Madrid draws, loses chance to move closer to Barcelona
MADRID (AP) — Barcelona stumbled again, and Real Madrid wasn’t able to capitalize.
Madrid missed a chance to move closer to the top of the Spanish league standings after being held by Athletic Bilbao to 1-1 on Sunday.
It could have moved within six points of the lead after Barcelona drew at home against Celta Vigo 2-2 for its second consecutive setback, but Zinedine Zidane’s team struggled in Bilbao and remained eight points behind the Catalan rival after 14 matches.
“We are disappointed,” Zidane said. “We are eight points behind because we haven’t been able to score more goals. It would have been great to have reduced the gap now, but we will have other opportunities.”
Madrid is three points behind second-place Valencia, which plays at Getafe on Sunday.
Madrid also lost ground to third-place Atletico Madrid, which defeated Real Sociedad 2-1 at home with a late winner by Antoine Griezmann.
Sevilla moved to within eight points of the lead after defeating Deportivo La Coruna 2-0 at home.
Madrid controlled possession and had most of the significant scoring chances at San Mames Stadium, but it was not able to get past Athletic goalkeeper Kepa.
Also, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema were denied by the woodwork.
It was the first time Zidane fielded the same 11 Madrid used when it defeated Juventus in the Champions League final this year.
Madrid defender Sergio Ramos was sent off for a second yellow card in the 86th minute. Ramos was wearing a protective mask as he returned to action after breaking his nose two weeks ago.
Midfielder Casemiro and right back Dani Carvajal will also miss next weekend’s match against Sevilla after being shown yellow cards.
Athletic, 15th in the 20-team standings, was coming off elimination to third-division club Formentera in the Copa del Rey.
Griezmann scored an 88th-minute winner as Atletico Madrid defeated Real Sociedad 2-1 to move closer to Barcelona.
“There is still a lot of league left,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said.
Griezmann’s winner was a tap-in after Saul Niguez’s header went across the goalmouth toward the far post, where the France striker waited to score his fourth goal in his last three games.
“We know that we didn’t play a great match, but the victory will give us confidence,” Griezmann said.
It was the fourth straight win for Atletico, which dominated at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Sociedad scored first with a penalty kick by striker Willian Jose.
Atletico kept pressing and missing. It finally equalized in the 63rd when left back Felipe Luis cleared a defender inside the area and fired into the far corner.
Barcelona stumbled for the second consecutive week, losing points at home for the first time after 18 straight league victories at Camp Nou in a streak almost a year old.
Barcelona had won 11 of its 13 league matches entering the weekend. Its other setbacks were draws at Atletico Madrid and, last week, at Valencia.
Celta, which lost only two of its last five games against Barcelona, opened the scoring with Iago Aspas’ close-range shot 20 minutes in.
Lionel Messi equalized two minutes later from inside the area after an assist by Paulinho, taking his league-leading tally to 13.
Luis Suarez put Barcelona ahead after a low cross by Jordi Alba in the 61st, becoming Barcelona’s 10th all-time top scorer with 127 in 165 games.
Celta evened the match less than 10 minutes later thanks to Maxi Gomez being set up by Aspas in a breakaway. Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti hurt his right hamstring in the play, and could be out until February.
Barcelona captain Andre Iniesta also had to be substituted because of an apparent injury early in the second half.
SEVILLA STAYS CLOSE
Sevilla moved to within eight points of Barcelona by defeating Deportivo La Coruna 2-0.
Wissam Ben Yedder has scored five in his last three matches.
Deportivo is just outside the relegation zone.
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