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La Liga Review: Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid drop points

Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid failed to keep pace with La Liga leaders Barcelona as the two capital city clubs were held to draws on Sunday.

Real Madrid sit four points adrift of the leaders, who defeated Malaga 2-1 a day earlier, but it could have been worse had a second-half strike from Karim Benzema not earned a 1-1 draw against Real Betis.

Juan Merino’s side stormed into an early lead at a raucous Estadio Benito Villamarin courtesy of a sublime 18-yard volley from Alvaro Cejudo.

Zinedine Zidane’s side lacked fluency in the absence of the injured Gareth Bale, but a moment of brilliance from Toni Kroos released James Rodriguez and the Colombian teed up Benzema for a simple finish amid calls for offside.

Former Real Madrid goalkeeper Antonio Adan kept Betis level by denying James, Benzema and Ronaldo in the closing stages, but Betis’ winless run now stretches to 11 games in all competitions.

Atletico Madrid also laboured to a frustrating 0-0 draw, held by 10-man Sevilla at the Vicente Calderon.

Ever Banega’s deflected effort grazed the crossbar as Unai Emery’s side came close to opening the scoring in the first half, while Antoine Griezmann headed against the post after the restart.

Despite Vitolo’s dismissal for the visitors in the 61st minute, Diego Simeone’s side could not find an equaliser and subsequently dropped to second on goal difference.

Athletic Bilbao managed to gain ground on a team above them, though, with Aritz Aduriz scoring twice in a 5-2 triumph over Basque rivals Eibar at San Mames.

Borja Baston got the visitors off to a great start when he swept home Ander Capa’s pass inside four minutes, but Aduriz pulled Ernesto Valverde’s men level with a phenomenal scissor kick.

Sabin Merino flicked Benat’s corner beyond Asier Riesgo to give Athletic the lead with 27 minutes on the clock, and Aymeric Laporte converted from another of the former Valencia midfielder’s brilliant deliveries before the interval.

Baston pulled one back for Eibar from the penalty spot five minutes after the restart but hopes of a comeback were short-lived as Aduriz slammed home Athletic’s response two minutes later, while a late own goal from Mauro Dos Santos completed the rout.

Alvaro Negredo’s 90th-minute strike salvaged a point for Valencia in a 1-1 draw with Deportivo La Coruna, though it has now been 10 games since they tasted victory in the top flight.

Sun 24 Jan, 2016
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