Barcelona fight back to win at Elche

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(Reuters) -Barcelona fought back to earn a 2-1 win in a frantically entertaining match at Elche on Sunday as a late penalty from Memphis Depay ensured they continued their revival after a difficult start to the season.

Having fallen as low as ninth back in November, when former coach Ronald Koeman was fired, Xavi Hernandez’s revitalised Barca have climbed into LaLiga’s top three with 48 points, leapfrogging Betis in third place.

Mid-table Elche opened the scoring right before halftime when Pedri tried to clear the ball but gifted a perfect assist to Fidel Chavez, who out-ran Dani Alves and scored with an angled shot just inside the right post.

Ferran Torres scored the equaliser in the 61st minute after great play from Ousmane Dembele down the right flank. His cross was deflected by Jordi Alba and the former Manchester City forward, in the right place at the right time, turned it home from close range.

The next 20 minutes were frantic, with both teams creating scoring opportunities only to be denied by goalkeepers Marc Andre ter Stegen and Edgar Badia.

Badia made three magnificent stops from powerful close-range shots from Torres while Ter Stegen saved Barcelona late on when he dived to pull off a fingertip save from a Pere Milla strike that was going into the top-right corner.

Barca’s winner arrived after the video assistant referee spotted a handball from an Elche defender inside the area in the 84th minute and Depay rifled his penalty into the top left corner.

The VAR was put to work twice more after that, as Elche were controversially denied two penalties following handball appeals against Barca players.

“Handballs inside the box can always be discussed,” Ter Stegen told reporters.

“Players can’t take their arms off their bodies inside the area. I think the referee made the right decisions.”

Real Madrid recover to thrash Real Sociedad 4-1

MADRID: Real Madrid fought back to earn a 4-1 home win against Real Sociedad that extended their lead at the top of LaLiga to eight points ahead of second-placed Sevilla on Saturday.

Real dominated the game but they fell behind after 10 minutes to a penalty converted by Mikel Oyarzabal after Dani Carvajal tripped David Silva.

Teenager Eduardo Camavinga came to the rescue five minutes before halftime, rifling home the equaliser from 25 metres with an unstoppable left-footer that went in off the post.

Roared on at a nearly sold-out Santiago Bernabeu, Luka Modric then put the hosts ahead with another long-range shot that flew into the top corner of Alex Remiro’s goal.

Karim Benzema, who had two goals chalked off by the video assistant referee for offside, finally scored in the 76th minute with a penalty after VAR spotted a foul on Vinicius Jr.

Substitute Marco Asensio wrapped up the win with a close-range strike three minutes later.

Ahead of Wednesday’s last-16 Champions League second-leg clash at home to Paris St-Germain, which Real Madrid trail 1-0, Los Blancos left their recent questionable performances behind them to put on a show against sixth-placed Real Sociedad.

The Basque side, who were top in the first-quarter of the season before being leapfrogged by Real Madrid, have 44 points from 27 games and are still in contention for a top four spot.

The LaLiga leaders took advantage of Sevilla’s disappointing 0-0 draw at lowly Alaves on Friday and have moved to 63 points against the 55 of their closest contender.

“This is the intensity that we need to have on Wednesday,” coach Carlo Ancelotti told a news conference.

“We can replicate today’s game against PSG. It’s a performance that inspires and give us a lot of energy and confidence to fight back from the 1-0 loss that we suffered in the first leg at Paris.”

Brazilian midfielder Casemiro, who will miss the PSG game due to suspension, thinks home advantage will be the key to reaching the quarter-finals.

“Today we showed that we can fight back and win against a great opponent. We will need to do it again on Wednesday and with fans on our side in our stadium everything is possible,” he told reporters.


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