Category Archives: Spanish La Liga

SPain La Liga League Cup

La Liga: Cristiano Ronaldo gives up penalty in “wonderful” gesture

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Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane praised Cristiano Ronaldo’s “wonderful gesture” after the star gave up the chance of a hat-trick in the win over Alaves.

Ronaldo could have scored his third of the game for a landmark 300th goal for Real Madrid when Los Blancos won a late penalty through Gareth Bale, instead offering the chance Karim Benzema take it for a morale-boosting goal.

Although he only scored three league goals prior to the clash at the Santiago Bernabeu, Benzema, made no mistake on the spot as he stepped up to score his fourth of the La Liga campaign.

The Frenchman had been a delight through most of the game, having set up two of his side’s goals earlier.

“I’m very happy with Ronaldo’s gesture,” Zidane said. “This shows he is a team player. Karim deserved this, to score a goal, as he had played a very good game.”

“This is a team game and it was a wonderful gesture.”

In the first half, Benzema’s backheel had set up his Portuguese team-mate’s first and then played in Gareth Bale after the break, with Lucas Vazquez setting up Ronaldo’s second.

Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas added: “None of us was surprised by Cristiano’s gesture because we know what type of person he is. We’re all pulling in the same direction and we have to show our unity more than ever.

“We’re thrilled with Karim’s goal, as team-mates, we have to stick together. We’re always going to fight for each other and while there is a lot of talk about Karim at the moment, we have to support one another.”

Third-placed Real are 14 points behind leaders Barcelona, who beat Girona 6-1 on Saturday.

Barca held to goalless draw at home by Getafe

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Barcelona failed to score for the first time in La Liga this season as mid-table Getafe picked up a hard-fought point at the Nou Camp.

It was also the first time since the April 2012 Clasico against Real Madrid that Barca failed to register a shot on target during the first half of a home game in La Liga, although Luis Suarez did have a brilliant volley ruled out for offside.

Ernesto Valverde’s side belatedly shifted through the gears after half-time but it was not enough to breach some stubborn resistance from Pepe Bordalas’ visitors.

Philippe Coutinho and Lionel Messi both forced saves from Getafe keeper Vicente Guaita, while Yerry Mina headed a chance just wide.

Mina was making his first starting appearance after being handed a full debut at the heart of a makeshift Barcelona defence, with full-back Lucas Digne partnering the Colombia international at centre-half.

Although Mina’s playmaking capabilities from deep appeared attuned to Barca’s famed style, his appearance along with several other players including Coutinho may be the reason Barca had a less-than-glamourous start to the game.

However, Valverde insisted that it was another factor — fatigue — that was to be blame for Barca’s weak start.

“We were lacking some freshness and rhythm, especially in the first half,” Valverde said.”Getafe are a team who stop you from playing so you don’t get close to their box. As the game went on we attacked more and more and despite our best efforts it wasn’t to be. They defended their box well and we lacked a bit of spark.”

“We have had a busy month and have just reached a final. We can’t win every game we play or be 100 percent all the time and this is why the coming week without a game comes at a great time for us to recover.”

Getafe, who move into the top half, almost scored a winner with the last kick of the game as Vitorino Antunes’ 30-yard free-kick was tipped over the bar by Marc-Andre ter Stegen — with no time for the corner to be taken.

However, although the hosts remain unbeaten in the league Atletico Madrid — their closest rivals at the summit — trimmed Barca’s advantage at the summit to seven points after having picked up a third consecutive victory at Malaga on Saturday.

La Liga: Ernesto Valverde admits Gerard Pique injury concern

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Ernesto Valverde admits that he had taken Gerard Pique off during Barcelona’s 2-0 win at Valencia due to an injury concern as the defender “felt a strain coming on.”

Pique had been an injury doubt going into Thursday’s game and lasted 83 minutes before Yerry Mina replacing him for his Barca debut although the Catalans reached yet another Copa del Rey Final.

“Pique? He felt a strain coming on and we decided that the best thing was to take him off,” Valverde said after the game in which January signing Philippe Coutinho scored the only goal in the game against Valencia to help the Catalan team progress to the final stage of the domestic Cup. The club have won the competition three times in a row since losing to Real Madrid in the 2014 final.

“Barca are used to reaching Finals and playing in them, me not so much,” Valverde added. “I’m very happy, given it’ll be the fifth consecutive Final for these players, something that’s very difficult to repeat and repeat.”

“We thought it’d be very difficult and it was, but we’re going home with tickets to the Final in our pockets. We thought they’d give us the ball and they did. They wanted to win the ball back from us and hit us on the break”

“We were able to find players in space and take advantage. We tried it with Messi, Iniesta, etc… We had to try and it went well. We won so we’d reach the Final. We found it difficult against Celta and Espanyol and now we have against Valencia. We had a busy January.

Barca, who also look to be runaway winners of La Liga this season, will play Sevilla in the final after the sixth placed team in La Liga reached their second Copa del Rey final in three seasons with a 3-1 aggregate win over La Liga rivals Leganes.

They will host their next opponents, Girona in the Spanish top-flight on Sunday, while Barca face mid-table club Getafe CF.

Barca vice-president blames Neymar for inflated transfer fees

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FC Barcelona vice-president Jordi Mestre said that Neymar’s behaviour prior to his switch to Paris St-Germain is the reason for football’s inflated transfer fees.

Mestre reportedly claimed that Brazil forward, 25, played “cat and mouse” with the Catalan club before his exit in August, when PSG paid 220m euros for Neymar, making him the most expensive player in history.

“We would have saved a lot of money and a lot of media noise,” Mestre added. “What hurt me the most was the way it happened.”

“If he came to us and said, ‘I want to go’, we would have reached an agreement. What you can’t do is rock the boat. He told us nothing. If he had done, PSG would have been able to buy him for less money and it would have cost us less to sign players too.”

Before Neymar’s parting of ways from Barca, he had signed a new five-year new deal with the club in July 2016, which included a 8.5m euro renewal bonus, and added at the time of his move to PSG that he had “followed his heart”.

“The decision was difficult to take,” the Olympic gold winner added. “I didn’t come for the money. I came for the motivation and the challenge.”

Since Neymar’s departure, Barcelona have spent £142m on signing Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool, having brought in Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund for an initial £97m, which could rise to £136m.

Following Neymar’s departure, Barcelona said they would withhold a further 26m euro (£23m) loyalty bonus, with FIFA currently investigating following an official complaint from Neymar regarding the issue.

“It arrived at a point where we saw where things were going, so we told him we would not pay his contract renewal loyalty fee,” said Mestre.