February 22, 2016 1:03:07 am
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a goal but missed a penalty as Real Madrid was held 1-1 at Malaga on Sunday to drop nine points behind leader Barcelona.
Ronaldo put the visitors in front with a header in the 33rd minute but missed a chance to increase the lead a couple of minutes later when his spot-kick was saved by Malaga goalkeeper Carlos Kameni. The hosts equalized through defender Raul Albentosa in the 66th.
Madrid needed a victory to stay nearer the lead after Barcelona won 2-1 at Las Palmas on Saturday.
Barcelona also has a nine-point advantage over Atletico Madrid, which hosts fourth-place Villarreal later Sunday at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.
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Real Madrid has 13 games left to try to stop Barcelona from successfully defending its title for a second consecutive year.
“We are not done yet, we only lost two points,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “There are a lot of games left, the other teams can also lose points.”
It will be difficult, though, as Barcelona hasn’t lost in 32 games and has won eight in a row in the league. Real Madrid has been dominant at home since Zidane took over the squad, but it drew two of its three away league games. The only victory came with a late winner against Granada.
“We never give up,” Real Madrid left back Marcelo said. “It’s a big difference but we will fight until the end.”
Some of Spain’s top sports newspapers ran headlines saying Madrid’s title run was over.
“Real Madrid says goodbye to league title,” both Marca and AS said on their websites after the game.
Madrid struggled from the start at La Rosaleda Stadium in Malaga, allowing the hosts to create several scoring chances. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas did well in keeping Malaga from scoring more goals.
Replays showed Ronaldo was offside when he opened the scoring with a header after a cross by Toni Kroos. The ball appeared to bounce off Ronaldo’s back or shoulder before going in. It was Ronaldo’s 22nd league goal in 25 rounds. Luis Suarez, who scored on Saturday, leads the league with 25 goals.
Two minutes after the goal, Ronaldo was fouled inside the area. With a chance to give Madrid a 2-0 lead, Ronaldo failed to find the net, sending his low shot into Kameni’s hands near the right post. It was Ronaldo’s second missed penalty in the league this year. It would have been his 10th goal in the last seven games in all competitions.
Both teams had opportunities to score toward the end of the match, but it was Malaga that got on the board with a close-range shot by Albentosa after a cross by Brazilian defender Weligton.
The home draw left Malaga 11th in the 20-team standings with 31 points.
Atletico Madrid draw , Valencia win to ease pressure
Atletico’s top scorer Antoine Griezmann headed Juanfran’s inch-perfect cross just wide before Angel Correa’s audacious chipped effort forced Villarreal goalkeeper Alphonse Areola into his only serious save after half-time.
And Villarreal could have snatched all three points on the break when Cedric Bakambu blazed over with just Jan Oblak to beat.
Elsewhere, Neville’s Valencia again rode their luck, but recorded back-to-back league wins for just the second time this season as Granada passed up a wave of second-half opportunities.
With confidence high from their 6-0 thrashing of Rapid Vienna in the Europa League on Thursday, Valencia started the stronger and only great saves from Andres Fernandez prevented Paco Alcacer and Andres Gomez from giving Valencia a half-time lead.
Dani Parejo eventually opened the scoring 10 minutes after the break when he swept home Alcacer’s knockdown.
However, Granada should have levelled in the final half hour as David Barral hit the bar and Youssef El-Arabi fired off target from close range.
Santi Mina sealed the points for Valencia on the counter-attack before Edgar Mendes pulled a goal back in stoppage time.
“I think at the moment we need to win all our games to keep the momentum going,” said Neville.
“The dressing room changed significantly in the last week in terms of mood as when you win there is a stronger belief.”
Sevilla remain eight points off Villarreal in the battle for the final Champions League place as they blew a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Rayo Vallecano.
Real Sociedad’s surge up the table continued as Jonathas’s brilliant strike handed them a 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Basque derby to move into the top half.
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