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REAL MADRID

Ronaldo-less Real join three-way tie at the top

Real Madrid made light of the absence of the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo with a 3-0 win away at Getafe to move level with Barcelona and Atlético Madrid at the top of La Liga.

Ronaldo-less Real join three-way tie at the top
Real's reserve player Jesé Rodríguez scored against Getafe on Sunday, making it eight league goals so far this season . Photo: Ander Guillenea/AFP

It took the visitors just five minutes to make the breakthrough as Jesé Rodriguez curled home his fifth goal in six games from Gareth Bale's pass.

Karim Benzema doubled Madrid's advantage as he finished off Angel di Maria's fine cross before the break and Luka Modric rounded off the scoring with an effort from outside the box midway through the second-half.

All three sides at the top are now tied on 60 points with 14 games still to play.

While Barcelona and Atletico return to Champions League action this week, Madrid have the luxury of a week off as they don't travel to Schalke for the first leg of their last 16 tie until February 26th.

Los Blancos are now 24 games unbeaten in all competitions and, after having kept their 11th clean sheet in 13 games in 2014, boss Carlo Ancelotti believes they are in top form at just the right time of the season.

"Our defensive solidity is very important. At the start of the season we had problems, but now we are more solid, playing with more confidence and look more natural in our play," he said.

"I hope this continues because we are in the most important part of the season. The mental and physical condition of the players is very good for the upcoming games."

Ronaldo's three-match suspension after being sent-off against Athletic Bilbao earlier this month has allowed Jesé to get a continued run in the side and the Spaniard continued to make his case for a place in Vicente del Bosque's World Cup squad with a precise finish into the far corner.

Despite being involved in the build-up to the goal, Bale didn't enjoy his best afternoon as he slotted a wonderful chance wide after great work from Benzema and was shown a yellow card in the first-half.

Ancelotti's men were well in control, though, and made the game safe with a flowing counter-attack that ended with Di Maria's cross being swept home by Benzema.

Getafe started the second period the stronger as Madrid constantly gave the ball away cheaply, however the hosts couldn't take advantage of a number of half chances and were punished when Modric added to Real's lead 24 minutes from time.

The Croatian midfielder has been his side's most consistent performer since the start of the year, but hadn't scored in La Liga this season until his low strike from 25 yards sneaked past Miguel Angel Moya.

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FOOTBALL

Black Lives Matter: Marcelo ‘takes the knee’ to celebrate Real Madrid win

Marcelo celebrated by taking a knee as Real Madrid returned from three months away following the coronavirus suspension by beating Eibar 3-1 on Sunday.

Black Lives Matter: Marcelo 'takes the knee' to celebrate Real Madrid win
Real Madrid's Brazilian defender Marcelo kneels on the field to celebrate his goal. Photo: AFP

After scoring Madrid's third goal in the 37th minute, Marcelo dropped onto his left knee and raised his clinched right fist into the air, apparently in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Madrid's win may have come at a cost as Eden Hazard and Sergio Ramos were both substituted early in the second half and were seen with ice packs strapped to them while sitting in the stands.

Hazard was making his first start since February and his ice pack appeared to be around his troublesome right ankle, which he injured in November and February, before undergoing surgery in March.

“We knew Eden would lack a bit of rhythm playing the whole game,” coach Zinedine Zidane said.

“He played well for an hour, he took a knock which was a scare but at half-time he said he was fine. He is happy with what he has done and we are happy with him.”

Madrid's win means they reduce the gap behind league leaders Barcelona back to two points after the Catalans thrashed Real Mallorca 4-0 on Saturday.    

Madrid struck in the fourth minute after a superb strike from Toni Kroos before Ramos tucked away Hazard's pass on the counter-attack.    

Eibar pulled one back in the second half through Pedro Bigas but never found the second to make Madrid nervous, despite a brief spell of pressure.    

Before going off, Hazard was busy, the Belgian involved in all three goals.    

His weaving run through midfield led to Kroos' shot and it was his effort that was cleared out to Marcelo, who drove into the corner.    

After a miserable opening season in Spain, it was a bright start for Hazard, who could now redeem himself by playing a crucial role in the run-in, if he can stay injury-free.

Perhaps even more impressive though was Karim Benzema, who linked up brilliantly with Hazard and was unfortunate not to get the goal an excellent all-round performance deserved.

Gareth Bale started on the bench but came on and could start against Valencia on Thursday.

Zidane is likely to rotate heavily over the next few weeks, with the games coming thick and fast.

New surroundings

Madrid's coach will also have been pleased to get off to a positive start in their new training ground home, which was the 100th different stadium to be used in La Liga.

They will be playing all their remaining home matches at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium to allow renovation work at the Santiago Bernabeu to continue this summer.

“We know the situation, it's all a bit strange,” said Zidane. “But the players are all champions and we have to get our heads around it.”    

Barca had needed less than two minutes to score against Mallorca and Madrid were only slightly later, as Hazard broke through Eibar's midfield and Casemiro set Benzema free.

The ball was cleared to Kroos on the edge of the area, who struck first time, sidefooting perfectly into the far top right-hand corner.   

Ramos doubled their advantage after starting, and finishing, a ruthless counter-attack. In between, Benzema and Hazard were involved again, the former picking out the latter, who generously gave Ramos an open goal.

Marcelo put Eibar all but out of sight before half-time as Benzema played through for Hazard and his shot spilled out to Marcelo to lash into the corner.

Eibar were better after the break as Edu Exposito forced a full-stretch save from Thibaut Courtois and then Sergi Enrich headed against the crossbar. 

Bigas did score after diverting in Pedro Leon's shot but Madrid held on.    

Earlier, Diego Costa scored his first goal since October but Atletico Madrid missed the chance to move into La Liga's top four by drawing 1-1 away at Athletic Bilbao.

Costa celebrated by holding up the shirt of Virgina Torrecilla, a player from Atletico's women's team, who underwent surgery on a brain tumour last month.

His equaliser came two minutes after the excellent Iker Muniain had given Bilbao the lead towards the end of the first half and neither side could find a winner at the empty San Mames, with Atletico defender Santiago Arias missing the best chance late on.

Diego Simeone's side stay sixth, level on points with Getafe and one behind Real Sociedad, who were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Osasuna.

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