Late Morata winner puts Real top of La Liga

MADRID • Real Madrid took advantage of Atletico Madrid's first defeat of the season at Sevilla to move to the top of the Spanish Primera Liga, as Alvaro Morata struck a late winner to secure a 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Steven N'Zonzi struck Sevilla's winning goal 17 minutes from time to seal a 1-0 win.

With both results, Real (21 points) now lead Sevilla by a point and Barcelona and Villarreal by two at the top of the table.

Atletico, who started the weekend top, slip to fifth, three points behind their city rivals.

"We are not going to have easy matches and we will have to fight until the end," said Real coach Zinedine Zidane. "That is the message I transmit to my players and today we believed and didn't give up in the difficult moments."

Real could not have hoped for a better start when Karim Benzema enjoyed a simple finish after just seven minutes.

However, Real's defensive deficiencies surfaced once more when Bilbao levelled in scrappy fashion, as Javier Eraso's tenacity won the ball inside the Real box for Sabin Merino to slot home.

Cristiano Ronaldo suffered another off night in front of goal and was even jeered by the Bernabeu crowd, when he shot straight at Bilbao 'keeper Gorka Iraizoz with Isco and Benzema begging for a cut-back for a tap-in.

And it was Morata who came off the bench 15 minutes from time to ensure that Real sealed the three points.

Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli was happy with his side's victory to keep up the chase on Real, even though he admitted that it is still early in the season.

"It is still very early and it is a long season," he said.

"I'm proud of the team, we had a lot of opportunities and the performance makes me very happy about the path we are on."

Villarreal remain just two points off the top in fourth, thanks to Cedric Bakambu's injury-time winner in the 2-1 win over Las Palmas.

Las Palmas' Kevin-Prince Boateng fired the visitors into a half-time lead, but Nicola Sansone levelled from the penalty spot before Bakambu snatched the points at the death.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2016, with the headline 'Late Morata winner puts Real top of La Liga'. Print Edition | Subscribe