Real Madrid edge closer to LaLiga title; Atleti stumble versus Granada

Madrid, Apr 20 (EFE).- Real Madrid moved closer to what would be a record-extending 35th LaLiga title with a 3-1 road win Wednesday over Osasuna, while defending champion Atletico Madrid stumbled to a scoreless draw against Granada.

The Blancos cruised to victory in Matchday 33 action despite squandering two penalty opportunities in the second half, with Karim Benzema being denied on both occasions by keeper Sergio Herrera.

Even so, goals by David Alaba, who scored between the goalie’s legs in the 12th minute; Marco Asensio, who tapped in just before halftime; and Lucas Vazquez, who scored on a counterattack in the waning seconds of second-half stoppage time, were more than enough at El Sadar stadium in the northern city of Pamplona.

Real Madrid (78 points) currently enjoy a huge advantage over second-place Atleti (61 points) with five games remaining, while third-place Barcelona, who have 60 points and seven games left to play, can leapfrog the Colchoneros with an away win on Thursday against Real Sociedad.

Sevilla (60 points) also will have the chance to move up in the standings when they travel to face Levante in Valencia on Thursday.

Real Madrid will likely clinch the title with a few games to spare, having righted the ship after a 4-0 loss to Barcelona at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on March 20.

Since then, the Blancos have booked their spot in the Champions League semifinals and won four straight LaLiga matches: a 2-1 win over Celta Vigo, a 2-0 victory over Getafe, a 3-2 win over Sevilla and this latest victory over Osasuna.

Head coach Carlo Ancelotti had the luxury Wednesday of resting Luka Modric, who did not travel to Pamplona, and keeping Toni Kroos, Vinicius Junior and Dani Carvajal out of the starting 11.

In their place, Dani Ceballos and Eduardo Camavinga delivered solid performances for Real Madrid, whose only hiccups were a goal by Ante Budimir at point-blank range in the 14th minute and the missed penalty tries.

Also Wednesday, Aitor Karanka passed his first test as head coach of 18th-place Granada, a club he has taken over with the task of avoiding relegation to Spain’s second division.

Atleti’s slip-up, meanwhile, complicates their bid to book a berth in next season’s Champions League. Needing to finish in the top four, the Madrid club could find themselves in fourth place (albeit with a four-point lead over fifth-place Real Betis) by the conclusion of Thursday’s contests.

Their latest match at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium was typical of Atleti’s season, one in which they have repeatedly failed to earn victories against LaLiga’s lesser squads.

Diego Simeone’s men lacked precision on their scoring chances, with Antoine Griezmann and Angel Correa missing wide on two shots from outside the area early in the second half.

Atletico Madrid tried desperately to eke out the win in the closing minutes but Stefan Savic sent a header just wide of the mark in the 89th minute and Matheus Cunha’s left-footed shot from inside the goal area clanked off the left post a minute later.

Despite the draw, Granada (30 points) remain in the relegation zone and are still one point behind 17th-place Cadiz, who will host Athletic Bilbao on Thursday. EFE


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