Suarez sinks Alaves to put Atletico on top, Zidane hails trio post Celta win - GulfToday

Suarez sinks Alaves to put Atletico on top, Zidane hails trio post Celta win

Marco Asensio

Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio celebrates after scoring a goal against Celta Vigo during their Spanish League match at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium on Saturday. Agence France-Presse

Luis Suarez struck late to snatch a 2-1 victory for Atletico Madrid away to Alaves on Sunday and send his side two points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.

Atletico had taken the lead late in the first half when Suarez teed up a deflected goal by Marcos Llorente and the task should have got easier for the visitors when Alaves defender Victor Laguardia was sent off in the second half.

But Alaves had a flurry of late chances and levelled in the 84th minute when Atleti defender Felipe diverted a cross from Joselu into his own net.

Atletico would not be undone, however, and they clinched a vital victory for their title charge when substitute Joao Felix cut the ball across goal and Suarez pounced from less than a metre out to bundle it into the net.

Meanwhile,  Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane paid tribute to Lucas Vazquez, Nacho Fernandez and Marco Asensio after the Spanish trio made key contributions to his side’s 2-0 home win over Celta Vigo on Saturday which took Real one point clear at the top of La Liga.

Nacho, who was brought in due to the absence of captain Sergio Ramos, prevented an early Celta goal by clearing a shot from Iago Aspas off the line and Real countered immediately to open the scoring with a header from Vazquez.

“Nacho has behaved like a professional throughout his career, not just now, and is always important when he plays,” Zidane said of the defender, who was making his seventh league appearance of the campaign.

“I’m not surprised by how well he played but I’m happy for him and the team because we’ve earned three very important points.”

Asensio had crossed the ball to Vazquez, who later teed up the forward to score early in the second half and get his first goal of the season after struggling at the start of his second campaign since suffering a serious knee injury in July 2019.

“I’m really pleased for Asensio, he had a big injury and he’s much better now and improving with every game,” said Zidane.

The Frenchman also praised Vazquez, who returned to the side earlier in the season as a back up to the injured Dani Carvajal but has kept his place as a winger since the defender’s return.

He started ahead of record signing Eden Hazard on Saturday although the Belgian came on in the second half.

“Lucas is doing so well. He’s very reliable, very focused and it was only a matter of time before he started playing like this,” Zidane said.

“We played very well today, we keep picking up points and that’s not easy to do.” It was Celta’s first loss since Eduardo Coudet took over as manager on Nov.12, ending a run of seven games unbeaten that had lifted them from the relegation zone to eighth in the table.

“We generated very little for the amount of possession we had,” said Coudet.

Earlier, Sevilla, who could have climbed to third, were fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw at neighbours Betis.

Suso opened the scoring for Sevilla after 48 minutes. Sergio Canales replied with a penalty after 53 minutes.

When the home team won another spot kick in the 75th minute, Nabil Fekir took it but Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou saved. French international Fekir has not managed a goal or an assist in three months. Sevilla dropped to fifth behind Villarreal, who beat Levante 2-1.

Meanwhile, FIFA has suspended Kieran Trippier’s 10-week ban for breaching betting rules, freeing the England international to play for his club Atletico Madrid pending appeal.

The 30-year-old was barred from any football activity by the English Football Association last week, ruling him out for at least 13 matches for the Spanish League highflyers.

FIFA’s decision taken late Saturday allows Trippier to return to play for Diego Simeone’s side until the appeal is heard at a crucial period of the season. Last week the FA banned him until February 28 with a £70,000 fine (94,000) after being found guilty of chargss surrounding his move from Tottenham to Atletico.

Oone of England’s standout performers in their run to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals he denied the seven charges.


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