Hazard returns for 1st place Real Madrid as Barça’s woes continue

Madrid, Oct 31 (efe-epa).- Eden Hazard’s first goal for Real Madrid in more than a year spurred the LaLiga-leading Blancos to a 4-1 victory over Huesca on Saturday as Barcelona dropped points against Alaves and Atletico Madrid won their third in a row.

Though the Belgium international’s goal was indeed a thing of beauty, it was more remarkable for coming in what was only his 24th appearance for Real Madrid in his 16th month with the club.

Perhaps Hazard, who has been plagued by injuries, was thinking about that when he decided to forgo celebrating his first goal in a Blancos shirt since Oct. 5, 2019.

“We know the quality Hazard has. He has scored a good goal and we needed it, because the match was different after that,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said in his post-game press conference.

Five minutes after the Belgian scored in the 40th minute, Karim Benzema made it 2-0 for the hosts.

Benzema assisted on Fede Valverde’s goal 10 minutes into the second half and added another of his own in the final minute of regulation. David Ferreiro got a consolation goal for 18th-place Huesca in the 74th minute.

The defending champion Blancos are on 16 points, 2 more than both Real Sociedad, who play Sunday, and cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid.

Surprisingly, Real Madrid have an 8-point edge over Barcelona, who are 12th in the table after winning only two of their first six games.

Following losses to Getafe and to the Blancos in the first Clasico of the 2020-2021 campaign, Barça went behind at Alaves in the 31st minute on a blunder by goalkeeper Neto that resulted in an easy score for Luis Rioja.

The Blaugrana, with 80 percent possession, put nine shots on target, but Alaves keeper Fernando Pacheco made a succession of great stops, including one against Lionel Messi.

Antoine Griezmann hammered in a loose ball to bring Barcelona level in the 63rd minute, just after Alaves was reduced to 10 men with the expulsion of Jota Peleteiro for a second yellow card.

The Frenchman found the net a second time, but the goal was disallowed and Barça came away with only a point to bring their total to 8, the same as Alaves and Eibar.

Joao Felix had a brace to power Atletico Madrid 3-1 over Osasuna.

This season’s only remaining unbeaten side are undefeated in their last 22 LaLiga matches since falling to Real Madrid on Feb. 1 in the capital derby.

Felix converted from the spot in the 43rd minute and then hit the post on a second penalty right before the break, though he went on to get the 2-0 with 20 minutes left to post his second two-goal match in four days.

The Colchoneros looked poised to run away with the match at that point, but the goals didn’t materialize and the Madrid squad showed signs of unease when Osasuna’s Ante Budimir cut the lead in half in the 80th minute.

That turned out to be the beginning and end of the reaction from the hosts and Lucas Torreira ensured the win for Atleti with a goal in the 88th minute.

Atletico are tied on points with Sociedad, but the Basque club have scored more goals and could overtake Real Madrid with a win on Sunday against Celta.

Sevilla, who opened the season with back-to-back triumphs before going winless in their next three, were hopeful of getting back on track after Youssef En-Nesyri gave them a 1-0 lead in the 9th minute of Saturday’s match against Athletic in Bilbao.

The visitors remained in control until the final stretch, when they conceded to Iker Muniain and Oihan Sancet in the space of 10 minutes to sustain a third consecutive defeat that leaves them in 15th.

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