MADRID: Real Madrid, apparently against the odds, have breathed life back into the Spanish league title race after pulling back seven points on leaders and neighbours Atletico.
Madrid despite a catalogue of injuries are only three points behind Atlético with a game in hand after winning 1-0 to Valladolid while Diego Simeone’s men losing 2-0 at home to Levante. The Madrid derby is looming on March 7.
In the past weeks Madrid have picked up points at almost the same rate as injuries in beating Huesca, Getafe, Valencia and now Valladolid. They were short of eight players against Valladolid, including top scorer Karin Benzema, but won with a 64th-minute header by Casemiro to a Toni Kroos free kick.
Atlético’s recent wobble in form continued as they fell to their first defeat in 12 league games against Levante . José Luis Morales gave the visitors the lead on the half-hour mark with a deflected strike from just inside the area to deceive keeper Jan Oblak, while Jorge de Frutos knocked into an empty net to score the second in added time after Oblak had committed himself forward to contest a corner.

“We’re not happy at all with the result,” said the Atlético defender Mario Hermoso. “We had so many attempts on goal but weren’t able to score. And if you don’t score any goals and keep letting them in you’ll be in trouble. “But I’m sure we’ll start scoring soon, we’re the same team that got to this stage. It’s not easy for us right now but this is a marathon not a sprint.”

In Germany . . .

Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Amin Younes scored a superb goal and helped create another as they beat the Bundesliga leaders, Bayern Munich , 2-1 to stay on course for a Champions League spot. Bayern remain on 49 points, with second-placed RB Leipzig, who have 44, in action at Hertha Berlin on Sunday.

Fourth-placed Frankfurt are level on 42 points with VfL Wolfsburg, who are third and won 3-0 at Arminia Bielefeld on Friday.

The former Germany international Younes, on loan from Napoli, helped set up Daichi Kamada for the first goal after 12 minutes as Frankfurt stretched their unbeaten run to 11 league games. With Germany’s coach, Joachim Löw, watching in the stands as he prepares for international matches in March, Younes, who won the last of five Germany caps in 2017, thundered in a shot from the edge of the box in the 31st after taking on the entire Bayern defence.

The Bavarian side, who won their sixth title in less than nine months with their Club World Cup triumph last week in Qatar, looked anything but fresh and were struggling for ideas to find a way back into the game. They were missing several players, including Thomas Müller and Benjamin Pavard, to Covid-19 infections but upped the tempo considerably after the break with the introduction of Leon Goretzka.

Bayern had a string of chances, with the Frankfurt goalkeeper, Kevin Trapp, kept busy throughout the second half. They did cut the deficit with Robert Lewandowski’s 26th goal of the campaign in the 53rd minute after good early work from Leroy Sané. But Frankfurt, playing without the injured striker André Silva, hung on for their fifth straight league win.

Visitors Borussia Dortmund crushed Schalke 4-0 in their Ruhr valley derby on Saturday, with two goals from Erling Braut Haaland, to earn their first win in three league matches and a big shot of confidence in their battle for a top-four finish. Dortmund, who have won two of their last seven league matches and are at risk of missing out on Champions League football next season, struck twice before half-time.

Jadon Sancho pounced on a Benjamin Stambouli mistake to race through and score in the 42nd minute, the 20-year-old’s 35th goal in his Bundesliga career, making him the youngest player ever to reach that mark in the league.

Haaland then spectacularly took off inside the box and connected in mid-air with a Sancho chip to score with a sideways bicycle kick, leaving substitute keeper Michael Langer frozen to the spot. The visitors killed off the game on the hour with Marco Reus playing a quick one-two with Raphaël Guerreiro and the latter drilling in their third goal.

Haaland then grabbed his 17th league goal with a tap-in in the 79th. Borussia Mönchengladbach’s European aspirations suffered a big blow with a 2-1 loss at Mainz after Kevin Stöger’s 86th-minute winner.

In Italy . . .

Luis Alberto’s first-half goal earned Lazio a 1-0 win over Sampdoria , with a seventh win in eight league games putting Simone Inzaghi’s side fourth in the Serie A standings. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s lovely through pass put Luis Alberto clear in the 24th minute, with the Lazio midfielder curling his seventh league goal of the season into the net to score what proved to be the winner.