La Liga: Real Madrid Closes Gap, Leaders Atletico stumble
Real Madrid closed the gap on La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid after a vital 1-0 win against Real Valladolid at the Jose Zorilla Stadium, as Atletico stumbled after a 2-0 defeat against Levante.
Karim Benzema was the latest absentee through injury, joining the likes of Eden Hazard, Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal on the sidelines. It meant a rare start for Mariano Diaz up front against Valladolid, while Isco was the only senior player on the bench.
In the first half, Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had to pull off a double stop to deny Fabian Orellana and Saidy Janko to keep the visitors in the game. However, the scoreline remained 0-0 at halftime.
In the second half, it looked like Real Madrid might suffer similar frustration against a determined Valladolid, who would have led had it not been for a string of excellent saves by Courtois.
Courtois also made a fantastic save after Valladolid winger Fabian Orellana was almost bizarrely set up by Real Madrid’s Ferland Mendy, who launched the ball across his own penalty area, but Orellana shot wide
The Belgian goalkeeper kept Madrid in the game and then Casemiro put them in front. The brazilian had been allowed two free headers already by Valladolid’s defence and he pounced at the third opportunity, nodding in Toni Kroos’ free-kick to give Real Madrid a glimmer of hope.
Real Madrid’s victory at the Jose Zorilla Stadium was their fourth in a row, three of those coming with clean sheets, which suggests a return to form for a defence that all but clinched them the title last season.
All Real Madrid can do is keep winning and hope their neighbours continue slipping up ahead of their huge showdown at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium, which is scheduled for March 7.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) February 20, 2021
Atletico had the chance to stretch their lead to 11 points this week by winning back-to-back games against Levante, but instead they followed a 1-1 draw on Wednesday with a surprise 2-0 loss, meaning a five-point advantage became only six.
Real Madrid have cranked up the pressure on Atletico Madrid after Casemiro’s second-half header, cutting the gap to just three points, having played a game more than Atletico.
“It’s not because Atletico lost. We believe we can win the league,” Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro said after the match.
“There are still 42 points left, that’s a lot of points.”
After taking on Atalanta in the Champions League on Wednesday, Madrid switch focus back to LaLiga on March 1 with a home game against Real Sociedad. Next up for Valladolid is a trip to Celta Vigo in eight days’ time.
Other La Liga results
Elche 1-0 Eibar
Valencia 2-0 Celta Vigo
Atletico Madrid 0-2 Levante