Madrid, Jan 21 (EFE).- Girona continued their dream run in the Spanish LaLiga thanks to Ukrainian giant Artem Dovbyk, who scored a hat trick in six minutes to dismantle Sevilla 5-1 on Sunday, allowing them to maintain a one-point lead over Real Madrid.
The Madrid giants owed it to VAR to overcome bottom-placed Almeria 3-2, while Barcelona remained in the fight from a distance courtesy of a hat trick by Ferran Torres and a beautiful goal by Joao Felix that gave them a 2-4 win against Real Betis.
Sevilla, fighting to avoid relegation, made a desperate start to open the scoring in just 10 minutes through youngster Isaac Romero, but Girona did not take much time to get things under their control.
The speed of Brazilian Savio and Ukrainian striker Artem Dovbyk proved to be too much for Sevilla, who came into the game just one point above the relegation zone.
Dovbyk completed his hat-trick between 13 and 19 minutes, first with a header from Savio’s cross and then after a pass from Portu and a solo effort, his 14th goal which took him level with Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham at the top of the scoring chart.
Girona, who had provisionally lost the lead to Real Madrid, put on the finishing touch before the hour mark with a goal from the team’s other Ukrainian, Viktor Tsygankov, and in extra time with a goal from Uruguayan Cristhian Stuani.
Unlike Girona, Real had to sweat it out to ensure three points against Almeria, who took a surprise 2-0 lead at halftime after Largie Ramazani scored in just 37 seconds and Edgar Gonzalez doubled the hosts’ trouble with a powerful strike in the top corner in the 43rd minute.
Facing heckles from Santiago Bernabeu fans, Real Madrid had no choice but to react.
They found a way out in the 61st minute when VAR intervened for the first time in the match to award them a penalty for handball in the box, and Bellingham stepped in to reduce the margin.
Tragedy struck Almeria again after VAR ruled out Sergio Arribas’ goal two minutes later due to a slap from the Senegalese Dion Lopy on Bellingham during the build-up.
But very shortly afterwards, the referee and the VAR regained their prominence.
The referee ruled out a goal by Brazilian Vinicius, but after consulting with VAR, he declared the goal valid considering that the shot was taken with the shoulder.
“I understand Almeria’s complaints. They were decisions reviewed by VAR, but there were three quite straightforward decisions. I think the right decisions were made,” said Real coach Carlo Ancelotti.
“Almeria played very well, but if you look at the three decisions, they were correct. I’m ready to hear that we won because of VAR,” he said.
Real’s comeback, however, was not complete until the 99th minute, when Dani Carvajal won after a header from Bellingham to leave fans at the Bernabeu, which was hosting its 1,000th league game, with joy.
Barcelona showed its two faces in Seville against Betis before they escaped with full points.
Torres scored in the 21st and 48th minutes, but Barcelona let two goals slip as Isco Alarcon struck twice in the space of 56 and 59 minutes to bring Betis back into the contest.
A beautiful shot from outside the box by Felix restored control for Barcelona in the 90th minute before Torres completed his treble two minutes later.
The two late goals kept Xavi’s team firmly alive in the league race with 44 points, though they were trailing leaders Girona by eight points and Real Madrid by seven points. EFE