Valencia

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La Liga: Asensio shines like a star, but Real Madrid draw Valencia

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MADRID (AP) Marco Asensio was impressive again, but his two remarkable goals were enough only to salvage a 2-2 draw against Valencia in Real Madrid’s home opener in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Asensio scored the second of his two goals from a free kick in the 83rd minute at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

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The disappointing result left the defending champions two points behind Real Sociedad, Barcelona and Leganes — the three teams which have won each of their first two matches.

“We deserved more, but you can’t always win,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “We had several clear chances to score but couldn’t do it. I’m not happy with the result but I’m proud of the game we played.”

Asensio scored Madrid’s opener in the 10th with a neat run through the middle after a defensive blunder by Valencia. Asensio calmly finished with a well-placed left-foot shot into the left corner.

His second goal came only six minutes after Valencia had taken a 2-1 lead. He struck a low free kick that went around the wall and was too much for Valencia goalkeeper Neto.

“We let two points escape,” Madrid right back Dani Carvajal said.

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Valencia, coming off a 1-0 win against Las Palmas in the opener, equalized a few minutes after Asensio’s first goal with a close-range shot by Carlos Soler. The visitors went ahead in the second half with a low strike from inside the area by French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia.

“Both teams could have ended with the victory,” Valencia coach Marcelino said. “But the draw turned out to be a good result for us and I’m proud of my players.”

Madrid struggled offensively without the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo. Karim Benzema wasted opportunities in front of the goal, including from close-range in the 88th. His injury-time header struck the post after being tipped by the goalkeeper.

Neto had already made a great save against Luka Modric’s strike from just outside the area midway through the second half.

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A few minutes later, it was Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas who brilliantly stopped a free kick shot by Valencia midfielder Dani Parejo.

Before the game, Madrid was officially handed the La Liga trophy it won last season.

Madrid, which had opened with a 3-0 win at Deportivo La Coruna, was without suspended defender Sergio Ramos.

On Saturday, Barcelona won 2-0 at Alaves with a pair of goals by Lionel Messi. Atletico Madrid earned its first league victory with a 5-1 rout at Las Palmas.

Paulo Henrique Ganso scored with a brilliant touch in the 83rd minute to give Sevilla a 1-0 win at Getafe.

The Brazilian midfielder neatly redirected the ball into the net after a low cross from the right, securing Sevilla its first league victory.

Sevilla was coming off a disappointing 1-1 home draw against Espanyol.

Getafe had opened with a 0-0 draw at Athletic Bilbao.

Leganes defeated Espanyol 1-0 Sunday to continue its perfect start in the Spanish league.

Argentine defender Martin Mantovani scored in the first half to give Leganes the away victory.

It was the second straight win for Leganes, which made its first-division debut last season.

“It’s the type of game that is worth more than three points, it’s an incredible result,” Mantovani said. “We are off to a very good start. We worked very hard in the offseason for this. We can’t get too excited, but it gives us motivation to keep working.”

Mantovani said he forgot to honor his pregnant wife during the goal celebration, having promised her to put the ball under his shirt if he scored.

“She is going to kill me,” he said, smiling.

Athletic Bilbao improved from its opening draw at home by defeating Eibar 1-0 with a first-half goal by Aritz Aduriz.

The veteran striker scored with a close-range header at Eibar’s Ipurua Stadium.

Eibar opened with a 1-0 win at Malaga.

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Valencia wins again to attain highest position yet

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By defeating Celta Vigo 3-2 at home on Thursday, Valencia won consecutive games for just the third time all season, but more importantly, attained some hope.

A winner from Carlos Soler in the 86th minute saw Voro Gonzalez win for the seventh time since taking over in January, and the club moved into 12th place in the La Liga table – its highest position all season long.

Soler’s goal on its own was brilliant – a delicious lob that left goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez completely bamboozled. On a broader scale, it marks a potential rebirth of Valencia after a season of headscratching results. Sinc3 1997, Valencia finished in the bottom half of the La Liga table just once, winning two league titles in the process and qualified for the Champions League 10 times. This team is not one that is used to bottom-half struggles.

Last season, the club won just twice in the final two months to slump to a 12th placed finish, and the struggles continued through this campaign. But now, with a gritty win against a strong Celta Vigo side, there is a platform for potential growth.

There’s still plenty of work to be done, with one of the league’s worst defenses and an offense only capable of counterbalancing such a struggling back line on occasion, but for now, the potential for saving the season is there, and while no tangible goals are left to attain, the higher the finish now, the better foundation there is for next season to build upon.

La Liga roundup: Barcelona earns crazy win, Atletico keeps pace

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Barcelona faced adversity against Valencia at the Nou Camp, but they fended off pesky Valencia 4-2 on a pair from Lionel Messi and one each by Luis Suarez and Andre Gomes.

The first half was wild. Eliaquim Mangala headed home a corner to put Valencia ahead inside the opening half-hour, but it wasn’t long before Suarez hit back to draw back level. It appeared to be crumbling for the visitors when Mangala picked up his second yellow card for a pull-back Suarez in the box, both earning Barcelona a penalty and seeing Valencia down a man. Messi bagged the penalty before the break for a 2-1 lead, but Valencia struck back not a minute later as Munir El Haddadi scored on the stroke of halftime to make it 2-2 at the break.

The pivotal moment came in the 52nd minute as Neymar was clean through, but Diego Alves made an incredible save to keep the game level. Moments later, Messi put Barcelona in front with his 25th La Liga goal, skirting two defenders and beating Alves to his near post. That put Barcelona 3-2 up, and they finished it off against the tiring visitors with one from Andre Gomes with two minutes to go.

Atletico Madrid scored a massive victory by beating Sevilla at home 3-1. Diego Godin, Antoine Griezmann, and Koke all scored to give the home side all three points, a huge win that closed the gap with Sevilla in third at just two points. Griezmann’s goal was especially pretty, a left-footed rocket on a free-kick just outside the box that clipped the underside of the bar and cannoned in.

The loss likely shuts the book on any outside shot Sevilla may have had at the La Liga title, now sitting eight points back of Real Madrid, who also has a game in hand.

Elsewhere, Celta Vigo had struggled to translate its solid Europa League performances into sustained league form, but they managed to this weekend with a 1-0 win over Deportivo. Iago Aspas in particular is on a roll, and he scored the lone goal in the game, his sixth goal in his last nine games across all competitions. Aspas managed to slip by three defenders unnoticed at the back post, and Claudio Beauvue met him with a cross for the 74th minute goal.

Sporting Gijon got a big win in a huge relegation matchup, winning 3-1 to move onto 18 points, just one back of their opponents. They’re still seven points off safety, but they now have some life in the fight. All three of Sporting’s goals came in a seven-minute span just past the hour mark.

Finally, Malaga continued to struggle, finishing with a scoreless draw against 17th placed Leganes. Malaga has won just one league match since November 26th.

Real Madrid adds intrigue to La Liga race with rare loss (video)

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The lone Wednesday match on La Liga’s docket injected some drama back into the chase for Spain’s crown.

Real Madrid fell 2-1 at Valencia, unable to overcome conceding twice in the first 10 minutes.

The match was one of two matches-in-hand Real held on its rivals for La Liga’s title. Now Real’s one-point lead over Barcelona and three-point advantage over Sevilla seem a bit more manageable.

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Simone Zaza and Fabian Orellana netted for Los Che, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s 44th minute goal was the only answer the leaders could muster before full time.

Zaza’s goal was a stunner:

Real could rebuild its lead over the weekend, with Barcelona off to Atletico Madrid on Sunday and Sevilla traveling to Betis on the heels of its UCL win over Leicester City.

But for now, life’s a bit more exciting in Spain. Real hosts Barcelona on April 23, and hosts Sevilla on the penultimate weekend of the season.

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Real Madrid 22 16 4 2 57 20 37 10-2-0 6-2-2 52
 Barcelona 23 15 6 2 63 19 44 7-3-1 8-3-1 51
 Sevilla 23 15 4 4 46 28 18 9-1-1 6-3-3 49
 Atlético Madrid 23 13 6 4 43 19 24 8-2-1 5-4-3 45
 Real Sociedad 23 13 2 8 36 32 4 7-2-3 6-0-5 41
 Villarreal 23 10 9 4 30 15 15 7-3-2 3-6-2 39