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La Liga & Serie A roundup: Suarez bags 4 again to keep Barcelona top

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Barcelona 6-0 Sporting Gijon

For quite a while, everything was close and remained in question for Barcelona … then came the final 15 minutes of Saturday’s thrashing of Sporting Gijon, in which the Blaugrana went from 2-0 up, with the game somewhat hanging in the balance, to 6-0 in the span of 14 minutes.

Lionel Messi put the hosts ahead on 12 minutes, after which point 51 minutes passed before Luis Suarez found the back of the net for 2-0. Suarez then bagged his brace and hat trick from the penalty spot on 74 and 77 minutes, before Neymar converted a penalty kick of his own in the 86th. Suarez picked up his fourth of the game (and 34th league goal of the season) for the second straight game in the 88th minute. With the final scoreline, Barca reclaim top spot in the league table, as well as the best goal differential tally in the league, 30 ahead of second-place Atletico Madrid and one ahead of third-place Real Madrid.

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Malaga

It wasn’t pretty — it rarely is for Atletico Madrid — but Diego Simeone’s side won again to keep pace with Barca, thanks to Angel Correa’s 62nd-minute winner which required a fair bit of good fortune in the form of a wicked deflection en route to finding the back of the net. The bigger story here, though, is that Simeone could be suspended three games after appearing to throw a ball onto the field with Malaga breaking out on the counter moments before halftime.

Rayo Vallecano 2-3 Real MadridFULL RECAP WITH HIGHLIGHTS

Joining Barca and Atleti in a suddenly unbelievably tight title race is Real Madrid, who came back from 2-0 down inside the game’s first 15 minutes to knock off Rayo Vallecano away from home … without Cristiano Ronaldo or Karim Benzema, who missed the game through injuries. Los Blancos still have that guy named Gareth Bale, though, and I hear he’s pretty good at soccer (HIGHLIGHTS HERE).

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Barcelona 35 26 4 5 102 29 73 15-1-2 11-3-3 82
Atlético Madrid 35 26 4 5 59 16 43 13-3-1 13-1-4 82
Real Madrid 35 25 6 4 104 32 72 15-1-2 10-5-2 81

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar vs. Deportivo La Coruña (underway)

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Levante vs. Athletic Bilbao (6 a.m. ET)
Sevilla vs. Real Betis (10 a.m. ET)
Getafe vs. Valencia (12:15 p.m. ET)
Villarreal vs. Real Sociedad (2:30 p.m. ET)

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Celta Vigo vs. Granada (2:30 p.m. ET)

Inter Milan 3-1 Udinese

Inter Milan are long-shot outsiders to finish in the top three in Italy (UEFA Champions League qualification), but they kept their faint hopes alive with a late victory over Udinese on Saturday.

Cyril Thereau put Udinese ahead after just nine minutes, but Stevan Jovetic equalized 10 minutes before halftime. With 15 minutes to play, the score remained 1-1. Jovetic broke the deadlock with his second of the day on 75 minutes, and Eder added the late insurance in the fourth minute of stoppage time to secure all three points for Roberto Mancini’s side, which looks a near-guarantee to finish fourth.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 34 26 4 4 65 17 48 14-2-1 12-2-3 82
Napoli 34 22 7 5 72 29 43 14-3-0 8-4-5 73
Roma 34 19 11 4 73 38 35 11-5-1 8-6-3 68
Inter Milan 35 19 7 9 47 32 15 12-2-4 7-5-5 64
Fiorentina 34 17 8 9 55 38 17 11-4-2 6-4-7 59
AC Milan 34 14 11 9 43 35 8 9-5-3 5-6-6 53

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Frosinone vs. Palermo (6:30 a.m. ET)
Torino vs. Sassuolo (9 a.m. ET)
Atalanta vs. Chievo (9 a.m. ET)
Bologna vs. Genoa (9 a.m. ET)
Sampdoria vs. Lazio (9 a.m. ET)
Fiorentina vs. Juventus (2:45 p.m. ET)

Monday’s Serie A schedule

Roma vs. Napoli (9 a.m. ET)
Hellas Verona vs. AC Milan (11 a.m. ET)
Carpi vs. Empoli (1 p.m. ET)

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

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Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

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Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.

Serie A: AC Milan on winning streak, Fiorentina woes deepen

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AC Milan secured its first winning streak since mid-September as Krzysztof Piatek and Theo Hernandez led the way to a 3-2 road win over Bologna.

Piatek was the first on the scoresheet, opening the scoring from the spot after the Polish striker was bundled over on the break by Mattia Bani. He utilized a heavy stutter in his run-up, but wrong-footed Bologna goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski for the conversion. Hernandez was next up, latching onto a perfect through-ball from Suso that sprung the former at the far post.

Bologna pulled one back before halftime on a Hernandez own-goal, but Giacomo Bonaventura restored the two-goal lead just seconds after the restart. Nicola Sansone’s late penalty made no difference in the result and Milan sits 10th in the league table, level on points with Torino.

Fiorentina slumped to its fourth straight loss as they fell at Torino 2-1. The visitors were soundly beaten on goals by Simone Zaza and Cristian Ansaldi, only able to grab a consolation strike from Martin Caceres in stoppage time. They put just four of their 17 shots on net and had very few true chances until Caceres’s late goal. With the loss, Fiorentina drops to 13th in the table, just five points above the relegation zone. Vincenze Montella’s job is on the line, having just returned to the club in April for a second stint in charge after the departure of Stefano Pioli.

Cagliari failed to pull away from Roma with a 2-2 draw on the road at 14th placed Sassuolo. A comeback was required after falling down 2-0 before halftime. João Pedro brought the visitors one back just six minutes after the break, and Daniele Ragatzu rescued the point as he snuck one in at the near post a minute into added time. They also survived what could have been the game-winning goal as Domenico Berardi clattered the crossbar from the penalty stop on a chance that would have put the home side 3-1. Instead, Cagliari moves level with Roma on 29 points, clinging to the fourth Champions League spot on goal differential.

Genoa survived the final 13 minutes with just nine men, securing a 2-2 draw with Lecce that keeps them in the hunt for Serie A safety. Goran Pandev and Domenico Criscito had put Genoa 2-0 up before halftime, but they had coughed up the lead by the 70th minute. Still, things could have been worse as Kevin Agudelo was sent off with 20 minutes to go after conceding a penalty, while Pandev was given his marching orders in the 77th minute. The goals in this game were spectacular, with Pandev’s opener coming from nearly 40 yards out as he chipped Lecce goalkeeper Gabriel who was off his line, while Filippo Falco scored a fine curler to mark Lecce’s first on the hour mark.

Brescia topped SPAL 1-0 to leave the latter at the bottom of the Serie A table, with the lone goal coming via Mario Balotelli in the 54th minute as he collected a bobbling ball on the break and fired it in at the far post. The win was critical, moving 19th-placed Brescia to 10 points on the year, two from safety.

Parma defeated Sampdoria 1-0 on a 21st minute goal from Juraj Kucka that left Claudio Ranieri‘s squad just a point off the relegation zone.

Nuno expresses pride in Wolves achievements after Brighton draw

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Nuno Espirito Santo has expressed his pride in what Wolves has achieved so far this season after the 2-2 road draw at Brighton & Hove Albion.

The team reclaimed sixth place in the Premier League table with the point from the Amex, and while Nuno knows there were moments to improve on, he still believes the team is headed forward and looks back fondly on where they’ve come from.

[ RECAP: Wolves, Seagulls draw ]

“We are very proud of what we are achieving day by day but we want to keep on going,” Nuno said after the match. “We need to compete and prepare ourselves for the last game in the Europa League.”

He pointed to mistakes that led to Brighton goals, ones he believes a little tactical instruction should snuff out. “I am proud of how we stayed organized. We did not do well when he had to restart the game after the 1-1, we should not have played a horizontal pass that was intercepted.”

The head man was frustrated by one key thing, as his winger Adama Traore was fouled four times, all coming in the second half. “He’s a strong boy,” Nuno said. “Everybody can see that. No matter how strong you are, if you are being kicked it’s impossible.” He was seen having an animated conversation with the fourth official during the later stages of the game, with two of the four fouls drawn in the final 10 minutes as the visitors pushed for a winner.

The draw against Brighton was no anomaly – Wolves has achieved its impressive table position despite just five wins on the season. The key for them has been avoiding losses, with just two defeats on the year. They have drawn a shocking nine games, with the previous eight all either 0-0 or 1-1 before Sunday’s 2-2 finish. That leaves Wolves with an 11-game unbeaten streak, with the last loss coming in mid-September.

Nevertheless, Nuno knows the toughest part of the season is on the horizon. “The hardest part of the fixtures is going to start now. It will be tough for everybody.” Wolves has a match against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham next weekend before a festive season that sees the club play Norwich, Man City, Liverpool, and Watford between an eleven-day span.