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HindustanTimes Sat,25 Oct 2014

Football

Madrid falter on home stretch
AP
Madrid, May 09, 2014
First Published: 01:16 IST(9/5/2014)
Last Updated: 01:18 IST(9/5/2014)

Real Madrid’s Spanish title ambitions are all but over after a late equaliser by relegation-struggler Real Valladolid secured a 1-1 draw on Wednesday.

Madrid lost Cristiano Ronaldo to injury early in the match and failed to create any clear scoring chances after the Portugal forward’s exit. His team now trails city and Champions League final rival Atletico Madrid by four points with two games to play.

Madrid led through Sergio Ramos’ 35th-minute free kick, but the visitors sat back too deep in the closing stages.

With Ronaldo on the sidelines encouraging his teammates, Madrid ultimately buckled after an 85th-minute corner kick. Humberto Ososrio headed home a deserved equalizer - and an important goal in Valladolid’s bid to avoid relegation.

“We had the game controlled. We didn’t have the mental energy to finish these games. There were mistakes in these games,” said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, whose team recorded back-to-back league draws after routing Bayern Munich to reach the Champions League final.

“It’s going to be very difficult” to win the title, Ancelotti added.

Midfielder Xabi Alonso was quoted as telling Spanish media: “It’s practically over for us.”

Atletico leads with 88 points, Barcelona has 85 points and Madrid is third with 84. Atletico can secure the title on Sunday with a victory against Malaga if Barcelona fails to win at Elche. Barcelona can win its fifth title in six seasons if it wins its last two games, with Atletico visiting on the final match day.

Ronaldo seemed to pull up clutching his right leg following a long run through Valladolid’s half moments before being substituted for Alvaro Morata. The Portugal forward had recently returned from a left leg injury.

With Ronaldo unavailable for free kicks, Ramos stepped up to curl a swooping right-footed shot over the defensive wall and under the bar past goalkeeper Jaime Jimenez for the Madrid defender’s fifth goal in four games.

Madrid, the record 32-time domestic champion, failed to conjure up any more concrete scoring chances, with Angel Di Maria and Morata coming closest with Jimenez standing up to the few challenges.

“We couldn’t maintain the necessary focus in relation to the importance of the match. In the second half we couldn’t maintain our concentration,” Alonso was quoted as saying. “I’m upset with the team for not being able to step up over the last 45 minutes.”

As the Copa del Rey champion, Madrid’s hopes of an elusive treble look to have been dashed.


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