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La Liga: Ronaldo’s late winner saves Real Madrid; Atleti cruise 5-0

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo rescued Real Madrid from another stumble at home when he scored after his penalty kick was saved to secure a 3-2 win over Malaga in the Spanish league on Saturday.

Ronaldo got the 75th-minute winner by knocking in the ball following Malaga goalkeeper Roberto Jimenez’s save. Jimenez denied him on two clear chances in the first half before Ronaldo finally got his second league goal in 13 rounds.

The win put Madrid seven points behind leader Barcelona, which faces an important trip to second-place Valencia on Sunday.

Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane blamed his team’s passing mistakes on why the defending Liga champions twice lost the lead to a team in the relegation zone, before finally taking control.

“We knew that possession of the ball is a weapon that we have, and we lost the ball several times,” Zidane said. “In the end … we have to focus on the result since we know that we did some things well and that there were some other things that didn’t go as we would have liked.”

Karim Benzema also netted just his second league goal to put Madrid ahead in the ninth when he nodded in a rebound of Ronaldo’s header that came off the crossbar.

Malaga hadn’t scored a goal in all six of its previous league games away from home, but it leveled through Diego Rolan in the 18th by capitalizing on an error by Madrid’s Toni Kroos. The Germany midfielder blundered with a back pass near his own area, and Sergio “Keko” Gontan pounced to send in a cross for unmarked Rolan to control with his chest and fire home.

Casemiro headed Madrid ahead again and Malaga forward Gonzalo “Chory” Castro made it 2-2 with a long-range strike.

Madrid was heading to another costly slip at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium – where it failed to win the first three league matches – until substitute Luka Modric was tripped by Luis Hernandez in the area. That allowed Ronaldo to step up and take what turned out to be the winner.

Malaga lost defender Juan Carlos Perez to a left knee injury early.

“I believe we deserved much more (from the match),” said Malaga coach Michel Gonzalez, a former Madrid player.

“We are all worried about Juan Carlos’ knee because he is in a lot of pain, and that hurts us more than the loss.”

Kevin Gameiro scored twice and played a direct part in three more goals to lead Atletico Madrid’s 5-0 rout at Levante.

Atletico’s biggest win of the season allowed it to move ahead of Real Madrid and into third place on goal difference.

Antoine Griezmann also scored twice.

Real Betis salvaged a 2-2 draw at home with Girona after a wild finish that included goals from both teams in the dying moments.

Girona appeared set to get the win after Cristian “Portu” Portugues netted his second goal four minutes into stoppage time.

But just after the restart, Betis substitute Cristian Tello controlled a long ball with his chest, dribbled past a defender and slotted in a strike on the last kick of the match.

Ten-man Eibar dealt Alaves its 11th loss of the season after winning 2-1 on the road in a derby of small Basque Country clubs.

Charles scored Eibar’s second goal then received a direct red card for shoving the head of an Alaves player in the 83rd.

AT HALF: Lukaku, Lingard have Man Utd up at West Brom (video)

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Romelu Lukaku didn’t celebrate much more than a fist pump following his match-opening goal against former teammates West Bromwich Albion.

[ MORE: Watch via NBCSports.com).

No one said anything about celebrating teammates’ goals, though.

Lukaku scored to give the Red Devils a 1-0 lead, then watched as Jesse Lingard‘s deflected lash left Ben Foster high and dry as United cruised into the break up two goals.

It’s 10th PL goal of the season for Lukaku, who has 15 in all competitions. For Lingard, it’s four and seven.

Here’s Lingard’s marker:

Celtic’s record unbeaten run ends at 69 matches

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Celtic’s unbeaten domestic run has ended at 69 matches, and it ended with a thud.

Tynecastle Park was the scene for a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Hearts, a defeat started by a 16-year-old’s first Scottish Premiership goal.

[ REPORT: Luiz done at Chelsea? ]

Harry Cochrane’s his name, and his 26th minute goal gave Hearts the lead, and it was 2-0 by halftime through Kyle Lafferty, the ex-Burnley and Norwich player.

David Milinkovic scored three minutes after halftime, as the wake-up call didn’t arrive at the break, and added a penalty kick late in the match.

Celtic has a two-point lead on second-place Aberdeen with a match-in-hand. Rangers sit five-points back.

Sixty-nine games! Remarkable in any league. Here’s what Rodgers had to say:

“But I also want to congratulate my players. To have gone through 69 games and this to be their first defeat; of course it’s a sore one when you are beaten like that but they can hold their heads up. They have been absolutely amazing over those 18 months.”

WATCH LIVE: West Brom vs. Manchester United

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The Hawthorns is the scene as Manchester United attempts to pull back into sole possession of second place on the Premier League table with a visit to West Bromwich Albion (Watch live at 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Baggies have several regular starters on the bench, with Chris Brunt, Gareth Barry, and Gareth McAuley (Allllll the Gareths!) getting a rest.

United will hand starts to Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, with Anthony Martial on the bench with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

LINEUPS

West Bromwich Albion: Foster; Nyom, Hegazi, Evans, Gibbs, Krychowiak, Yacob, Livermore, Burke, McClean, Rondon. Subs: Myhill, Robson-Kanu, Brunt, Barry, Rodriguez, McAuley, Field.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Young, Herrera, Matic, Mata, Lingard, Rashford, Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Rojo, Shaw, McTominay, Ibrahimovic, Martial.

Report: Luiz done at Chelsea, perhaps as soon as January

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A report out of England says Chelsea defender David Luiz could be out the door in January.

Luiz, 30, has a knee injury and has played in just one match for Chelsea since a Halloween loss to Roma in the Champions League, one that supposedly culminated in a blow-up between the defender and manager Antonio Conte.

He was sold once before by Chelsea, shipped to Paris Saint-Germain for $66 million in 2014 before returning to Stamford Bridge in 2016 for $45 million.

[ MAN CITY-SPURS: 3 things |  Studs and duds ]

Luiz has made just one appearance, a Nov. 22 match in Qarabag, since that Roma loss. He returned to the bench against Liverpool before being diagnosed with a knee injury.

The report says Juventus is a possible destination for Luiz, though the Champions League could be a problem for both sides. Luiz is Cup-tied to Chelsea, and Juventus remains in the UCL as well.

And Chelsea would need reinforcements at the back. It’s back three has operated with Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Gary Cahill. Other options are Antonio Rudiger and 20-year-old Jake Clarke-Salter, which would be fine were Chelsea not alive in four competitions (The League Cup quarterfinals have the Blues hosting Bournemouth on Wednesday).

The power seems a bit more in Luiz’s hands thanks to some of Conte’s sanctioned loans. Kurt Zouma has arguably been Stoke City’s most consistent performer in an under siege unit, one of 10 backs on season-long loans. The most sense is to find reconciliation, presuming the dust-up is real, and move on in the summer if necessary.