x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

European football round-up: Real Madrid hail Gareth Bale attitude

Welsh winger scores on debut for Spanish Primera Liga club in 2-2 draw against Villarreal. Plus other news from around Europe.

Garet Balem scored before being substituted on the hour mark in his debut match for Real Madrid. Alberto Saiz / AP Photo
Garet Balem scored before being substituted on the hour mark in his debut match for Real Madrid. Alberto Saiz / AP Photo

MADRID // Carlo Ancelotti, the Real Madrid manager, hailed world record signing Gareth Bale’s attitude after the Welshman scored on his debut in the Spanish giants’ 2-2 draw with Villarreal.

Bale levelled for Madrid with a simple finish from close range just before half-time to cancel out Cani’s opener for the hosts.

The 24 year old was withdrawn by Ancelotti along with fellow debutant Asier Illarramendi on the hour mark due to their lack of match fitness.

Cristiano Ronaldo then briefly put Madrid ahead before Giovani Dos Santos, like Bale a former Tottenham player, struck 21 minutes from time to ensure the spoils were shared.

Ancelotti was happy with the contribution of his new players against a confident Villarreal side.

“I think they did well. I didn’t want to run the risk of playing them for 90 minutes because it is not good for them in their first game for a while,” he said.

“I think Bale is happy because he has scored for the first time with Real Madrid which is very important for him. It was a difficult game for all of us but he played well and showed a good attitude.”

As Ancelotti had indicated in his pre-match news conference, Bale lined up on the right side of the attack with Ronaldo featuring mainly down the left.

However, the two did exchange positions at time and Ancelotti expects that is something they will be able to do to even greater effect with more playing time together.

“It was the first time that they have played together. Now and again they are going to change positions because the movement that they have, but it wasn’t a specific point we had instructed them to do.”

Bale’s debut was also hailed by Emilio Butragueno, Madrid’s director of institutional relations.

“It is great news that he has scored on his debut,” he told Canal Plus. “It was his first game with his teammates and he has only had three days with them, but he is a player with enormous potential.”

The real star of the show for Madrid though was Diego Lopez, the goalkeeper, as he responded to calls by some for Iker Casillas to be reinstated as number one with a string of fine stops to save his side slipping to their first defeat of the campaign.

However, Ancelotti said he would stick by his decision to start Casillas for the first time this season when Madrid open their Champions League campaign against Galatasaray on Tuesday.

“Diego played very well. He was ready and reacted very well,” said the Italian.

“I don’t know if he saved us because with more attention to detail in midfield we could have won the match.

“The decision for Tuesday has already been taken. The two keepers know it and there will be no problem.”

Sanchez sends Barca to controversial victory

Alexis Sanchez struck deep into stoppage time to hand Barcelona a controversial 3-2 home win over Sevilla on Saturday that keeps the Catalans at the top of the Spanish Primera Liga.

Dani Alves’ header had given the hosts a deserved first-half lead, but Sevilla were left enraged when Juan Cala had what seemed like a perfectly good goal disallowed 25 minutes from time.

Lionel Messi then looked to have sealed the points for Barca with a fine finish form Neymar’s cut-back, but Ivan Rakitic pulled a goal back moments later before Coke thought he had stolen a point for the visitors when he steered home Rakitic’s corner in the 90th minute.

However, more brilliance from Messi in stoppage time forced Beto to parry his cross from the byline and Sanchez pounced to preserve Barca’s 100 percent start to the season.

“It was a robbery. If they take so many things away from us, it has been a robbery,” Fernando Navarro, the Sevilla captain, told Canal Plus afterwards.

“Everyone has seen what has happened, we have played a good game, but with things like this you can’t do anything.”

It was a sweet ending for Sanchez though after being dropped to the bench in favour of Christian Tello.

Bayern in unhappy times

Matthias Sammer, Bayern Munich’s director of sport, has accused the European champions of a lacklustre display in their 2-0 win over Hanover ahead of their opening Champions League match.

“We play football without emotion, we’re just going through the motions, we have to get out of this comfort zone,” fumed Sammer after the win in Munich left Bayern second in the Bundesliga.

Bayern start their Champions League campaign at home to CSKA Moscow on Tuesday and Sammer described the Bavarian giants as going into their “full-throttle week” with the handbrake on.

Sammer said any talk of readjustments under Pep Guardiola, their new manager, was just “alibi rubbish” and insisted Bayern’s stars should not have needed a passionate pre-match speech by Guardiola.

“It’s all Pep this, Pep that – it’s not his fault, but it makes everyone else a little less responsible around here,” said Sammer.

“Everyone wants to play well, that’s without question, but the coach had to give a fiery speech before we really get going.”

Sammer pointed to Borussia Dortmund, their rivals, having secured top spot with a 6-2 romp over Hamburg.

“We are at the same point in the season where Dortmund gave everything away last year,” said Sammer, while Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge described Dortmund’s victory as a “warning”.

Juventus miss out with a draw

Juventus spurned the chance to go top of Serie A on Saturday after missing several late chances in a 1-1 draw away to Inter Milan.

Inter, who endured a disastrous ninth place finish last season, grabbed a 73rd-minute opener through Mauro Icardi, two minutes after the Argentinian substitute entered the fray.

However, the Nerazzurri’s bid to go top was halted in spectacular fashion when Arturo Vidal levelled only two minutes later and the hosts were lucky to escape with a share of the points as Juve missed three clear chances late in the match.

Walter Mazzarri, the Inter manager, was pleased with his side’s performance but admitted he lost control after Juve’s quick equaliser.

“The boys didn’t really get into the game in the first half but I liked the way we came out after the interval,” said the former Napoli handler.

“We started to control things and took the lead, then we made a few mistakes and let Juve come back into it. That angered me a little.”

While Mazzarri waved off suggestions his side could be one of several teams aiming to stop Juve winning a third successive title, a feat they last achieved in the 1930s, Conte believes otherwise.

He said the result “shows that Inter can have title-winning pretensions.”

Napoli continue winning run

Goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon secured a 2-0 win for Napoli over 10-man Atalanta to move Rafa Benitez’s side three points clear of their fellow title challengers in Serie A.

Earlier on Saturday, champions Juventus spurned the chance to go provisionally top after missing several late chances in a 1-1 draw away to Inter Milan.

It gave Napoli, who started their third match of the campaign top on goal difference, the chance to pull clear of four other teams who had taken maximum points from their first two games of the season.

And despite Atalanta enjoying the lion’s share of the scoring chances in the first half at the San Paolo, Higuain sent Napoli on their way to victory with a well-taken individual effort in the 71st minute.

Saint-Etienne top Ligue 1 table

Saint-Etienne went top of France’s Ligue 1 on Saturday with a 3-1 win at Valenciennes as Marseille stuttered to a 1-1 draw at lowly Toulouse.

Benjamin Corgnet grabbed a brace either side of Romain Hamouma’s strike for Les Verts before Maor Melikson grabbed a consolation for the hosts from the penalty spot 10 minutes from time.

It was enough to move Saint-Etienne a point above Paris Saint-Germain at the top of Ligue 1 following the champions’ 2-0 win at Bordeaux on Friday.

Big-spending Monaco could go back to the summit if they win at home to Lorient on Sunday.