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La Liga: Madrid struggles early in win, Valencia prevails late

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Real Madrid weathered a Real Valladolid penalty miss, two opposing goals ruled out by VAR, and an eventual opener for the hosts, before finally rising up to a 4-1 win at Estadio Jose Zorrilla. While Karim Benzema scored twice in the second half in the comeback win.

Madrid full-back Alvaro Odriozola fouled Sergi Guardiola just 12 minutes in, but Ruben Alcaraz delivered a horrid penalty miss miles over the bar. Moments later the hosts had the ball in the back of the net but VAR ruled Keko offside on his delivery for Guardiola’s goal. Next up, Guardiola was offside as he headed the ball into the net before the 20-minute mark, but he’s flagged for offside and VAR confirms the decision.

Finally, they went in front as Moroccan midfielder Anuar finishes off a combined delivery from Keko and Guardiola. That was the blow to wake Real Madrid up, and they would go on to a storming victory. Raphael Varane started the party in the 34th minute to equalize thanks to a horrible punch from Jordi Masip, and Benzema got his first from the penalty spot soon after halftime. He put Madrid 3-1 up on a header from a Toni Kroos corner, and despite Casemiro’s marching orders 10 minutes from time, Luka Modric finished the scoring as the game wound down on a feed from who else but Benzema.

10-man Valencia looked to have coughed up a late lead after Facundo Roncaglia was sent off, but 19-year-old Ferran Torres rescued all three points in the 90th minute with a vicious counter. Girona had equalized twice in front of the home fans, for the second time in the 83rd minute, but the young Valencia product rounded Girona goalkeeper Bono on a breakaway and scored into the open net to secure the win, moving his club into seventh in the table.

Jonas Ramalho was the first to bring Girona back level in the 22nd minute, canceling out Goncalo Guedes’s early goal. After Dani Parejo put Valencia back in front soon after the halftime break, Roncaglia earned two yellows in a 10-minute span as the visitors lost a man. Cristhian Stuani was on hand to take advantage from the spot with seven minutes to go, but Torres pulled Valencia into sixth in the La Liga table.

Real Betis kept pace with Valencia with a 1-0 win over Celta Vigo, finally finding a winner in the 80th minute as Jese Rodriguez pinged home a rebound after a shot from Cristian Tello was saved by Ruben Blanco. The visitors at Estadio Municipal de Baladios dominated the match with 14 shots to Celta Vigo’s seven, holding the hosts to just a single shot on target. Betis sits in seventh, level with Valencia on points but back on goal differential.

A four-goal second half saw Sevilla run away with a 5-2 win over Real Sociedad at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium. Wissam Ben-Yedder scored a second-half hat-trick to lead the way, with the third coming from over 30 yards out as goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli challenged way out of net on a breakaway but was beaten. Sevilla moved to sixth with the win, jumping both Valencia and Betis.

La Liga: Real Madrid shocked again; Sevilla in freefall

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

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Real Madrid 1-2 GironaMORE

Madrid’s five-game winning streak is no more after Santiago Solari’s side suffered yet another embarrassing defeat on the season, this time at home to 15th-place Girona.

Sergio Ramos added yet another red card to his record tally — he now has 20 in La Liga play — with his side already 2-1 down after throwing away an early lead. Casemiro put Los Blancos ahead after 25 minutes, and win no. 6 appeared a foregone conclusion until it all fell apart in the second half. Cristhian Stuani converted from the penalty spot in the 65th minute — made possible by Ramos’ first yellow card — and Portu completed the comeback in the 75th.

The defeat sees Madrid slip below Atletico Madrid in the race for second place, now nine points back of leaders Barcelona. El Clasico is two weeks away, at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, March 2.

Villarreal 3-0 Sevilla

Once upon a time, Sevilla were the closest challengers to Barca’s crown. Now, following a third straight defeat — and having won just once in their last eight league games — Pablo Machin’s side is in an uncontrollable freefall.

18th-place Villarreal piled on the misery on Sunday, thrashing Sevilla to the tune of 3-0 and never letting the once-title hopefuls have a sniff of the game. Alvaro Gonzalez put the home side ahead after 20 minutes; Karl Toko Ekambi doubled the lead in the first minute following the halftime restart; Alfonso Pedraza completed the rout in the 86th.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Valencia 0-0 Espanyol
Real Betis 1-1 Alaves

Girona shocks Atletico Madrid behind stunning goals

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Co-owned by Pep Guardiola and the City Football Group, Girona isn’t your average minnow. However, what Girona did on Wednesday is worthy of a closer look.

Girona came back from a goal down on two occasions, eventually scoring on a breath-taking counter attack in the 88th minute to advance past Atletico Madrid, 4-4 on away goals at the Wanda Metropolitano. With the draw, Girona advances to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey, the farthest it has ever gone so far in the competition.

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Nikola Kalinic put the hosts up 1-0 early, but that was before Valery Fernandez, who made his first-team debut in La Liga just last month, became a household name around Spain and the talk of the internet. Fernandez touch a touch on a cross into the box with his chest and then on the volley, rifled a goal past Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Antonio Adan.

Cristhian Stuani and Angel Correa traded goals, before Antoine Griezmann put Atleti back in front with a goal in the 84th minute.

But four minutes later, a turnover in midfield led to a break for Girona, where veteran forward Seydou Doumbia re-directed a shot from Borja Garcia in to give Girona the result it needed.

La Liga: Sevilla moves top, Girona tops Espanyol in Barcelona

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Barcelona and Atletico Madrid drew on Saturday, and now see a new league leader as a result.

Andre Silva scored the game’s lone goal as Sevilla beat Real Valladolid 1-0 to move back into the lead in the Spanish top flight. Silva headed home from close range on the half-hour mark for his eighth league goal of the season in 12 matches, including his first since late September. Sevilla goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik preserved the win in added time with an acrobatic save to tip the ball over the bar as Enas Unal ripped a scissor kick on net.

Girona earned a big win thanks to a double from Cristhian Stuani inside the first six minutes, topping Espanyol on the road 3-1. His first came on a corner four minutes in, rising high near the penalty area and powering a header into the ground and inside the far post. Just two minutes later, he powered home another header on another corner as Girona went 2-0 up immediately. Borja Iglesias brought Espanyol back within one with 16 minutes to go, but Seydou Doumbia put the game away at the end of regulation.

Stuani’s brace moved him into the La Liga goalscoring lead, with 10 goals in 11 matches. That puts him one ahead of Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The win also moves Girona into the top half, into seventh on 20 points as they jump Eibar, Valencia, and Levante.

Athletic Bilbao couldn’t hold a lead and slumped to a 1-1 draw as Jaime Mata scored in the 77th minute to share the points and leave Athletic in the relegation zone. Peru Nolaskoain flicked in a set-piece header on 67 minutes, but Mata was there to equalize 10 minutes later and earn the point.

Villareal, meanwhile, pulled off the relegation zone by beating Real Betis 2-1 at home, as the three points pushed them to 16th, three points above Athletic. Gerard Moreno and Samuel Chukwueze scored for the home side despite less than 40% possession for Villareal.

Girona wins at winless Villarreal thanks to Stuani

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MADRID (AP) Villarreal’s struggles at the start of the Spanish league continued in a 1-0 home loss to Girona on Friday.

Cristhian Stuani scored shortly after halftime for the visitors, giving Villarreal its second loss in three matches.

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Coming off a fifth-place finish last season, Villarreal opened with a 2-1 home loss to Real Sociedad, then drew Sevilla 0-0 in the second round.

Villarreal had a first-half goal disallowed for offside courtesy of VAR, which is making its Spanish league debut this season.

Girona also hadn’t won yet, having drawn with promoted Valladolid 0-0 and losing to Real Madrid 4-1.

Also, Eibar halted its two-match losing streak with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory against Real Sociedad.

Substitute Charles scored the winner with a header in stoppage time.

Sociedad has yet to win in five matches at Eibar’s Ipurua Stadium.

Getafe and promoted Valladolid played to a scoreless draw in Getafe’s Alfonso Perez Coliseum.

Defending champion Barcelona and Real Madrid are the only teams to open with consecutive victories. Madrid hosts Leganes at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Saturday, while Barcelona faces promoted Huesca at Camp Nou Stadium on Sunday.

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