Daily Sabah (Turkey)

Real bounces back to beat Alaves, Suarez inspires Atletico win


SPANISH La Liga leader Real Madrid bounced back from its Champions League defeat against Paris Saint-Germain and beat Alaves 3-0 on Saturday to go seven points clear at the top of the table.

Madrid struggled to break down Alaves in the first half as disgruntle­d had whistled with the score goalless at halftime.

Marco Asensio’s stunning goal opened the floodgates in the second half as Vinicius Junior finished off Karim Benzema’s cut-back before Benzema converted a late penalty after Rodrygo was brought down in the area.

Luis Suarez had earlier lifted the mood at Atletico Madrid after his phenomenal long-range strike helped Atleti to a 3-0 win over Osasuna, ahead of Wednesday’s crunch Champions League game against Manchester United.

Real Madrid had managed only one goal in its previous four games – another Asensio stunner against Granada – and there was particular criticism after the passive performanc­e against PSG last week brought a 1-0 defeat in Paris.

There was frustratio­n again against Alaves and Ancelotti will hope Vincius’ first goal in seven matches and Benzema’s first since returning from injury can now reignite the spark. Real was whistled at half-time after a weary, error-strewn performanc­e that could have left Alaves in front had Jason capitalize­d on Casemiro gifting the ball away in the penalty area.

Madrid started the second period with renewed intent to play quicker but its efforts were laced with nerves, while around them the fans were increasing­ly agitated.

Vinicius created the best opening when he nipped round the outside only to see his shot saved by Fernando Pacheco, with Benzema’s follow-up hacked off the line by Florian Lejeune.

There were still moments of sloppiness and Asensio was jeered when his backpass was read by Pere Pons, who rounded Thibaut Courtois but failed to steer in from the angle.

The reaction seemingly stayed with Asensio because he celebrated his goal by making a gesture to suggest he wanted more support. It was a brilliant strike, the Spaniard collecting off Benzema on the right, cutting in onto his left foot and arcing a dipping effort into the far corner.

Benzema almost made it two from a Vinicius cut-back, his finish on the turn dribbling up against the post. Moments later the same combinatio­n came in reverse, Benzema supplying Vinicius, who this time slotted in.

Rodrygo, on as a substitute, was then tripped by Lejeune, allowing Benzema to make it three from the spot in injury time.

Atletico did not have to wait so long against Osasuna.

Joao Felix smashed his team into a third-minute lead in Pamplona before driving a superb pass downfield for Suarez to chase after, with the Uruguayan firing in a second before Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera could scramble back.

Angel Correa tucked in a third late on to round off a convincing win for Atletico, who climb back into the top four and head into the last-16 tie against United with a spring in its step.

The only blot on a satisfying afternoon for Diego Simeone was an injury to central defender Jose Gimenez, who had to be substitute­d at half-time and could now miss the meeting with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes this week.

Barcelona is only three points behind Atletico with two games in hand while Villarreal looks increasing­ly like a serious contender for Champions League qualificat­ion after it secured an impressive 4-1 win away at Granada, Arnaut Danjuma scoring a hat trick.

Unai Emery’s side, who hosts Juventus at La Ceramica Tuesday, is also three points adrift of Atletico, having played the same number of games as Diego Simeone’s side.

 ?? ?? Real’s Marco Asensio during a La Liga game against Alaves, Madrid, Spain, Feb. 19, 2022.
Real’s Marco Asensio during a La Liga game against Alaves, Madrid, Spain, Feb. 19, 2022.

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