Tuesday, Jul 05, 2022

Nacho Fernandez Keeps Real Madrid's In La Liga Title Hunt Ahead Of Final Day

Real Madrid go into the final day of the season still in the hunt at the top of LaLiga, but it could have been so much better

Real Madrid players celebrate a goal during their La Liga match against Athletic Bilbao at San Mames stadium, in Bilbao, northern Spain, Sunday, May 16, 2021. AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos

Nacho Fernandez's second-half goal ensured Real Madrid still have a chance of retaining their LaLiga title on the final day of the season as they beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0, but Atletico Madrid remain in the driving seat. (More Football News)

Madrid briefly looked to be going into their last match of 2020-21 at the top of the table after Nacho fortuitously put them in front while Atletico trailed, but Diego Simeone's men enjoyed a late turnaround against Osasuna to stay two points clear.

The build-up to Madrid's trip to San Mames had centred around reports Zinedine Zidane will leave at the end of the season, and for much of the game his team looked incapable of clinching the victory that could set up a triumphant conclusion for the French coach.

But with 22 minutes to go, Nacho bundled home what proved to be the winner, though Atletico's battling comeback at the Wanda Metropolitano means Madrid will need a helping hand if they are to be champions again, while Barcelona's chances are over following a 2-1 home defeat by Celta Vigo.

Despite dominating possession, Madrid had little to get excited about in the early exchanges. It was not until the 28th minute that Los Blancos threatened and they were adamant a penalty should have been awarded as Alvaro Odriozola's cross struck the arm of Jon Morcillo.

While a VAR review saw the decision go in Athletic's favour, the resulting corner at least saw Karim Benzema go close as he nodded wide.

Madrid had another penalty call ignored a few minutes later, with Benzema and Yeray Alvarez tangling as the Frenchman tried to reach a delivery from deep.

The visitors looked similarly toothless at the start of the second period before Luka Modric seemed to jolt them into life in the 58th minute, his long-range strike tipped wide by Unai Simon.

Casemiro then headed against the crossbar just after the hour mark as Madrid upped the intensity, and their increased pressure led to a breakthrough soon after.

Casemiro was again involved, his fierce pass across the face of goal striking the thigh of Nacho – who knew little about it – and past Simon, with officials refusing to disallow it despite the ball squirming under the foot of the offside Benzema.

Madrid had little difficulty seeing the victory out, particularly after Raul Garcia's 89th-minute dismissal for dissent, but it was not enough to take them top as Atletico moved a step closer to the title.


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