MADRID: With another decisive penalty kick from Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid extended their perfect run after the coronavirus break and moved closer to their first La Liga title in three years.
Ramos scored his fifth goal since the season resumed as Real defeated Athletic Bilbao 1-0 on Sunday to keep a four-point lead over Barcelona, who beat fifth-placed Villarreal 4-1. Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann were among the scorers for Barca after assists from Lionel Messi.
After edging out Getafe on Thursday, through a Ramos spot-kick, Real repeated the trick at San Mames, their captain’s nerve from the spot combining with a gutsy display for a pivotal win.
Ramos was perhaps fortunate not to concede a penalty himself late on when, off the ball, he seemed to slip and tread on the foot of Raul Garcia, but Real escaped.
Instead, the defender’s 10th goal of the season, the best tally of his career, proved decisive.
It’s a massive win,” said Ramos. “We knew today was going to be one of the biggest games that we have left. It’s always a difficult game away at Bilbao and we saw it like that. We’re happy with another crucial three points that put more pressure on Barcelona.”
Real move closer to La Liga title with seventh straight win
Two-time defending champions Barca ended their two-match winless streak with Messi setting up goals by Suarez in the 20th and Griezmann in the 45th. They had opened the scoring with an own-goal by Pau Torres in the third minute, and Ansu Fati netted the final goal in the 87th. Gerard Moreno scored for the hosts in the 14th.
“These points were important to keep us in the fight for the title,” Barca 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 with Barca, tying him with Ladislao Kubala as the club’s third all-time highest scorer, behind Cesar Rodriguez (232) and Messi (630).
Griezmann answered his critics in style by scoring with a sensational chip.
After the humiliation of being brought on in the 90th minute against his former club Atletico Madrid, Griezmann was back in the starting line-up at La Ceramica and repaid the faith with a stunning goal.
It was the kind of goal only great players can score,” said Barcelona coach Quique Setien. “He played a spectacular match.
Barca led when the league was suspended but had drawn three of their six matches since the return, including the last two. They entered the match against Villarreal with Setien under pressure because of the teams poor run of results.
We needed this match a while ago,” admitted Setien.“We have to keep adding points and we’ll see what happens.”
Villarreal had won five of their six matches after the break and stayed three points behind fourth-placed Sevilla, who have a game in hand.
Last-placed Espanyol lost 1-0 at home to second-bottom Legans to stay 11 points from safety. Mid-table Osasuna drew 0-0 against sixth-placed Getafe.
Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2020