x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

European football round-up: In-form Juventus and Real Madrid send warning to Champions League foes

Cristiano Ronaldo claimed a hat-trick for Real Madrid in their 4-1 win over Sevilla ahead of this week's Champions League encounter with former side Manchester United, while Juventus and Celtic enjoyed comfortable wins in advance of their last-16 meeting.

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his hat-trick against Sevilla with teammate Gonzalo Higuain.
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his hat-trick against Sevilla with teammate Gonzalo Higuain.

SPAIN

Cristiano Ronaldo fired an ominous warning to former club Manchester United with a hat-trick as Real Madrid warmed up for their Champions League showdown against the English Premier League leaders with a 4-1 win over Sevilla at the Bernabeu.

Matches against Sevilla have proved rich pickings for Ronaldo in the past, and things were little different in this encounter as he followed up Karim Benzema's 18th-minute opener with goals in the 26th, 46th and 59th minutes as Madrid sauntered to victory.

That took his tally of hat-tricks for the Spanish giants to an incredible 20 before he was replaced in the 63rd minute as Jose Mourinho opted to wrap his trump card in cotton wool ahead of Wednesday's visit of United in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 clash.

"Cristiano has had the love of the crowd here for some time," said Aitor Karanka, the Real Madrid assistant manger, after the game.

"The important thing though is for the team to have a player like Cristiano in this form heading into the period we now have," he said.

"You notice a day extra rest and it has been good with the changes we made to also give a rest to some important players. We will see what players they [United] play tomorrow."

Granada, who stunned Jose Mourinho's men last weekend with a 1-0 win courtesy of a Ronaldo own goal, continued where they left off against the champions as they trounced Deportivo La Coruna 3-0 at the Riazor.

Carlos Marchena's own goal on the stroke of half-time set the visitors on their way and Ighalo's strike six minutes after the restart doubled their advantage.

Depor then missed a number of chances to get themselves back into the game and their night was summed up when they conceded a dubious penalty - converted by Guilherme Siqueira - in the last minute and saw Manuel Pablo sent off.

A last-gasp goal by substitute Nelson Valdez clinched a 1-0 win for Valencia against Celta Vigo at Balaidos, providing Ernesto Valverde's side with the perfect springboard ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Paris St Germain.

Isco scored twice as Malaga moved back into fourth place thanks to a 2-1 win at fellow European hopefuls Levante.

Jose Barkero put the home side in front with a 27th-minute penalty, but Isco restored parity through a spot-kick in the 37th minute and then sealed the points with a neat finish just after the restart.

Finally, a stoppage-time equaliser by Pedro Geromel earned Real Mallorca a 1-1 home draw against Osasuna.

Lolo had put the visitors ahead 15 minutes from time at the Iberostar Stadium and looked to have handed Gregorio Manzano the worst possible start to his third spell in charge of Mallorca until Geromel's late intervention.

 

PORTUGAL

Estoril moved ahead of opponents Guimaraes into sixth place in the Liga after an eventful 2-0 win.

The hosts' cause was helped as early as the fifth minute with the dismissal of Guimaraes defender Alex, and Luis Leal took advantage with a 32nd-minute opener.

Carlitos made it two 20 minutes into the second half but Estoril too finished the game with 10 men, Steven Vitoria sent on his way in the 83rd minute.

 

ITALY

Juventus opened up a five-point lead in Serie A with a 2-0 win over Fiorentina while second-placed Napoli could only manage a 1-1 draw at Lazio.

First-half goals from Mirko Vucinic and Alessandro Matri sealed the victory for the Italian champions, condemning Fiorentina to a third straight away defeat.

Antonio Conte, the Juventus coach, had played down talk of a fierce rivalry between Turin and Florence and there was precious little evidence of competition on the pitch as Vucinic was left unchallenged to slam home the opener.

Matri lost his boot when swinging at Arturo Vidal's canny pass but his socked foot guaranteed Juve all three points before what turned out to be an insipid second half.

Afterwards Pavel Nedved said the result was the perfect warm-up for Juventus' Champions League trip to face Celtic in Glasgow this week.

"I'm fully aware of the atmosphere that awaits us in Glasgow because I've been there and experienced it first hand," the Juventus director said.

"We'll be stepping into a lion's den and I don't think the team will need geeing up. We'll have to tough it out, but we have shown that we're ready."

He added: "We are very satisfied with how the team approached the match. Fiorentina play a great style of football, they have a more than capable coach and a dangerous team.

"But we really wanted the three points and played well to get them. It was a great test of character and everyone worked towards the same goal.

"In January, we had a slight dip in form but you can't be at the top of your game over the course of a whole season. Now we're in form and ready for Europe."

Napoli secured a point thanks to Hugo Campagnaro's spectacular 87th-minute equaliser at the Stadio Olimpico against Lazio.

Campagnaro met Omar El Kaddouri's corner with an acrobatic scissor-kick to cancel out Sergio Floccari's breakaway goal in the 11th minute.

 

FRANCE

In-form St Etienne stepped up their bid for Champions League football by casting aside Ligue 1 champions Montpellier 4-1 at a snowy Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.

First-half goals from Brandao and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were followed by a third from Yohan Mollo three minutes after half-time.

Montpellier immediately pulled a goal back through Remy Cabella before the match was delayed for 30 minutes when the snow made conditions unplayable.

With fears the game could be called off the ASSE players helped clear the pitch and their efforts were rewarded after the resumption with a fourth goal, through Mathieu Bodmer, and a sixth successive win in all competitions.

Bordeaux, however, slipped out of the top five after slumping to a 1-0 defeat at improving Ajaccio.

A first-half strike from Ricardo Faty was enough to earn Ajaccio the spoils as Bordeaux suffered only their second defeat in 13 matches in all competitions.

Valentin Eysseric's late equaliser secured Nice a share of the spoils from a 1-1 draw with fellow Europa League hopefuls Lorient at the Stade Municipal du Ray.

Eysseric coolly slotted home eight minutes from time to cancel out Lucas Mareque's 75th-minute opener for the visitors.

The draw lifted Nice to fifth in the standings, with Lorient three points and three positions worse off.

Reims won away from home for the first time since returning to the top flight as Nancy's resurgence was halted with a 2-1 home defeat.

The Lorraine side had won their last two games and took the lead through defender Sebastien Puygrenier on the half-hour mark.

But goals from Floyd Ayite and Odair Fortes in the second half turned the game around and Gaetan Courtet had a late third disallowed.

Brest remain just two points clear of the relegation zone after losing 2-1 to Valenciennes at the Stade du Hainaut.

First-half goals from Mathieu Dossevi and Rudy Mater were enough to secure a win that leaves VA 10th in the table.

Charlison Benschop hit the post for Brest in the second half but they had only Florian Raspentino's late goal for consolation.

Elsewhere, Troyes moved off bottom spot with a goalless draw against a Sochaux side who also remain in deep trouble in the battle to survive.

 

GERMANY

David Alaba scored twice as Bayern Munich extended their lead at the top of the Bundesliga to 15 points with an 4-0 thrashing of struggling Schalke.

Alaba opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 19th minute and then made it 3-0 at the start of the second half after Bastian Schweinsteiger had doubled Bayern's lead with a free kick.

Mario Gomez completed the rout in the 63rd minute as Bayern took full advantage of second-placed Borussia Dortmund's surprising 4-1 home defeat to Hamburg.

Dortmund's day started well, when Robert Lewandowski put the hosts ahead after 17 minutes but things went wrong quickly as Artjoms Rudnevs and Son Heung-min put Hamburg ahead in an eight-minute burst.

Lewandowski was then dismissed in the 31st minute and Dortmund never got back on track.

Jeffrey Bruma was sent off in the 59th minute to even the numbers but Hamburg continued to impress and widened the margin of victory as Rudnevs and Son both scored again in the second half.

Third-placed Bayer Leverkusen failed to capitalise as Patrick Herrmann grabbed a late equaliser to seal a 3-3 draw for Borussia Monchengladbach.

Gladbach twice pulled ahead through Martin Stranzl and Luuk de Jong in the 44th and 58th minutes but Leverkusen equalised through Sidney Sam in the 52nd minute and Stefan Kiessling on the hour.

Andre Schurrle gave Leverkusen the lead for the first time in the 64th minute only to see Herrmann equalise for Gladbach four minutes from time.

At the wrong end of the table, Wolfsburg defeated rock-bottom Greuther Fürth 1-0 courtesy of Bas Dost's 23rd-minute goal and third bottom Hoffenheim lost 1-0 at Hannover. Mame Biram Diouf was the scorer in that match.

Mehmet Ekici scored twice as Werder Bremen saw off Stuttgart 4-1.

Ekici's first goal in the 34th minute was cancelled out by Ibrahima Traore in the 50th minute. But Aaron Hunt restored Bremen's lead before Ekici added his second in the 74th and Kevin de Bruyne sealed maters in stoppage time.

In the day's remaining fixture Nurnberg drew 0-0 at Frankfurt.

 

SCOTLAND

Celtic opened up an 18-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League with a comprehensive 3-1 win at second place Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Terry Butcher's side had taken an early lead thanks to a Nick Ross strike, but Kris Commons curled the ball home halfway through the first period to level the scores going into the break.

Four minutes after the restart, Rami Gershon headed home from Dylan McGeouch's cross to put Celtic ahead, before Celtic wrapped things eight minutes before the end, with Miku firing home.

Motherwell squandered the chance to go second after a 2-0 loss at Kilmarnock. Steven Hammell's deflected own goal after a shot from Ross Barbour gave the home side a 13th minute advantage, before William Gros wrapped things up with a deft header 19 minutes from the end.

Dundee United continued their good form under new manager Jackie McNamara with a 3-1 win over Hearts. Johnny Russell beat his markers to drill a low shot home past Jamie MacDonald inside the first two minutes. Hearts lost captain Marius Zaliukas to injury, then had Ryan Stevenson sent off before Willo Flood made it two for the hosts on the hour mark.

Michael NGoo brought Hearts back into the game with a blistering shot, before Michael Gardyne slid home a Jon Daly cross to ensure all three points for United.

In the day's other game, Aberdeen ground out a 0-0 draw with St Mirren.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE