Fri, Apr 07, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Morata helps Real Madrid keep Barcelona in check

AFP, MADRID

Barcelona’s Luis Suarez scores against Sevilla in their La Liga match at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

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

Earlier on Wednesday, Lionel Messi’s brace on his return from suspension and Luis Suarez’s stunning overhead-kick helped Barcelona sweep aside Sevilla 3-0.

Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane gambled on the strength of his squad ahead of a mammoth 18 days which sees the European champions welcome Atletico Madrid and Barcelona to the Santiago Bernabeu, as well as meeting old foes Bayern Munich in the UEFA 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,” Zidane said. “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 and Morata’s looping header and then calm finish into the top corner from Mateo Kovacic’s pass looked to have put Madrid out of sight inside 23 minutes, but Leganes’ Gabriel Pires and Luciano Neves took advantage of some slack Madrid defending to cut the deficit to 3-2 before halftime.

The visitors quickly restored their two-goal cushion just three minutes into the second half when Leganes captain Martin Mantovani contrived to punch the ball into his own net.

At the Camp Nou, Messi looked rested rather than rusty as he took his tally for the season to 43 goals in 41 games.

Sevilla had two glorious chances to open the scoring when Steven N’Zonzi fired too close to Marc-Andre ter Stegen, before Vitolo headed over when unmarked inside the penalty area.

“Barca don’t need many chances to score. We had two one-on-ones and we couldn’t take them,” frustrated Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli said.

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.

“The way the ball fell I had no other option. As a striker you have a notion of where the goal is and it managed to help the team win,” Suarez told BeIN Sports.

Messi then slotted low past Sergio Rico three minutes later and doubled his tally for the night six minutes after that when he volleyed home a loose ball inside the Sevilla penalty area.

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