Soccer - Spanish LeagueSunday, February 9, 2014
Real goes top after Atlético slump
Both Madrid sides share lead in La Liga
Karim Benzema struck twice as Real Madrid went to the top of La Liga with a 4-2 win over Villarreal yesterday while midfielder Verza’s double gave Almería a shock 2-0 victory over Atlético Madrid.
BARCELONA, Spain — Real Madrid forwards Gareth Bale and Jesé Rodríguez each scored and set up goals for Karim Benzema in a 4-2 win over Villarreal yesterday, giving the powerhouse a share of the Spanish league lead after Atlético Madrid stumbled to a 2-0 loss at Almería.
With leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo serving the first of a three-game suspension, Bale stepped up by opening in the seventh minute at the Santiago Bernabeu before he crossed for Benzema’s first goal in the 25th.
After Villarreal’s Mario Gaspar struck in the 43rd, Jesé took what proved to be Madrid’s winner in the 64th before Villarreal forward Giovani Dos Santos curled in a free kick in the 69th. Jesé found Benzema for his double in the 76th.
If any Madrid supporters were worried how their team would fare without Ronaldo and his league-leading 22 goals, they needn’t have as Carlo Ancelotti’s side extended its unbeaten streak to 23 games in all competitions.
Instead of struggling, Benzema recorded his 12th and 13th league goals, Bale provided more arguments he was worthy of his world-record transfer, and the 20-year-old Jesé gave Madrid’s fans more hope they have finally found their next homegrown star.
“It’s great to be back on the pitch and get a goal and an assist as well,” Bale, who had missed two games with a leg injury, said. “(Cristiano) is obviously missed. He is the world’s best player. We knew we had to do the job without him.”
Atlético failed to rebound from its 3-0 King’s Cup defeat at Madrid on Wednesday as it lost for just the second time in 23 league matches in this campaign. It has dropped seven points in the last five rounds.
Almería stifled its attack and a pair of mistakes by back-up goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubía, starting for the injured Thibaut Courtois, doomed Diego Simeone’s side.
After Almería forward Aleix Vidal’s shot came off both posts, Aranzubía let José “Verza” García’s cross fall over his head in the 80th. The veteran goalie compounded that in the 86th by losing the ball to Jonathan Zongo’s pressure and earning a questionable red card as he dove to recover the ball.
Verza slotted the spot kick past midfielder Gabi Fernández, who had to defend the net with all three changes already made.
To make matters worse, Atlético midfielder Tiago Cardoso was carried off with a leg injury after he received a hard tackle midway through the second half. “We don’t look for excuses,” Simeone said. “The only way we know how to continue forward in the same fashion that got us here is to keep on working. What concerns me most about today is Tiago.”
Barcelona trails Atlético and Madrid by three points before it visits Sevilla today.