MADRID,
Spain
Real
Madrid’s winning streak ended when they conceded a late goal to draw 2-2 at
home to Celta Vigo and finish the weekend with their lead over Barcelona down
to one point.

Real manager Zinedine Zidane was philosophical.

“There’s nothing to explain, it’s just the way things
are, it’s football,” he said. “I’m not worried about it, but I’m
disappointed, as always when you drop two points at home.” 

Barcelona beat third place Getafe on Saturday to open a
10-point gap on the chasing pack. Sevilla could have climbed to third on Sunday
but were held, 2-2, at home by rock-bottom Espanyol. 

Real had won five straight in La Liga to accelerate past
Barcelona. On Sunday they welcomed back Eden Hazard, who had been out since
November. Coach Zinedine Zidane also recalled his other 100 million euro player
Gareth Bale to complete an all-star attack with Karim Benzema.

Yet Celta leapt into the lead after seven minutes. A pass
from Iago Aspas sent Fedor Smolov galloping clear up the middle and he shot low
past Thibaut Courtois.

“There were mistakes, especially for the first
goal,” said Zidane. “We were not well positioned, it happens, and
it’ll happen to us again.”

Celta had only climbed out of the relegation places the
weekend before and looked anxious and overawed on the ball. 

Real dominated the rest of the first half and their starry
attacking lineup produced pacy, intricate and imaginative attacking
interchanges but a combination of good defending and bad finishing kept Real
out for the rest of the first half.

Real again dominated the start of the first half. 

Sergio Ramos, already playing as an extra striker, slammed
the ball into the net but had been standing offside. 

In the 52nd minute, Marcelo, not for the first time, found
space on the left. His low cross deflected to Toni Kroos following the attack.
The German drilled in the equaliser. It was the sixth straight season Kroos had
scored against Celta.

In the 65th minute, goalkeeper Ruben Blanco pulled down the
impressive Hazard. Ramos slammed the penalty into the bottom corner of the net.

“We’re glad he’s back,” said Zidane who took the
Belgian off in the 73rd minute.

“We know what he can do for us. He didn’t go further
than we planned after three months out,” Zidane said. “He was
involved in a lot of attacking action.”

Celta responded by rediscovering their attacking nerve.

With four minutes left, a sharp pass from Denis Suarez, who
had come on in the 71st minute, caught the Real back four rigid on the edge of
their own area. Santi Mina, who had been on for just two minutes, raced onto
the ball and drilled a shot past Courtois.

“An extraordinary pass,” said Zidane.

Real play Levante in the league next Sunday before
entertaining Manchester City in the Champions League.

“Now we have to prepare for our next game, because
after that it’s going to get harder and harder.”

Real Madrid also used the match Sunday to send a message to
China.

– Message for China –

The players came on before the match wearing shirts with the
Chinese message “China, come on!”

During the game the advertising hoardings flashed up the
English message “Wuhan! Come on! We support you!”

“Real Madrid wishes to express its full support for all
of the people affected by the coronavirus,” the club tweeted in English.

Yao Fei, Charge d’Affaires in China’s Madrid embassy,
responded with a tweet of thanks in Spanish.

“A million thanks to Real Madrid for their valuable
support for China in the fight against the coronavirus! Victory will be
ours!”

The point ensured Celta stayed just outside the relegations
places ahead of Mallorca, who beat Alaves on Saturday, on goal difference. The
pair are two points clear of Leganes, who drew with Betis on Sunday and
Espanyol who drew at Sevilla.

Sevilla missed a chance to exploit Getafe’s loss to
Barcelona and fourth-placed Atletico Madrid’s 2-2 draw at Valencia on
Friday. 

Lucas Ocampos headed Sevilla in front after 14 minutes
before Adrian Embarba levelled the scores with a free-kick.

China winger Wu Lei put the away side ahead five minutes
after the break.

After Victor Sanchez was sent off Suso exploited Sevilla’s
man advantage to score his first goal for the club since arriving on loan from
AC Milan last month.

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