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La Liga: Real Madrid win wild one, now just 17 points behind Barca

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona ties club-record 31-game unbeaten run ]

Real Betis 3-5 Real Madrid

So long as they manage to hold off Sevilla for fourth place (Champions League qualification), Real Madrid will quickly move on from their disastrous 2017-18 season, spend a half-billion dollars in the summer and pretend like the 12 preceding months never even happened.

For a brief period on Saturday — nearly 30 minutes including the halftime intermission — that plan appeared fatally flawed and at risk. After going 1-0 up away to Real Betis courtesy of Marco Asensio’s 11th-minute opener, Los Blancos found themselves in big trouble after Aissa Mandi leveled things up in the 33rd minute, followed by a Nacho own goal four minutes later.

Five minutes into the second half, Sergio Ramos drew the visitors level, followed by another from Asensio in the 59th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo made it 4-2 six minutes later, at which point Madrid appeared home free.

Sergio Leon pulled Betis to within one in the 85th minute, but Karim Benzema restored the two-goal lead in the 91st, less than two minutes after replacing Ronaldo.

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Athletic Bilbao

With Barcelona still unbeaten on the La Liga season, the title is all but decided with more than three months still to play. That hasn’t stopped Atleti, though, as Diego Simeone’s side, which has lost just once in the league, continues to pursue Lionel Messi and Co. Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao moved Los Rojiblancos back to within seven points of Barca with a dozen games, and one head-to-head matchup, still to play.

Kevin Gameiro scored what turned out to be the winner in the 67th minute, followed not long after by Diego Costa‘s second league goal of the season (fourth in all competitions) to make it 2-0.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 3-0 Levante
Espanyol 1-1 Villarreal

Real Madrid, Germany mid Kroos sprains knee ligament

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid says Germany midfielder Toni Kroos has injured a ligament in his left leg.

The Spanish club says tests revealed Kroos has a sprained ligament in his knee. It did not give an estimated time of recovery.

[ MORE: West Brom players investigated in Spain ]

Kroos is a first-choice player. He played all 90-plus minutes on Wednesday in the 3-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

The second leg of their round-of-16 tie is on March 6.

Madrid’s match at Real Betis on Sunday is the first of three Spanish league games in a span of seven days. It visits Leganes on Wednesday and hosts Alaves on Feb. 24.

PSG’s squabbling begins after defeat to Real Madrid

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Paris Saint-Germain lost 3-1 at Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday and it didn’t take a long for fingers to be pointed by some of their players.

And, many will say, rightly so.

Adrien Rabiot, 22, had some pretty loaded comments after the clash at the Santiago Bernabeu as the young midfielder seemed to take a swipe at PSG’s star attackers Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani who had an off night in the UCL Round of 16 first leg.

“The problem is that it’s easy to score eight goals in Dijon, but these are the kinds of matches we need to be winning,” Rabiot said. “As usual, we had chances, although they weren’t quite clear. When you play against teams like this they have two or three chances and they end up going in.”

Rabiot, who scored PSG’s lone goal in Madrid to give the French champions a first half lead, has a point. He and Marco Verrati gave Les Parisiens a solid platform from which to attack Real Madrid but Neymar and Co. squandered chances and went missing.

In a tie which will likely decided the future of both managers, the loser surely to be out by the end of the season, if not sooner, PSG’s stars didn’t shine brightest.

Yes, as a team PSG played extremely well in the second half and created opportunities but Real Madrid struck twice late on to give themselves a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg in Paris in three weeks time.

Given the chances they created against Real and the brittle confidence of Zinedine Zidane’s side this season, PSG will still feel like they’re in this tie and in with a chance of reaching the last eight.

Rabiot’s blast was supposed to be a wake-up call for his teammates and he will hope it has the desired effect.

Zidane gets it right as Real builds 3-1 lead over PSG

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The UEFA Champions League is not only the pride of Real Madrid, but the only bit of silverware still available to Zinedine Zidane’s men.

[ RECAP: Real Madrid 1-3 PSG ]

That put plenty of pressure on the club and its boss ahead of Wednesday’s first leg of the Round of 16 at the Bernabeu, with Paris Saint-Germain coming into town with an arsenal capable of submarining any team’s trophy hopes.

And the crowd was booing and whistling once Adrien Rabiot scored an away goal to put PSG ahead after 33 minutes. Cristiano Ronaldo converted a penalty to put it level into halftime, but doubt remained for the victors of three UCL titles in four seasons.

Certainly there was a bit of good fortune in the win — Sergio Ramos blocked a goal-bound shot with his arm and it went uncalled — but by the time a pair of Marco Asensio assists had put Real up 3-1, it was clear that Zidane and his men had favor back on their side.

“This club has 12 European Cups and that means a lot,” Zidane said. “This is such a prominent competition and we want to prove time and time again that this club values this. We showed it for the full 90 minutes. We coped well, both with and without the ball. We defended well, with aggression and rhythm.

“The Champions League really has a place in this club’s heart. We played 90 stunning minutes against a top rival. That’s all that we’re concerned with. We have to turn our attentions now to the return leg, that will be entirely different.”

It won’t be easy. Tactically, too, it will be interesting to see what Zidane opts to do at the Parc des Princes.  Zidane correctly urged his players to come flying out of the gates with hard pressing on Wednesday, and it would take bravery to proffer a similar plan in the second leg.

Just ask one of his best defenders.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

“Defensively we need help,” said Ramos. “We suffered because they have fast attacking players, but we answered well. We must always respect our rivals. We took an important step forward but the tie is wide open, so we need to keep plugging away.”

Zidane got it right tonight, though it’s funny to think of his being fired had the Ramos handball gone in PSG’s favor and two away goals somehow dooming Real. Just like it’s silly that Unai Emery may lose his job based on a two-goal deficit that came moments after that penalty shout went unheeded.

Ronaldo brace leads Real comeback vs. PSG

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Cristiano Ronaldo scored in each half to lead Real Madrid to a 3-1 first leg win over visiting Paris Saint-Germain in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Marco Asensio had two assists in five minutes, on Ronaldo’s second and a Marcelo marker.

Adrien Rabiot scored for PSG to give Les Parisiens an early lead and an away goal, but Toni Kroos was dropped in the box to give Ronaldo his chance to level the score.

The second leg is March 6 at the Parc des Princes.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Zidane had Real Madrid pressing the ball from the opening kickoff, leading to a series of chances and high-volume challenges in the first five minutes.

Cristiano Ronaldo whistled a shot wide of goal, Marquinhos made a timely intervention on Marcelo, and Toni Kroos had a penalty shout denied before PSG made its first attempt on goal through Yuri Berchiche.

Rabiot finished when fine work from Kylian Mbappe from the right bounded off a defender and into his path. His curled shot from 12 yards missed Nacho’s head and Keylor Navas’ left glove to make it 1-0.

Neymar then cued up Edinson Cavani in traffic, but his shot was deflected out for a corner.

Alphonse Areola made a tremendous save on Karim Benzema, but Kroos won a penalty in driving past Giovani Lo Celso. Ronaldo hammered his effort past Areola to make it 1-1 just before halftime.

Navas stopped Mbappe within minutes of the restart, with PSG aiming for a win with multiple away goals.

Both teams carried play at times in the second half, with goal mouth scrambles standing out in each box. Sergio Ramos made a pivotal block with his arm in the 74th minute. Could’ve been a penalty, not given.

Both Mbappe and Dani Alves couldn’t slide onto a Berchiche cross through the box in the 77th.

The breakthrough came courtesy of Marco Asensio’s cross, which was spilled by Areola onto the path of Ronaldo. The Portuguese megastar reacted to prod the ball in with his knee.

Navas stopped Mbappe to concede a corner in the 89th minute as PSG pushed for a second away goal, but it was Real who’d score again through a near identical Asensio cross from the left for Marcelo.