Real Madrid continue title march with 2-1 win at Granada

Granada, Spain, Jul 13 (efe-epa).- Real Madrid are two points closer to winning LaLiga after beating Granada 2-1 here Monday for their ninth win in nine outings since action resumed after the halt due to the coronavirus.

The Blancos are on 83 points, 4 more than second-place Barcelona, who have a game in hand but no hope of taking a third straight title unless Real Madrid drop 5 points in their two remaining matches.

With defenders Dani Carvajal and Sergio Ramos back from suspension, coach Zinedine Zidane added Fede Valverde and Isco Alarcon to the usual midfield trio of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, leaving Karim Benzema as a lone striker.

Real Madrid dominated from the start and grabbed the lead just 10 minutes into the contest. Ferland Mendy took up a position in the area and beat Granada defender Victor Diaz before surprising keeper Rui Silva with a shot from what looked like an impossible angle.

Granada reacted, managing to mount a couple of offensive forays before conceding to Karim Benzema in the 16th minute on the Blancos’ first counter of the night.

The hosts’ best opportunity before half-time was a powerful header by Domingos Duarte, stopped impressively by Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois.

At the other end of the pitch, Silva turned aside a blast from Benzema to keep the deficit at 2-0.

While the second half began much like the first, a giveaway in midfield by Casemiro allowed 10th-place Granada back into the match.

Yangel Herrero sent a perfect ball deep into Real Madrid territory and Darwin Machis put it past Courtois to make the score 2-1.

The goal buoyed the hosts, who never stopped pressing for an equalizer. Machis and Antoñin Cortes tested Courtois and it took a goal-line intervention by Ramos to stop Ramon Azeez.

Earlier Monday in Villarreal, the home side lost 2-1 to Real Sociedad, blowing a chance to clinch a Europa League berth.

Their worst performance since the re-start left fifth-place Villarreal with 57 points, just 3 more than both Sociedad and Getafe with two games left.

The defeat means that Villarreal can finish no higher than fifth, which in turn assures fourth-place Sevilla of Champions League play in 2020-2021.

Sociedad, meanwhile, put themselves in position to vie with Getafe – currently sixth on better goal difference – and Villarreal for the Europa League spots.

The visitors started aggressively, forcing Villarreal onto the back foot, and host goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo was tested twice in the 12th minute. Seconds after denying Andoni Gorosabel, he made a spectacular stop against Alexander Isak.

Villarreal’s first sign of life on the attack came only in the 24th minute, when Javi Ontiveros forced a stop from Sociedad keeper Miguel Angel Moya.

The home team enjoyed a period of greater freedom in the second half as the heat and their own high-intensity approach began to take a toll on Sociedad.

Even so, it was the away side that took the lead in the 61st minute with Willian Jose’s header off a corner. And it took a major effort by Asenjo to stop Sociedad from doubling their advantage in the 70th.

The respite lasted until the 75th minute, when Diego Llorente got the second goal for Sociedad, who kept their foot on the gas.

Santi Cazorla halved the deficit for Villarreal with six minutes left, but that was as far as the comeback got.

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