Madrid ease to win over Celta, Real Sociedad beat Rayo
Marco Asensio and Eder Militao struck for Real Madrid in a comfortable 2-0 win over Celta Vigo in La Liga on Saturday, bringing the champions within eight points of leaders Barcelona.
Although Madrid’s hopes of overhauling Xavi Hernandez’s side are slim at best, coach Carlo Ancelotti insisted his team needed to keep winning their league games to stay in a good dynamic.
Los Blancos face Osasuna in the Copa del Rey final in May, ahead of their Champions League semi-final clashes against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
With Barcelona in action against Atletico Madrid on Sunday, Madrid applied pressure on their Catalan rivals with an easy win over Celta at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The first half was quiet before Asensio sent Madrid ahead in the 43rd minute, with Militao heading home early in the second half to double the lead.
“We’ll fight until the last game, while it’s mathematically possible,”
“We have to try and win the next three games and then when we play the Copa final, see how many points off we are, and if there’s a chance.
“Our job is to keep winning, and not just to cut the distance but for good sensations before the Champions League.”Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois told DAZN.
Ancelotti made five changes from the midweek Champions League victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, resting veterans Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
The coach did start Benzema, who was upset to come off against Chelsea, but the French forward had a quiet night.
Instead it was Asensio who drew the focus, converting with a scruffy but ultimately effective finish from Vinicius Junior’s cut-back.
Asensio now has five goals in his last 10 appearances for Madrid across all competitions, with several of those being as a substitute.
“Now the coach is giving me his trust and I’m taking advantage of the minutes, and I hope to keep it going because where I enjoy myself is on the pitch,”Asensio told DAZN.
The Spanish forward also took the corner which Militao rose highest to head home in the 48th minute, putting the game beyond a Celta side which Madrid largely kept at arm’s length.
Eduardo Camavinga, thriving in his left-back role, was arguably Madrid’s best player and frequently drew applause from the Bernabeu for his convincing and occasionally tenacious performance.
“He’s got energy, he’s a complete player,”
“As a complete player, he can play in any position with success.”Said Ancelotti.
Ancelotti’s side completed their assignment and ensured that if Barcelona — who have drawn their last two league games — continue to stumble, they will be in a position to capitalise.
Perhaps more importantly for the Italian coach, they kept a fourth consecutive clean sheet across all competitions.
With Manchester City and free-scoring striker Erling Haaland on the horizon, this newfound defensive solidity could be particularly useful.
“I think lately we’ve been in a great run defensively,”
“Today wasn’t a great game on our part, we gave the ball away a lot but it’s a victory, and we keep moving forward.”Said Courtois.
Sociedad strengthen grip
Real Sociedad took an important step towards securing Champions League football next season, coming from behind to beat Rayo Vallecano 2-1.
After fifth-placed Real Betis lost 3-2 at Osasuna earlier on, Imanol Alguacil’s side moved six points clear of the Andalucians, tightening their grip on fourth.
Isi Palazon sent Rayo ahead early in the second half after robbing Jon Pacheco in the centre circle, driving into space and firing home.
However Alexander Sorloth headed home two minutes later to level from Aihen Munoz’s cross, and Real Sociedad found the winner in similar fashion.
Munoz whipped a ball into the box, which substitute Carlos Fernandez got his head to, with his effort bouncing off Rayo defender Florian Lejeune into his own net.
Ante Budimir hit two goals inside the first 11 minutes to help Osasuna beat Betis and dent their ambitions of a top four finish.
“There are 24 points to play for, we’ll keep playing,”
“We still hope to reach the Champions League.”Said Betis coach Manuel Pellegrini.