Real Madrid 2-1 Elche: Benzema keeps Los Blancos' title hopes alive

By Sports Desk March 13, 2021

Real Madrid's LaLiga title hopes are still intact after Karim Benzema inspired a 2-1 comeback win over Elche on Saturday.

Having drawn their last two league fixtures, Madrid had the chance to leapfrog Barcelona into second place and close the gap on Atletico Madrid, temporarily at least, to five points.

But a lacklustre display looked like it would result in a third straight league draw – Benzema having cancelled out Dani Calvo's header.

Madrid's slim chances of catching Atleti were handed a late boost, however, when Benzema thundered in a supreme finish in stoppage time to snatch the points.

 

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    Jude Bellingham’s dream start to life at Real Madrid continued as his mesmerising solo goal helped the Spanish giants down Napoli to make it two wins from two in this season’s Champions League.

    Having grabbed a last-gasp winner to see off Union Berlin a fortnight ago, Bellingham first teed up Vinicius Junior to score after Leo Ostigard had put Napoli ahead at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

    Bellingham’s fabulous driving run and strike put Real ahead and, although they were pegged back by Piotr Zielinski’s penalty, Federico Valverde’s venomous strike rebounded off Alex Meret as Napoli lost 3-2.

    Bellingham’s stunning goal – his eighth in nine matches since moving to the Spanish capital in the summer – threatened to be overshadowed by a contentious penalty awarded to the hosts.

    Nacho Fernandez was penalised as the ball inadvertently cannoned off his legs into his arm after he had slid to cut out a cross from Victor Osimhen. While a corner was awarded on-field, referee Emil Bozinovski reversed his decision and gave a spot-kick after being summoned to the VAR monitor.

    But Meret’s own goal saw Carlo Ancelotti enjoy a winning return to the side he managed from May 2018 to December 2019 as Real moved on to six points to go top of Group C.

    Bellingham was immediately into the thick of proceedings as a long ball allowed Rodrygo to stretch his legs, although the Brazilian was unsettled enough by Stanislav Lobotka to shoot straight at Meret.

    Bellingham and Aurelien Tchouameni blazed over, but Napoli opened the scoring in the 19th minute, thanks in part to Real goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga missing a punch to clear Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s corner.

    Although Bernardo Natan’s looping header thudded back off the bar, Ostigard was able to leap over Real defender Dani Carvajal to nod the rebound into an empty net.

    The lead lasted eight minutes as Bellingham stretched to intercept Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s clumsy pass deep in Napoli’s half before teeing up Vinicius, who calmly slotted across Meret from an acute angle.

    Real then went ahead for the first time in the 34th minute thanks to some magic from Bellingham, who collected on halfway, drove forward into the area and bulldozed his way round Ostigard before tucking a right-footed effort into the corner past Meret for his second Champions League goal in two matches.

    Kepa atoned for his earlier error by getting a strong hand to keep out a header from Osimhen, who came out on top in an aerial battle with Antonio Rudiger, to keep Real ahead at half-time.

    However, Napoli got the benefit of a questionable VAR decision after Osimhen’s attempted cross was cut out in the area by Nacho, whose sliding challenge ricocheted off his arm and out of play.

    Bozinovski seemed bemused after being told to wait, but when he was called to the monitor the referee duly awarded a penalty, converted via a post by Zielinski, who scored his 50th Napoli goal.

    That moment of fortune lifted Napoli as Kvaratskhelia shot wide before Zielinski saw his stinging drive from distance palmed away by Kepa, with Real forced to soak up some intense pressure on the hour.

    Shortly after Ancelotti sent on Luka Modric, Real went close to retaking the lead as Carvajal’s snap shot was parried into the path of Bellingham, who headed the rebound wide, to his dismay.

    But Real went ahead with 12 minutes left as Modric’s corner was only cleared to Valverde, who brought the ball down and unleashed a thunderbolt that crashed off the crossbar then thumped off the back of an unsuspecting Meret, who had been beaten for pace by the shot, before nestling in the net.

    Ostigard forced Kepa into a save late on as Real rode a few nervy moments to pick up an important win.

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    Jacob Bruun Larsen’s dramatic winner snatched Burnley their first Premier League win of the season – a 2-1 victory at Luton.

    The Dane’s goal-of-the-season contender came after Lyle Foster’s opener had been cancelled out by Hatters striker Elijah Adebayo.

    Rob Edwards’ side were left to rue missed chances once again as they failed to build on Saturday’s 2-1 win at Everton.

    Carlton Morris set the tone in the opening seconds when he closed down goalkeeper James Trafford’s clearance and minutes later his strike from inside the box went narrowly wide as the hosts looked for an early opener.

    Burnley were second-best for the first 20 minutes, but Vincent Kompany’s men rode the storm and began to enjoy some success.

    Clarets forward Zeki Amdouni tested Thomas Kaminski with a header from a corner that forced an acrobatic save from the Belgian to keep the score level.

    This came shortly before Josh Brownhill had fired a warning shot from distance which narrowly avoided Kaminski’s top corner.

    The chance of the half came in the 33rd minute. Alfie Doughty found wing-back partner Issa Kabore and he sent over a cross in search of Morris but the ball fell kindly for Chiedozie Ogbene, whose diving header was inches away from nestling inside Trafford’s post.

    However, it was Burnley who struck first in time added on in the first half.

    Sander Berge did well to find Foster and he beat Tom Lockyer in a foot race to tuck his effort away.

    The Hatters almost equalised when Doughty’s inch-perfect corner found the head of Morris and his glancing header went inches wide.

    Substitute Adebayo found the head of Jacob Brown who was denied by Josh Cullen on the line as the tide began to turn with 25 minutes to go.

    After Morris was denied a penalty, his header missed the target once again as it started to feel like it was not going to be the Hatters’ night.

    But it was Adebayo who grabbed Luton the goal they deserved after 84 minutes.

    Reece Burke got on the end of a deep cross and provided the knockdown to the striker, who sorted his feet out and tapped home to level.

    But their joy was short-lived as Burnley scored a second a minute later to stun Kenilworth Road into silence.

    Bruun Larsen cut inside and produced an outstanding curled effort which found the top corner in front of the away fans.

    Luton searched for a second equaliser during seven added minutes but it was not to be and Burnley held on for the win to move up to 18th in the table.

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    Barcelona boss Xavi insists his side are “ready” for their first away game in the Champions League against Porto on Wednesday.

    Barca were victorious in their opening game in the competition after they ran riot with a 5-0 win over Antwerp thanks to goals from Robert Lewandowski, Gavi, Jelle Batille’s own goal and a Joao Felix double.

    Xavi’s side will be looking to make it two wins from two with victory at the Estadio do Dragao which would put them in an early comfortable position of qualifying from the group stages, something they failed to do in the competition last year.

    Xavi knows the size of the task in front of his team but thinks they are prepared for the challenge.

    He told Barca TV: “This is the Champions League. We are ready and excited to play tomorrow.

    “We have in front a very difficult club in this stadium. It will be tough and really difficult because they play well, a good team with a good coach, very intensive, but we are ready.

    “We are really excited and let’s see tomorrow.”

    Felix has enjoyed a bright start to life in Barcelona since making the loan switch from Spanish rivals Atletico Madrid, notching three goals in his first six matches.

    The forward will come up against a team from his native Portugal but insists “it is just another game”.

    He added: “It may be special because it is a Portuguese side and more family and friends will be in the stands, but this is just another game that we aim to win.

    “We want to take the Champions League step by step. Our aim is to get through the group and this is probably the toughest game of the group stage.”

    Porto opened their campaign with a 3-1 win against Shakhtar Donetsk and have not faced Barcelona in the Champions League for 23 years.

    Boss Sergio Conceicao said: “Let’s go into the game thinking that we can and should win. With confidence. The respect we have for our opponents doesn’t have to make us afraid of anything.

    “All teams have weaknesses that can be exploited. We have to be solid in defence and then take advantage of any weaknesses (in Barcelona) to win the game.”

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