Tue, May 16, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Real, Barcelona extend title fight to end of season

AFP, MADRID

The fight for the La Liga title will go down to the last day of the season after convincing wins for Real Madrid and Barcelona on Sunday left them locked together on 87 points at the top of the table.

Madrid remain in the driver’s seat after the European champions saw off Sevilla 4-1 as they have two games remaining to Barca’s one.

However, Barca remain on top thanks to their better head-to-head record, with Neymar scoring a hat-trick as they won 4-1 at UD Las Palmas.

Madrid visit RC Celta de Vigo in their game in hand tomorrow and then travel to Malaga, while Barca host Sociedad Deportiva Eibar on the final day on Sunday.

Sevilla’s defeat at the Bernabeu also guarantees they will finish fourth, while Atletico Madrid, who drew 1-1 at Real Betis Balompie, qualify automatically for next season’s UEFA Champions League.

At the bottom, Real Sporting de Gijon joined Granada and Ca Osasuna in being relegated, despite winning 1-0 at Eibar as RC Deportivo de La Coruna secured safety in a 0-0 draw at Villarreal.

However, the fact that two of Barca’s four league defeats this season came at the two sides Madrid have still to visit gives the Catalans’ boss Luis Enrique hope.

Sevilla have now won just three of their past 13 games as their season has petered out to a disappointing end.

Nacho gave the hosts the lead in controversial fashion as he curled home a quick free-kick with the Sevilla defense caught unawares and their protests toward referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco falling on deaf ears.

That goal meant Madrid broke Bayern Munich’s European record for scoring in consecutive games as their streak now stretches to 61 games.

Sevilla fired their first warning shot when Stefan Jovetic smashed a shot against the post from the edge of the area.

However, moments later it was 2-0 as Sergio Rico could only palm James Rodriguez’s effort into the path of Cristiano Ronaldo to score his 400th Madrid goal.

Jovetic then saw a fine chipped effort come back off the bar and was denied by Keylor Navas when played through by Joaquin Correa as Sevilla continued to threaten.

They finally got back in the game through Jovetic’s neat finish from outside the box three minutes into the second half.

Yet, just as the hosts’ nerves were becoming frayed, Ronaldo appeared once more by crashing home Toni Kroos’ cut-back to restore Real’s two goal lead.

Kroos rounded off the scoring himself by prodding into the far corner six minutes from time.

Barcelona kept the pressure on, despite a series of defensive absences that meant Brazilian 21-year-old Marlon Santos was handed a full debut in the Canary Islands.

The visitors still had all of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar to call on up front and the latter two combined to give Barca a 2-0 halftime lead.

After wonderful passes from Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta, Suarez squared for Neymar to open the scoring.

The roles were reversed two minutes later as Neymar’s chip freed Suarez to dink home his 36th goal of the season.

Pedro Bigas momentarily gave Las Palmas hope just after the hour mark.

However, Neymar headed home Ivan Rakitic’s cross and then sealed his first hat-trick of the season 19 minutes from time when he slotted in Jordi Alba’s through ball.

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