Real Madrid tops La Liga table

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema
Real Madrid's Karim Benzema

With thirty rounds played in Spain’s eventful 2019-20 La Liga championship, Real Madrid pulled ahead of Barcelona on the table by a better head-to-head margin.

Barcelona, in their marred Friday match, where Lionel Messi punched a player while play was stopped but did not get a red card, drew 0-0 at Sevilla and dropped its two-point advantage. Sunday, Real Madrid won 2-1 away to Real Sociedad and pulled even on points with Barca.

The round began with Friday matches that saw Villarreal win 1-0 away to Granada while Mallorca and Leganes drew 1-1. On Saturday, Espanyol lost 1-3 at home to Levante, Athletic Bilbao defeated visiting Real Betis 1-0, Getafe and Eibar drew 1-1 and Atletico Madrid won at home 1-0 over Real Valladolid.

On Sunday, host Celta Vigo put six past hapless Alaves and Valencia made home field count as they defeated Osasuna 2-0.

At round’s end, Real Madrid and Barcelona were tied at 65 points apiece, followed by Atletico Madrid and Sevilla at 52 apiece. The top goal scorer remained Barcelona’s Messi at 21 goals, followed by Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema at 17, Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno at 12, and four other players at 11 goals each.

In Sunday’s featured match, Real coach Zinedine Zidane sent out his umpteenth line-up of the year and was awarded a closely played match that shouldn’t have been. By half-time Real Sociedad had outplayed Madrid and looked the side most likely to score first. As the second half started, Real eventually seemed the aggressor and a 50th-minute penalty, converted by Sergio Ramos, gave the visitors what was up to that moment an undeserved lead.

But, the goal resuscitated a moribund Real midfield and little by little the Merengues began to take control of the match, until, against the run of play, an awkward Karim Benzema reception of a Federico Valverde cross resulted in a second Madrid goal. The goal was reviewed for a potential handball as Benzema, who did trap the ball on his shoulder, had extended his arm to accomplish the trap and it looked awfully close to a handball. But, several angles later, the goal stood.

Real, never one to make things easy on themselves, particularly since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure and Zidane’s return, conspired to make a match of the win by allowing an 80th-minute goal from close in. The last sixteen minutes of the match saw all of the Real subs standing at their bleacher seats, biting their nails until the final whistle.

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