'It wasn't easy' – Zidane lauds Madrid as persistence pays off

The head coach heaped praise on Los Blancos following Sunday’s 2-1 comeback win over Real Betis

Real Madrid showed patience is a virtue as head coach Zinedine Zidane praised his players for their persistence in Sunday’s late win over Real Betis.

Ramos calls for Madrid focus

Captain Sergio Ramos stepped up to be the hero again for Madrid with his 81st-minute goal in the 2-1 La Liga victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Cristiano Ronaldo had cancelled out Betis’ 24th-minute opener before the break but the match appeared to be petering out for a draw until Ramos completed another late escape as Madrid returned to the top of the table following Barcelona’s 2-1 loss at Deportivo La Coruna.

“My evaluation of the match is very good because we picked up the three points,” Zidane said.

“We didn’t have it all our own way and that’s normal, but I am happy. We must congratulate all the players because we’ve had to be patient. The result in the end is a fair one, even if at times it didn’t all go our way.
“The opposition played in their own half, they defended well and caused us problems on the counter-attack. We’re happy with the result and we must congratulate the players because it wasn’t easy. The pressure is there, it doesn’t end here, there’s still a lot to play for and we know that.”

Zidane also leapt to the defence of goalkeeper Keylor Navas, whose own goal gifted the visitors the lead in the Spanish capital.

“It’s part of the game, everyone makes mistakes. In the end he saved us. I’m happy with how his team-mates got behind him,” added Zidane, who said defender Raphael Varane is unlikely to be fit for the trip to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

“The save he made has given us the three points. The referee decides whether or not it’s a penalty. Keylor has a big personality and he made a great stop at the end. He made up for the mistake and made sure we got all three points.”

Emery pleased with PSG response after Barca capitulation

Head coach Unai Emery was very pleased with Paris Saint-Germain’s response against Lorient.

It was a positive end to an otherwise nightmare week for Paris Saint-Germain, much to the delight of Unai Emery, who hailed his team’s performance in their win at Lorient.

PSG bounced back from their humiliating Champions League exit to Barcelona with a 2-1 victory over Lorient in Ligue 1 action on Sunday.

Memphis on road to redemption in France

After suffering a 6-1 second-leg capitulation on Wednesday as the French champions bowed out 6-5 on aggregate, a first-half own goal by Benjamin Jeannot and Christopher Nkunku’s maiden league goal gave PSG all three points.

The away win ensured PSG stayed within three points of leaders Monaco and head coach Emery said: “The team dominated throughout the 90 minutes of the game.

“We managed to lead 2-0 and even though we conceded a goal, we held on. We stopped our opponents creating a lot of chances.

“These three points are important. We dominated the game and the team played very well, even if they can do better. But I’m very happy with the team’s work.”

Barca’s best beat PSG, but back-ups not enough

After scoring his first Ligue 1 goal, it was a sense of relief for 19-year-old midfielder Nkunku following the embarrassment in Barcelona.

“The victory was the most important thing,” he told Canal Plus. “We really wanted to play well and to forget Wednesday even if we know that will take some time and some great performances.

“We have to look forward. The squad is disappointed, it’s normal, but we have to get over it. I’m relieved. We wanted to start again with a win, and that’s what we’ve done.”

MLS Review: Atlanta scores six for first win, Villa leads NYCFC

Josef Martinez netted a hat trick and Miguel Almiron scored twice as Atlanta United won the battle of the expansion franchises amid heavy snowfall.

It was an ice-cold performance from Atlanta United, which celebrated its first MLS win with a 6-1 demolition of Minnesota United in snowy conditions Sunday.

Arena supports anthem policy

Josef Martinez netted a hat trick and Miguel Almiron scored twice as Atlanta won the battle of the expansion franchises amid heavy snowfall in Minnesota.

Atlanta impressed in last week’s opener before it was overpowered by the New York Red Bulls but there was no repeat Sunday after racing to a 3-0 lead before the half-hour mark.

Martinez scored twice in that period, including the third-minute opener, while Almiron was also on target.

What a hit, Miguel Almirón! #MINvATL @ATLUTD leads 4-1 in Minnesota https://t.co/RomnSnjBGk

— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 12, 2017

Kevin Molino pulled a goal back for Minnesota from the penalty spot in the 30th minute but that is as good as it got for the hosts as Atlanta pilled on three unanswered goals in the second half, with Jacob Peterson joining in on the action at the death.

Cool, calm, and collected. @JosefMartinez17 finishes of his hat trick to put @ATLUTD up 5-1. #MINvATL https://t.co/oKiEMtoO1m

— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 12, 2017

David Villa lead the way as New York City FC routed D.C. United 4-0 earlier Sunday.

Spain’s all-time leading scorer found the net in either half to help NYCFC to its first points of the season following last week’s defeat at Orlando City.

Who else? @Guaje7Villa makes it four for @NYCFC with his second goal of the day. #NYCvDC https://t.co/XsW3uO5y6N

— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 12, 2017

Rodney Wallace and Maximiliano Moralez also found the back of the net for the hosts at Yankee Stadium.

Meanwhile, the LA Galaxy are still searching for their first win after crashing to a 1-0 loss at home to Portland Timbers.

Diego Chara scored the lone goal in a match that saw Galaxy captain Jelle Van Damme sent off in the first half.

Ramos calls for Madrid focus after latest escape act

Zinedine Zidane’s side were indebted to Sergio Ramos for a late goal, and the captain says they must now put their energy into improving performances

Sergio Ramos says Real Madrid must focus on improving their performances after the captain provided yet another late winner in the 2-1 victory against Real Betis.

The centre-back’s 10th goal of the season came in the 81st minute at the Santiago Bernabeu to send Zinedine Zidane’s side back to the top of LaLiga, after Barcelona lost at Deportivo La Coruna earlier on Sunday.

Navas in danger as Ramos saves Madrid

Ramos scored a crucial goal to help Madrid overcome Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday, having netted 90th-minute goals to beat Depor and snatch a draw from Barca earlier in the campaign.

The Spain international dedicated his most recent strike to his wife, but says Madrid must now aim to please their fans as they go in search of a first league title since 2012.

“In football what is important is the result, but it is right that we have to improve our play a little more so that the fans can enjoy it,” Ramos told Movistar+ after the game.

“I am happy to score again, I dedicate it to my wife. It was a strange game, the team did some things well, Betis defended well and the few chances we had didn’t end in a goal, so we had to go on the counter.

“It was important to win to put ourselves top.”

Keylor Navas’ own goal had put Madrid a goal behind in the first half, but Cristiano Ronaldo equalised before the interval.

The Costa Rica goalkeeper was lucky not to be dismissed for a crude challenge on Darko Brasanac shortly before fumbling Antonio Sanabria’s effort into the net, but Ramos came to his team-mate’s defence.

Real’s Ramos praises ‘historic’ Barca

“This is a tough stadium to play in, the level of expectation is huge,” Ramos said. “When the players make mistakes they need some care. 

“Keylor saved us with a great save to deny a Betis equaliser and I was happy to see that he had recovered a little.”

Pique: I would have signed up for PSG comeback and Deportivo defeat

The Barcelona defender tried to keep things in perspective after his side’s shock in La Liga on Sunday

Gerard Pique says he would have signed up for losing to Deportivo La Coruna if it guaranteed Barcelona would make history against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

Barca crash down to earth at Depor

Barca’s hopes of retaining their La Liga title suffered a massive blow Sunday as they fell to a shock 2-1 defeat at the Riazor a few hours before title rivals Real Madrid recorded a late victory of the same scoreline at home to Real Betis.

The results mean Barca’s one-point lead at the top has become a two-point advantage for Madrid, who also hold a game in hand.

But Barca defender Pique called for a sense of perspective after the match, with Barca having pulled off the greatest comeback in Champions League history four days earlier against PSG.

“Depor were really good, but everyone connected to Barcelona would have signed up to come back against PSG and lose to Deportivo,” Pique told reporters after the match.

“That is sport. We are not machines and after Wednesday’s effort it made it difficult to compete. 

“But Depor also played in midweek, so it is not an excuse. The calendar is tough for everyone and every game demands a huge effort.

“Logically this defeat is a step back in our aspirations to win La Liga but it is clear that we can still turn things around. 

“There are a lot of games to go and we have seen that everyone is dropping points.”

It wasn’t the result we wanted, but here are the photos from #DeporFCB https://t.co/YrHBf5ikGD pic.twitter.com/iVqOzhsHF6

— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 12, 2017

Barcelona struggled without the injured Neymar in the defeat to Depor, a stark contrast to last year’s fixture at the Riazor which saw the champions win 8-0.

“Neymar gives us a lot, but we have enough to be able to win here,” added Pique.

“But we didn’t win and we have to congratulate Deportivo – they deserved it.

“We dominated at the beginning and had control. Their goal took its toll on us. The equaliser was a morale boost, but their second goal was too much.”

Barcelona now have seven days to reflect on their dramatic last two matches before they play Valencia at Camp Nou next Sunday.