Real Betis 3 Real Madrid 5: Asensio at the double in LaLiga classic

Marco Asensio added to his burgeoning reputation with a brace in Real Madrid thrilling 5-3 comeback win at Real Betis in a breath-taking LaLiga classic on Sunday.

Zinedine Zidane’s side, who are again 17 points behind pace-setters Barcelona, had boosted morale and confidence with a 3-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.

And Los Blancos followed up that triumph with a victory in a goal-laden match at Benito Villamarin that swung back and forth between two teams who dazzled with a stunning display of attacking football.

Madrid took an early lead through Asensio but Betis, thanks largely to the evergreen, effervescent Joaquin, scored twice in four minutes to turn the match around before half-time through Aissa Mandi and a Nacho own-goal, strikes which followed Marcelo limping off with a hamstring injury for the visitors.

LaLiga’s champions recovered brilliantly after the break, though, with Sergio Ramos heading in the equaliser, before Asensio struck a fine finish to put his side back in front – recording Madrid’s 6,000th LaLiga goal in the process.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored twice against PSG to continue his blistering 2018 goalscoring form, seemingly wrapped up the points with Madrid’s fourth goal after 65 minutes.

Zidane’s men survived a late fightback from Betis after Sergio Leon struck, though, with Karim Benzema coming off the bench to score Madrid’s fifth, and his side have a six-point cushion in the last of LaLiga’s four Champions League qualification places, with league games against Leganes and Deportivo La Coruna to come for Los Blancos in the next six days.


AC Milan 1 Sampdoria 0: Bonaventura makes it 10 unbeaten for Rossoneri

Giacomo Bonaventura scored the only goal of the game as AC Milan made it 10 matches unbeaten in all competitions with a 1-0 Serie A win over Sampdoria.

The Rossoneri have experienced a significant upturn in fortunes under Gennaro Gattuso and they dominated an eventful contest at San Siro.

Ricardo Rodriguez saw a seventh-minute penalty saved, but Milan were not punished for his profligacy and Bonaventura netted what proved to be the decisive goal six minutes later.

But the remaining 77 minutes were filled with incident, Milan seeing a Leonardo Bonucci effort ruled out for offside while Hakan Calhanoglu struck the crossbar.

A lifeless Sampdoria team did not offer a genuine threat until Gianluca Caprari squandered a late chance to equalise and seventh-placed Milan now move level with them on 41 points, just seven points adrift of a Champions League qualification berth.

Next for Milan is the second leg of a Europa League round-of-32 tie with Ludogorets that they appear to have wrapped up thanks to a 3-0 victory in the first meeting, before Gattuso’s credentials will receive their sternest test yet with league games against Roma and Inter sandwiched either side of the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final with Lazio.

Milan threatened inside the first three minutes as Bonaventura headed straight at Viviano from a Riccardo Montolivo cross but a better opportunity was squandered by Rodriguez four minutes later.

Samp left-back Nicola Murru blocked a cross from the right with his arm and referee Daniele Doveri duly pointed to the spot.

However, Rodriguez’s penalty was a tame one and Viviano got down low to his left to turn the ball behind.

But Viviano was picking the ball out of his net soon after as Milan broke the deadlock with a wonderful move.

Suso played in Davide Calabria down the right and he whipped in a magnificent delivery for the onrushing Bonaventura, the unmarked midfielder firing a first-time volley into the ground and underneath Viviano.

Suso and Calhanoglu both had efforts deflected wide as Milan spent much of the first half camped in the Samp half, but the visitors were aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty of their own, the VAR opting not to punish Calabria’s apparent handball with a spot-kick.

But Samp were grateful to the VAR shortly before half-time when Suso and Calhanoglu orchestrated a well-worked free-kick, the latter’s low cross turned in by Bonucci, only for the centre-half to be correctly adjudged to have been offside on review.

The frame of the goal rescued Samp seven minutes after the restart as Calhanoglu’s fierce effort from the edge of the area cannoned off the top of the crossbar, before Suso shot across the face of goal with the net at his mercy at the far post.

Vivano denied both Calhanoglu and Calabria to keep Samp in it but, despite a late scare when substitute Caprari fired wide at the far post, Milan gained ground on fourth-placed Inter to perhaps open another avenue back into the Champions League.


FA Cup ‘magic’ no surprise to Pochettino after Rochdale thriller

Mauricio Pochettino was not surprised by the “magic” of the FA Cup once again following Tottenham after they were held to a thrilling 2-2 draw by Rochdale in Sunday’s fifth-round tie.

Ian Henderson put League One’s bottom side ahead before half-time but a Lucas Moura strike and an 88th-minute penalty from Harry Kane looked to have ensured progression into the quarter-finals for Spurs.

But Rochdale refused to give in and secured a richly deserved replay at Wembley as Steven Davies swept into the bottom-right corner in the third minute of stoppage time.

It will be Tottenham’s second successive replay after they had to settle for a draw in their fourth-round tie with League Two Newport County, who they defeated 2-0 at the second time of asking.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Pochettino said: “The FA Cup is magic. We have another opportunity at Wembley, the same situation like before.

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“I was not surprised. This competition is completely different. Newport gave us a fantastic game and they lost their next game in the league 5-0.

“The motivation is always massive. It’s not easy to play this type of game. Of course we wanted to win but we have the possibility to win.

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“We have all the squad fit and it will be another game to provide players with the chance to compete on Wembley and we have the possibility to reach the quarter finals.”

Asked if he thought Kane’s goal would be decisive, Pochettino replied: “No – I was so calm on the bench because I know very well what happens if you believe the tie is over.

“That happens. We concede two clear chances, one was nearly and one was a goal.”


Bertrand Traore bags brace in Lyon’s stalemate vs. Lille

Bertrand Traore scored a brace in Lyon’s 2-2 draw with Lille in Sunday’s French Ligue 1 encounter.

The former Chelsea forward who ended a three-game goal drought in the outing as Bruno Genesio’s men were forced to drop points for the seventh time in the top-flight this season.

The Burkina Faso international opened the scoring in the 21st minute and just before the break, the attacker completed his brace to increase his goal tally to ten in 27 outings in all competitions this season.

However, Christophe Galtier’s side regrouped and scored two goals in the second half to earn a point against Kids.

Nicolas Pepe started the fightback for the hosts in the 66th minute after benefitting from Luiz Araujo.

Araujo later scored a goal of his own to secure a share of the spoils for Lille.

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Lyon are just a place adrift of Champions League qualification spot, with Olympique Marseille three points clear of them in the log.

Traore who featured for the entire duration of the match will be looking to continue with the impressive display when his side travel to Estadio de la Ceramica to take on Villarreal in the second leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie on Thursday.


Real Madrid suffer Marcelo blow after early injury against Betis

Real Madrid face a nervous wait to find out the extent of Marcelo’s injury after the full-back lasted just 30 minutes of Sunday’s clash against Betis.

The Brazil international started again for Madrid after scoring midweek against Paris Saint-Germain. 

But just before the half-hour mark he attempted to play his way out of a tight spot deep in his own half, and went down holding his right hamstring without being touched by a Betis player. 

Marcelo originally tried to continue, but looked in severe discomfort on the pitch as it became clear he would not be able to play on. 

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Theo Hernandez was chosen to replace the left-back, who must now wait to find out what damage has been incurred to the muscle at a pivotal point in Madrid’s season. 

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Madrid began Sunday 20 points behind Liga leaders Barcelona, albeit with two games in hand over their arch-rivals. 

As well as Marcelo the Merengue have been shorn of the services of Toni Kroos this week through a knee sprain, with centre-back Jesus Vallejo the only other current casualty in the squad.