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.


Simona Halep positive despite Dubai defeat by Belinda Bencic

Updated 21 February 2019
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Simona Halep positive despite Dubai defeat by Belinda Bencic

  • Former world No.1 blames three-set loss on tiredness after nine matches in 13 days.
  • Halep has high hopes for the rest of 2019, saying her game is in good shape.

LONDON: Simona Halep is still certain a good year lies in store for her despite losing to Belinda Bencic in the Dubai quarterfinals.
The Romanian former world No. 1 was the favorite to win her second title in the emirate but ran out of steam as her Swiss opponent ran out 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 winner.
It was Halep’s ninth match in just 13 days and she admitted tiredness had caught up with her.
“It was really difficult physically. I was tired,” the world No. 2 said.

Bencic came from a set down to beat the favorite in the last-eight encounter in Dubai. (AFP) 


“After the second set, I felt like I’m getting cramping a little bit. It’s normal. I was sweating a lot.”
While, her fatigue was clear for all to see, Halep was not using it as an excuse, admitting Bencic, who has now beaten her in two of their three matches, was the deserved winner.
“Yeah, she played well. She played very well. In the end, she was a little bit stronger,” the Romanian said.
Having lost in the Qatar final last weekend and failed to make the last-four in Dubai you might think Halep would be disappointed with her Middle East stint. She was, however, far from glum and revealed she is looking forward to landing more titles to add to her collection during the rest of the year.

Cheerio from Halep after her defeat to the Swiss. (AFP) 


“I think were three good weeks. Tough weeks. A lot of tension, a lot of pressure. Also the Fed Cup,” she said.
“I take only positive things. I had great matches. My level is good. Physically also I’m good. But day by day I had to play, so is not easy.
“I’m confident for the next tournaments.”