Sergio Ramos shines as Real win Madrid derby, close La Liga gap on Barcelona

Real Madrid's Casemiro celebrates scoring their first goal with Sergio Ramos. (Reuters)
Updated 09 February 2019
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Sergio Ramos shines as Real win Madrid derby, close La Liga gap on Barcelona

MADRID: Real Madrid are making it clear they are still in the fight for the Spanish league title.
With a convincing victory in the Madrid derby on Saturday, Real Madrid climbed up to second place in the Spanish league for the first time since September and moved within five points of leaders Barcelona, who have a difficult away match against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
“We reached our goal, which was to regain second place and move closer to the lead,” Madrid captain Sergio Ramos said. “The league isn’t over yet. There are many points still up for grabs. We will keep fighting until the end and we will keep trying to make things difficult for Barcelona.”
In a derby marked by video review, Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid 3-1 at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium with an overhead kick by Casemiro, a penalty kick converted by Ramos, and a second-half goal by Gareth Bale.
“You need to play a complete match to win here, and we did that,” manager Santiago Solari said.
Antoine Griezmann scored for Atletico, which lost at home for the first time this season. Diego Simeone’s team stayed six points off the lead.
Griezmann’s goal was initially disallowed for offside but the VAR reversed the call. Video review also had to be used to confirm the penalty that led to Ramos’ goal just before halftime, and to verify another offside call that disallowed a second-half equalizer by former Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata. It was also used when Morata wanted a penalty call — not awarded — later in the game.
Atletico, coming off their first league loss since the third round, played a man down from the 80th minute after midfielder Thomas Partey was sent off for a second yellow card.
The city rivals drew their last four league matchups, and Real Madrid’s last win against Atletico was nearly two years ago in the Champions League semifinals.
Saturday’s match was even when Casemiro opened the scoring with his an overhead kick after Atletico’s defense could not fully clear a corner kick.
Griezmann equalized less than 10 minutes later by sending a shot underneath goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in a one-on-one situation created after Real Madrid forward Vinicius Juniors lost the ball in attack. It took a while for the video review to reverse the offside call that initially disallowed the goal, keeping a record crowd of more than 67,752 at the Metropolitano from being able to celebrate.
The VAR then helped Real Madrid by confirming a penalty decision after Vinicius Junior made a great run down the left side and was brought down from behind by Jose Maria Gimenez just inside the area. Ramos converted the 42nd-minute penalty.
Atletico thought they had equalized again early in the second half after Morata — playing against his former club for the first time since joining Atletico — scored with a shot over Courtois, but he was immediately ruled offside.
Madrid sealed their fifth league win in a row with Bale’s low shot after a pass by Luka Modric in the 74th. Bale, who replaced Vinicius Junior earlier in the second half, appeared to provoke the Atletico crowd during his celebration near one of the sidelines.
Courtois, who used to play for Atletico, was loudly jeered from the start. Atletico fans threw stuffed rats toward the goalkeeper from behind one of the goals.


Mahrez and Mane duel in rematch for Africa Cup of Nations glory

Updated 18 July 2019
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Mahrez and Mane duel in rematch for Africa Cup of Nations glory

  • Algerian star Mahrez was part of the Manchester City team that edged out Mane’s Liverpool for the English title last season
CAIRO: Riyad Mahrez and Sadio Mane will renew their Premier League rivalry for a second time in Egypt, with Africa Cup of Nations immortality awaiting the victor of Friday’s final between Algeria and Senegal.
Algerian star Mahrez was part of the Manchester City team that edged out Mane’s Liverpool for the English title last season, grabbing a pivotal goal on the final day of the campaign.
Liverpool standout Mane, however, is attempting to fulfill his “wildest dream” as one of just a handful of Africans to win both the UEFA Champions League and Cup of Nations.
For the marquee name in a Senegalese side ranked top of the continent, and a surprising 46 places above Algeria, the ride to the final for Mane and the Teranga Lions has encountered its share of roadbumps.
Two missed Mane spot-kicks, a group stage loss to Algeria, and the loss of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to a broken finger have tested Senegal’s resolve in their quest for the Holy Grail of African football.
Coach Aliou Cisse is on a mission for personal redemption. He was the skipper of the side beaten on penalties in the 2002 final, with his missed kick handing the title to Cameroon.
“Having lost that final, I still have it on my mind,” said former Paris Saint-Germain and Birmingham City midfielder Cisse.
“What motivated me to become a coach was to be able to take Senegal to the final. My players told me they would do better than my generation.”
A maiden Cup of Nations for his country is a prize for which Mane readily admitted he would trade in last month’s Champions League title.
“I’m ready to even swap a Champions League for a Cup of Nations. Going to Dakar with the trophy would be extraordinary. It would be my wildest dream,” Mane told France Football ahead of the competition.
Standing in the way, however, is an Algerian outfit that has undergone a remarkable transformation since the arrival of Djamel Belmadi as coach a year ago.
The Desert Foxes failed miserably in World Cup qualifying, but the steely Belmadi has healed divisions in the squad to lead them to the brink of a first Cup of Nations triumph since 1990.
“To the Algerian people, I want to say I’m not a politician, not a miracle worker or a wizard, but that we will fight like we have fought to this point,” Belmadi said after the semifinal win over Nigeria.
Algeria are the leading scorers in Egypt with 12 goals, including Mahrez’s spectacular last-gasp free-kick against Nigeria, and haven’t trailed at all in the tournament.
“Algeria are so well organized, so compact, so ‘Guardiolaesque’ in the way they recover the ball,” opined experienced international coach Claude Le Roy. “Perhaps it is the influence of Mahrez.”
The Algeria captain has been in fine form for his country here, brimming with confidence after helping City to the domestic treble.
“We are very happy to be in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations because it is something very special,” said Mahrez.
“It was our goal to do it for the people and for our families. We know they are behind us all the way. It’s my dream to win the Cup of Nations.”
“It’s going to be another battle against Senegal,” he added. “We’ve been very good in this competition. The (Nigeria) match has given us more confidence for the final and we’re capable of winning it.”
Their hopes will boosted by the absence of Senegal’s defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly, whose yellow card in the semifinal victory over Tunisia cruelly ruled the Napoli star out of the final.
“It hurts to not be able to play. But I will be beside my brothers to write history,” tweeted Koulibaly, the cornerstone of a defense breached just once so far.