Sergio Ramos

AP Photo/Francisco Seco

Madrid beats Leganes 3-1 in game postponed from December

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid overcame the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and other regular starters Wednesday, coming from behind to defeat Leganes 3-1 Wednesday in a Spanish league match postponed from last year.

The result allowed the defending champions to regain third place from Valencia, but it did little to put Zinedine Zidane’s team back in the title race as it still trails leader Barcelona by 14 points after 24 matches. Madrid is seven points behind second-place Atletico Madrid.

[ MORE: Messi defies Conte’s successful tactics ]

Less than a month ago, Leganes jolted Madrid into a crisis by eliminating the Spanish powerhouse from the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

The hosts from southern Madrid went ahead less than 10 minutes into the match on Wednesday, but Madrid answered with first-half goals by Lucas Vazquez and Casemiro. Sergio Ramos sealed the victory by converting a 90th-minute penalty kick.

The league match was rescheduled from the 16th round because of Madrid’s participation in the Club World Cup in December, a competition it won.

Only in its second season in the first division, Leganes had a promising start to the campaign but has struggled recently. It hasn’t won in six matches and has lost four straight, dropping to 13th with 29 points.

Madrid has won four in a row, including 3-1 against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League last week.

Ronaldo, who scored twice against PSG and has 10 goals in his last six matches, was rested on Wednesday along with goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Marcelo, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are trying to recover from injuries in time for next month’s return match against PSG in Paris.

Leganes opened the scoring with a goal by Unai Bustinza six minutes into the match at Butarque Stadium. The defender dived in front of the ball as Madrid left back Theo Hernandez tried to clear it from near the goal line. The ball ricocheted off Bustinza’s head and shoulder and went into the net.

Madrid equalized five minutes later with Vazquez’s low shot into the far corner from inside the area after a through ball by Casemiro, and 20 minutes later it was the Brazilian defensive midfielder who found the net from close range after a pass by Vazquez.

Ramos scored from the penalty spot after Mateo Kovacic was pushed inside the area in the closing minutes.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

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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.

Ramos cleared to play for Real Madrid in La Liga

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has recovered from a broken nose and been cleared to play in the Spanish league this weekend.

The defender, wearing a protective mask, trained fully and was available to face Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, coach Zinedine Zidane said on Friday.

Ramos was injured two weeks ago in the derby against Atletico Madrid, and missed three matches.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Right back Dani Carvajal has also regained his fitness and is likely to return on Saturday.

Gareth Bale, however, is out again because of a muscle injury. Bale returned to action on Tuesday in the Copa del Rey against Fuenlabrada, helping to set up two goals, but felt discomfort again and has not practiced.

“It’s not something serious but we don’t want to take any risks,” Zidane said. “He hasn’t played for a long time, so it’s tough for him. I don’t know when he will be available again. He will overcome this.”

Bale has played only 10 matches for Madrid this season and missed the final World Cup qualifiers for Wales, which failed to qualify.

Madrid is fourth in the league, eight points behind leader Barcelona.

Athletic, 16th in the 20-team standings, is winless in five league games and is coming off Copa del Rey elimination by third-division club Formentera.

BARCELONA’S NEMESIS

On Saturday, Barcelona hosts a Celta Vigo team it has struggled against recently. The teams have split their last four matches.

“We have to be cautious,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said on Friday.

ATLETICO’S STREAK

Third-place Atletico Madrid hosts Real Sociedad on Saturday to try to extend its three-match winning streak in all competitions.

“Our defense had been playing well, but now the offense has been doing a god job as well,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Sergio Ramos suffers broken nose in Atletico Madrid draw

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Real Madrid trails Barcelona by 10 points in the La Liga title race just 12 matches in, and now they will have to play catch-up without their best defender.

Club captain Sergio Ramos suffered a broken nose after being accidentally kicked in the face by teammate Lucas Hernandez during the first half of Madrid’s 0-0 draw with cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid. He received treatment and remained on the field, but he was withdrawn at halftime.

Manager Zinedine Zidane was unable to give a timetable for Ramos’s return.

Ramos said via Twitter, alongside some graphic images of his bloody nose, “I would bleed a thousand times for this badge and this shirt. Thanks for your support. I’ll be back in no time.”

Up next for Madrid is Champions League group match against Cypriot club Apoel midweek before a league game against Malaga at home. Athletic Bilbao and Borussia Dortmund are also on the horizon. A masked Sergio Ramos could be in our midst soon.

Real Madrid has not lost a league match without Ramos since March of 2015, but they drew their only game this season with Ramos suspended, a 2-2 home split with Valencia.