Barcelona compounded their exit from the Champions League by losing 1-0 at Granada on Saturday, letting Real Madrid move ahead into second place in the Spanish league standings with a 4-0 win over Almeria.
Diego Costa was injured while scoring Atletico Madrid’s second goal in a 2-0 win at 10-man Getafe on Sunday as the team extended its Spanish league lead with five rounds to play but possibly lost its star striker. Atletico took advantage of Barcelona’s loss on Saturday to open up a three point lead over Real Madrid with Barcelona another point behind.
French forward Kevin Gameiro scored twice to help Sevilla win a bad-tempered derby at 10-man Real Betis 2-0 and stay in the hunt for Spain’s final Champions League berth on Sunday.
Also on Sunday, Valencia goalkeeper Vicente Guaita saved a penalty to ensure a 2-1 win for the home team, which finished with 10 men, over Elche.
Granada’s Yacine Brahimi scored what proved to be the winner in the 16th minute and goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis made saves to deny Lionel Messi and Neymar amid a plethora of scoring chances that Barcelona failed to finish. They have four more days to regroup from back-to-back defeats before playing Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final in Valencia.
With his centerbacks Gerard Pique, Marc Bartra and Carles Puyol all injured, Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino shifted Sergio Busquets into his back line and started Alex Song in midfield. It didn’t take long for the shuffling to backfire, when Song lost the ball and Granada sprang a counterattack. Fran Rico quickly played Brahimi through for the forward to ride Martin Montoya’s mark before he shot beyond goalkeeper Jose Pinto.
Barcelona peppered Granada’s area with crosses and shots but went no closer in the first half than Neymar’s long-range attempt in the 30th that Karnezis pushed wide, while Messi tried in vain to dribble through the middle of the defence.
The visitors kept pressing after the restart and Karnezis was called on to stab Cesc Fabregas’ volley around his post in the 54th. He then stretched to palm Messi’s free kick before he was well positioned to block Sergio Busquets’ try. Granada’s Youssef El Arabi almost grabbed a second goal two minutes from time but he couldn’t better Pinto.
Madrid didn’t miss injured star Cristiano Ronaldo as it bounced back from its poor performance at Borussia Dortmund with a victory. Angel Di Maria, Gareth Bale, Isco Alarcon and Alvaro Morata scored at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Di Maria hit the crossbar to set the tone early and followed up in the 28th by curling in Madrid’s opener. Madrid toyed with Almeria until Bale scored his 14th league continued…
Best of Express
Inside Soha Ali Khan's grand wedding reception