Tuesday 23 January 2018

late Valencia draw puts heat on Rafa

Old United rival Neville spoils win

Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale (l) heads the ball to score against Valencia at the Mestalla. Photo: Getty Images
Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale (l) heads the ball to score against Valencia at the Mestalla. Photo: Getty Images

A Paco Alcacer header gave Valencia a 2-2 draw in a highly charged La Liga clash with third-placed Real Madrid who had Mateo Kovacic sent off late in the second half last night.

Real went ahead after a magical team move in which Karim Benzema linked up with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo before finishing clinically after 17 minutes.

Both sides had spells of dominance and Valencia equalised through a Dani Parejo penalty just before halftime after a foul by Pepe on Andre Gomes.

The game was evenly poised when Kovacic was red carded for a reckless two-footed challenge on Joao Cancelo in the 68th minute shortly after Ronaldo thought he should have had a penalty.

Bale headed into the top corner from a free-kick after 82 minutes but Alcacer nodded in the equaliser from close range just over a minute later.

Valencia coach Gary Neville is still without a win in four league games but will be delighted at the way his team fought back. For under-fire Real coach Rafa Benitez, though, it was another game where they failed to beat battling opponents.

Atletico Madrid lead the table with 41 points, two ahead of Barcelona who have a game in hand.

Real have 37 points from 18 games, one more than Villarreal who earlier won 2-1 at Deportivo La Coruna thanks to a double from Bruno Soriano, including a 94th minute penalty, as they secured their fifth straight win after a lively second half.

Villarreal went ahead with the only clear chance in the first period when Soriano was given space inside the area from a Mario Gaspar pass and he slotted home in the 36th minute.

The game opened up after the break and Depor's Luis Alberto converted a Lucas Perez cross for the equaliser after 48 minutes.

Perez fired just wide in front of goal and Villarreal's Denis Suarez was denied by the feet of German Lux but the game appeared to be heading for a draw until Fernando Navarro pushed Samu Garcia in the area to concede a penalty.

Elsewhere, Eibar's Ander Capa, Keko, Adrian Gonzalez and Borja Baston were on target for the mid-table side in a 4-0 win at Real Betis, while lowly Granada's Isaac Success and Adalberto Penaranda scored in a 2-1 victory over Sevilla.

Second-bottom Rayo Vallecano's Diego Llorente and Jozabed Sanchez struck in a 2-2 draw at home to Real Sociedad whose goals came from Aritz Elustondo and Bruma.

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