawn two of its last eight matches in all com­pe­ti­tions, with the Cla­sico against Barcelona next month fast ap­proach­ing.

“A few weeks ago peo­ple were say­ing a lot about this team,” said Zi­dane. “But we have to stay the same, stay calm and keep work­ing be­cause this is just the start.”

Gareth Bale made his first Madrid start since Oc­to­ber 5 after re­cov­er­ing from a calf in­jury and his first too since his con­tro­ver­sial cel­e­bra­tion with Wales ear­lier this month, which sparked anger among his club's sup­port­ers.

Bale hit the post in the first half but faded and was re­placed by Rodrygo after Alaves’ equaliser.

With Eden Haz­ard out in­jured, Isco also kept his place while Alphonse Are­ola was given a rare out­ing in goal ahead of the rested Thibaut Cour­tois.

Kroos the provider

Madrid was lucky not to con­cede an­other penalty early on as Aleix Vi­dal slalomed in­side Ramos and then Eder Mil­i­tao, whose dan­gling leg caught Vi­dal’s foot. Referee Guillermo Cuadra felt the fall was ex­ag­ger­ated.

At the other end, Bale hit the post with a header and Karim

Ben­zema latched onto a quick throw but in­stead of shoot­ing, hooked the ball back for Isco whose ef­fort was saved.

Alaves grew in con­fi­dence as the rain grew heav­ier yet Madrid re­grouped at half-time and took the lead soon after as Ramos was given a free header to glance in Toni Kroos’ crossed free-kick.

But after scor­ing his sixth goal of the sea­son, Ramos gifted Alaves an equaliser in the 66th minute by out­muscling Joselu in the penalty area, only to throw an arm across the for­ward’s chest. Perez made no mis­take.

Bale went off for Rodrygo and Alaves might have been able to build on their mo­men­tum if they had con­sol­i­dated.

In­stead, par­ity lasted three min­utes as Isco met Luka Mo­dric’s cross at the back post and while Pacheco did bril­liantly to save, Car­va­jal re­acted faster than Vic­tor Laguardia to the re­bound.

Perez al­most drove in a late equaliser but Marcelo made a div­ing block and Ximo Navarro’s header had to be clawed away by Are­ola as Madrid held on.

(AFP)

Real Madrid’s Daniel Car­va­jal (left) cel­e­brates after scor­ing a goal against De­portivo Alaves

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