Real, Barca head for final-day showdown

Real Madrid's Marco Asensio (left) congratulates Cristiano Ronaldo after Zinedine Zidane's side scored their third goal in the 4-1 win against Sevilla. The Portuguese striker scored his 400th and 401st goals for Real Madrid in the course of the victo
Real Madrid's Marco Asensio (left) congratulates Cristiano Ronaldo after Zinedine Zidane's side scored their third goal in the 4-1 win against Sevilla. The Portuguese striker scored his 400th and 401st goals for Real Madrid in the course of the victory.PHOTO: REUTERS

Ronaldo double against Sevilla keeps his side in contention for first LaLiga title since 2012

MADRID • The fight for Spanish football's LaLiga title will go down to the last day of the season after convincing wins for Real Madrid and Barcelona on Sunday left both sides locked on 87 points at the top of the table.

Real remain in the driving seat after the European champions saw off Sevilla 4-1 as they have two games remaining to Barca's one.

However, Barca remain on top thanks to their better head-to-head record with Neymar scoring a hat-trick as they also won 4-1 at Las Palmas.

Real visit Celta Vigo in their game in hand tomorrow and then travel to Malaga, while Barca host Eibar on the final day on Sunday.

Sevilla's defeat at the Bernabeu also guarantees they will finish fourth and Atletico Madrid, who drew 1-1 at Real Betis, qualify automatically for next season's Champions League in third.

But Sporting Gijon joined Granada and Osasuna in being relegated despite winning 1-0 at Eibar as Deportivo la Coruna secured safety in a 0-0 draw at Villarreal.

"It is a long road. We know to win the league in Spain is not easy," said Real manager Zinedine Zidane. "Every day we are getting closer, we keep winning but there are two games to go and we need to keep doing what we have until now."

However, the fact two of Barca's four league defeats this season came at the two sides Real have still to visit gives the Catalan side's manager Luis Enrique hope.

"We have one game left and the objective is to win it," he told TV station Movistar. "If we have lost (there) then any team can."

Sevilla have now won just three of their last 13 games as their season petered out to a disappointing end. However, they gave Real more than a few scares at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Nacho gave the hosts the lead in controversial fashion as he curled home a quick free kick with the Sevilla defence caught unawares and their protests towards referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco falling on deaf ears.

That goal meant Real broke Bayern Munich's European record for scoring in consecutive games as their streak now stretches to 61.

Soon after, it was 2-0 as Sergio Rico could only palm James Rodriguez's effort into the path of Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored his 400th Real goal.

Sevilla finally got back in the game through Stefan Jovetic's neat finish from outside the box three minutes into the second half.

Yet, just as the hosts' nerves were becoming frayed, Ronaldo appeared once more by crashing home Toni Kroos' cut-back to restore Real's two-goal lead. And Kroos rounded off the scoring himself by prodding into the far corner six minutes from time.

Barcelona kept the pressure on despite a series of defensive absences which meant Brazilian Marlon Santos, 21, was handed a full debut in the Canary Islands.

The visitors still had the services of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar up front and the latter two struck to give Barca a 2-0 half-time lead.

Pedro Bigas momentarily gave Las Palmas hope just after the hour mark. But Neymar headed home Ivan Rakitic's cross and then sealed his first hat-trick of the season 19 minutes from time when he slotted in Jordi Alba's through ball.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2017, with the headline 'Real, Barca head for final-day showdown'. Print Edition | Subscribe