With another decisive penalty from Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid on Sunday extended their perfect run after the COVID-19 suspension and moved closer to their first Spanish title in three years.
Ramos scored his fifth goal since the season resumed as Madrid defeated Athletic Bilbao 1-0 to maintain a four-point lead over Barcelona, who beat fifth-placed Villarreal 4-1.
Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann were among the scorers for Barcelona after assists from Lionel Messi.
Ramos converted a 73rd-minute penalty to give Madrid their seventh straight victory and they remain the only team with a perfect record since La Liga resumed.
“These three points are very important, we knew this was going to be one of the difficult matches we had left,” Ramos said. “This was a key victory to try to put some pressure on Barcelona. We only depend on ourselves.”
It was the third straight 1-0 win by Madrid. They have four matches left as they chases a first league title since 2016-2017.
“We can’t relax or think about the title until we clinch it mathematically, but I admit that winning seven games in a row is impressive,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said.
Ramos had already scored a late winner from the penalty spot in Madrid’s 1-0 win against Getafe on Thursday last week and he also netted from the spot in a 2-1 win at Real Sociedad last month.
Ramos converted on Sunday after the video assistant referee determined there was a foul when midfielder Dani Garcia stepped on leftback Marcelo’s right foot inside the penalty area.
Athletic wanted a penalty for a similar foul by Ramos away from the ball a few moments later, but the game was allowed to continue.
“I’m tired of always talking about the same thing,” Zidane said. “It seems like we only win thanks to the referees, and that’s not true. The players deserve respect.”
Two-time defending champions Barcelona ended their two-match winless streak with Messi setting up goals by Suarez in the 20th minute and Griezmann in the 45th.
Barca had opened the scoring with an own-goal by Pau Torres in the third minute, while Ansu Fati netted the final goal in the 87th.
Gerard Moreno scored for the hosts in the 14th minute.
“These points were important to keep us in the fight for the title,” Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said. “We will keep pushing, even though we know it’s going to be complicated.”
Suarez’s strike was his 194th goal for Barca, tying him with Ladislao Kubala as the club’s third-highest scorer, behind Cesar Rodriguez (232) and Messi (630).
Griezmann had not scored since February.
Messi had a goal disallowed for offside in the 69th minute and hit the crossbar with a free-kick in second-half stoppage-time.
Elsewhere, last-placed RCD Espanyol lost 1-0 at home to second-from-bottom CD Leganes to remain 11 points from safety, while CA Osasuna drew 0-0 against Getafe.
SWEEP THE LEG: Poirier, determined to best McGregor, after losing to him in 2014, used low calf kicks to throw ‘Notorious’ off his stand-up game, before dropping him American underdog Dustin Poirier yesterday shook up the world of mixed martial arts, beating up the legs of Irish superstar Conor McGregor before knocking him out at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi. “I’m happy, but I’m not surprised. I put in the work,” Poirier said, after the referee stepped in after 2 minutes, 32 seconds of the second round to save McGregor from further damage, after he was dropped by a fierce combination of punches. The 32-year-old Poirier was ranked second in the flyweight division going into the fight, but still rated a heavy underdog by bookmakers to beat his fourth-ranked opponent,
World No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying yesterday eased past her Thai opponent to advance to the second round of the Toyota Thailand Open. The Taiwanese star toppled world No. 46 Supanida Katethong 21-16, 21-11 in 29 minutes at the Impact Arena in Bangkok. “I think I played OK today. I am feeling a little better than last week,” Tai said. Tomorrow, Tai faces Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska Tunjung. The two have faced each other six times, with Tai beating the world No. 21 in all six matches. Tai on Sunday reached the final of the Yonex Thailand Open before losing decisively against Carolina Marin of Spain.
LOOKING TO REPEAT: World No. 7 Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin advanced to the round-of-16 at the Toyota Thailand Open, after winning the Yonex Thailand Open on Sunday Taiwan’s world No. 7 duo yesterday eased past the US’ world No. 37 pairing at the Toyota Thailand Open to reach the round-of-16 in Bangkok. Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin beat Phillip Chew and Ryan Chew 21-14, 21-11 in just 24 minutes. Lee and Wang, who won the men’s doubles title at the Yonex Thailand Open on Sunday, next face the world No. 34 pairing, Canada’s Jason Anthony Ho-Shue and Nyl Yakura. In men’s singles, Taiwan’s world No. 2 Chou Tien-chen again beat Thailand’s world No. 45 Suppanyu Avihingsanon, after edging past the Thai player in the opening round of the Yonex
Three new COVID-19 cases yesterday hit the Australian Open’s troubled buildup as a backlash grew against international tennis players flown in during a raging pandemic. Two of the new cases were players, state health officials said, taking the total infections to seven since more than 1,000 people arrived in largely COVID-19-free Australia on charter flights last week. The Victoria Department of Health and Human Services said that the two players and a third person associated with the tournament — a woman in her 20s, and two men in their 30s — had returned positive results. The year’s first Grand Slam, delayed three weeks,