Real falls 16 points behind Barca


BARCELONA: Real Madrid’s faltering title defence continued as it was held to a thrilling 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo Sunday which saw it fall 16 points behind runaway leader Barcelona, which beat Levante 3-0 to stay nine points clear at the top of La Liga.

Real looked to be heading for a second successive league defeat after its 3-0 loss to Barca in their last outing when Daniel Wass lobbed over Keylor Navas to put Celta ahead in the 33rd minute.

Gareth Bale instantly responded by scoring twice in three minutes to put the stuttering champion in front before halftime but Celta came right back at Zinedine Zidane’s side, with Iago Aspas squandering a penalty before Maxi Gomez levelled with a header in the 82nd minute.

Aspas was denied another penalty late in the game while down at the other end Real’s Lucas Vazquez hammered the ball straight at Celta goalkeeper Ruben Blanco, while Cristiano Ronaldo fired wide of the near post.

Real stay fourth in the standings on 32 points while Barca has 48 although it has played one game more.

Real travelled to Vigo without Dani Carvajal, striker Karim Benzema and captain Sergio Ramos while Celta, which knocked Real out of the King’s Cup last season, was emboldened after drawing 1-1 with Barca in the Cup Thursday.

“We made a lot of errors, we gave the ball away a lot, something we don’t normally do and we did it at important moments in the game, when we could have caused them more damage,” Real coach Zinedine Zidane told reporters.

“We have to stop making these errors and be more consistent.”

Neymar, PSG run riot

Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria all scored twice as a rampant Paris Saint-Germain shrugged off the absence of Edinson Cavani to win 6-1 away to Ligue 1 rivals Rennes in the French Cup Sunday.

PSG is bidding to win the trophy for the fourth season running, something no club has ever done before, and it showed Rennes no pity in Brittany.

Leading scorer Cavani was not involved after returning late from his Christmas and New Year break in Uruguay, so Di Maria came into the attack alongside Mbappe and Neymar.

Mbappe opened the scoring inside nine minutes, finishing after being picked out by Thiago Silva’s long ball over the top.

A brilliantly worked goal saw PSG double their lead, with Adrien Rabiot and Marco Verratti combining to tee up Neymar for the finish.

Di Maria turned in a Yuri Berchiche cross from the left for the third goal midway through the first half and the pick of the bunch came as Neymar made it 4-0 two minutes from half-time.

PSG started the move in its own penalty box before Neymar broke downfield and eventually applied the finish from Mbappe’s pass.

Rennes did pull one back in the second half with a Benjamin Bourigeaud penalty after a Thiago Motta handball, but there was still time for Unai Emery’s side to score twice more.

Mbappe set up Di Maria to make it five and the Argentine returned the favour with an assist for Mbappe to complete the rout.

PSG has now won its last 34 consecutive domestic cup ties, a run it can extend further as it goes to Amiens in the League Cup quarterfinals Wednesday.

Ligue 1 clubs were entering the French Cup in their first outings of 2018 after a two-and-a-half-week winter break, and most of the leading sides made it through.

Monaco won 5-2 at fourth-tier Yzeure, Lyon won 3-2 at Ligue 2 side Nancy and Marseille recorded a 1-0 victory at home to second-tier Valenciennes.

Nice was beaten 1-0 at Toulouse.