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La Liga: Real Madrid held to frustrating draw by Valladolid



Real Madrid’s early optimism was punctured by an 88th-minute equaliser by Real Valladolid as Zinedine Zidane’s side stumbled to a 1-1 draw in their first home game of the La Liga season on Saturday.

Karim Benzema looked to have fired Madrid to a second straight win after last week’s confidence-boosting 3-1 victory at Celta Vigo when he scored in the 82nd minute with a splendid piece of skill.

The Frenchman, Madrid’s top scorer last campaign, controlled a pass with his back to goal and swivelled before striking his finish into the far corner to give the home side a deserved lead.

Serbian striker Luka Jovic had gone close to breaking the deadlock earlier in the game when he headed against the crossbar barely a minute after coming off the bench.

Valladolid had offered little in attack but grabbed a shock equaliser with only their second shot on target when Sergi Guardiola struck through the legs of Thibaut Courtois.

The goal plunged a happy Santiago Bernabeu crowd into silence and left Madrid with four points after two games.

“I’m left with a bitter taste because we did the hardest thing, which was to score in a second half where we did not produce our best performance,” Madrid coach Zidane told a news conference.

“It’s a bad feeling when you concede an equaliser so soon after scoring. We played well in the first half, but we were unable to find the net.”

Real were without suspended midfielder Luka Modric but Rodriguez made his first appearance in a Madrid shirt for over two years.

After a strong start in the unforgiving summer heat of the Spanish capital, Madrid struggled to maintain their intensity after the interval.

But they found a breakthrough when it looked least likely due to the quick thinking of Benzema.

They were powerless to deal with the speed of Valladolid’s counterattack which saw Guardiola level six minutes later,

However, Zidane said the draw was not down to his side’s waning energy levels.

“We were less convinced of ourselves in the second half.

“We did not play with fluidity and when we lack that we run into problems. But we cannot blame our result on the heat, our problems today were not physical ones,” he said. (Reuters/)


Edited by Muhammad Suleiman Tola


Ocampos shines as Sevilla beat Betis in La Liga return



Sevilla’s Argentine winger, Lucas Ocampos produced a classy display to lead his side to a 2-0 home win over city rivals Real Betis in the first La Liga game since the season was halted three months ago by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sevilla dominated the derby on Thursday in an empty and eerily quiet Sanchez Pizjuan which would usually be teeming with colour and noise for the occasion, but the red seats were left bare as fans were barred from attending for safety reasons.

Ocampos struck the post in the first half before giving Sevilla a deserved lead from the penalty spot in the 56th minute and he produced an outrageous backheel assist for midfielder Fernando to head home six minutes later.

The win tightened Sevilla’s hold on third place in the standings as Julen Lopetegui’s side moved on to 50 points after 28 games. Betis were left in 12th on 33.

Edited By: Muhyideen Jimoh/Maureen Atuonwu (NAN)
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Stick to rules or face closed camps, La Liga tells players



La Liga president Javier Tebas has warned players they could be made to attend closed training camps if the league’s protocol on social gatherings is not adhered to.

His warning came after FC Barcelona defender Nelson Semedo became the latest player to flout the rules.

Semedo was caught on Spanish television at a gathering of more than 20 people on Monday.

Barca said on their website he did not train on Thursday due to the league’s protocol, which provides strict rules on players’ activities.

Tebas said Semedo would have to test negative for COVID-19 before he was allowed to be named in the squad for Barca’s match away to Real Mallorca on Saturday.

The match would be their first since the season was halted in March due to the pandemic.

Four Sevilla players flouted the rules last month by attending a large gathering where social distancing was not observed.

Tebas has now said if the problem persisted the league might have to take action.

The league had initially proposed keeping squads in training camps when matches returned, but dropped the demand after protests from the players’ union.

“If players keep breaking the rules, we’ll have to consider having obligatory training camps.

“We hope it doesn’t come to that. But if people keep going to barbecues and parties, we might have to,” Tebas told reporters on a conference call on Thursday.

“We wanted to do this a few weeks ago, but we saw that players were complying with the protocols.

“But if we start to see three or four players at each club disobeying these rules, then we’ll have no other remedy.”

Spain has been one of the hardest hit countries by the pandemic, which has claimed more than 27,000 lives and crippled the economy.

Tebas said players needed to show more responsibility.

“We all have a responsibility to keep this industry going and taking any step back carries big risks.

“I call on all the clubs to tell their players to please comply with the rules because anyone who breaks the rules damages us all,” he added.

“La Liga has shown a lot of faith in the players by not enforcing the closed camps. So, please, return that confidence and do not break it.

“Flouting the rules not only harms La Liga, it also harms people’s health in general.”

Edited By: Olawale Alabi) (NAN)
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La Liga to use “virtual’’ stands and audio for broadcasts



La Liga will use virtual images of stands in television broadcasts with added “fan audio’’, produced by the makers of the FIFA video game, when it returns to action on Thursday.

Domestic broadcasters in Spain will offer their viewers the choice of a “natural’’ broadcast of games played behind closed doors with no fans.

But the international audience will receive only the enhanced broadcasts with added audio and graphics.

La Liga said in a statement on Sunday that the use of technology “will allow matches to be seen in an attractive way that closely resembles how they looked and sounded before the competition was postponed.”

The stands will be “virtualised” and will offer to-scale images of seated fans wearing the home club’s colours.

La Liga collaborated with Norwegian company VIZRT on the technology.

“In moments when the game is stopped, this image of fans can be transformed into a canvas that matches the colour of the home team and will carry institutional messages among other offerings,” added the league.

The virtual sound has been developed with video game company EA SPORTS FIFA, in a project called Sounds of the Stands.

“Through this, the audio library of LaLiga official sponsor EA, which was recorded in real stadiums, has been used and has been digitally adapted so that it can be implemented in real time during the match,” said the statement.

“It will be adapted to the flow of the game as certain situations occur, such as a goal or a foul, creating what is known as Atmospheric Audio.”

FC Barcelona lead the table by two points over Real Madrid with 11 rounds of matches left, after the season was paused in March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The two rivals are braced for one of the tightest title races in recent memory.

The fight for UEFA Champions League football is even closer, with at least five teams vying for third and fourth place.

The restart begins with Thursday’s derby between Sevilla and Real Betis, while champions FC Barcelona visit Real Mallorca on Saturday and Real Madrid host Eibar on Sunday.

“We have made these broadcasting changes so (that) fans can enjoy LaLiga,” said the league’s President Javier Tebas.

“We work with global partners to offer a great viewer experience. We are in an exceptional situation, but for us it has been important to be able to adapt and offer a compelling, cutting-edge broadcast to our fans,” he added.

Edited By: Olawale Alabi (NAN)
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Ole! La Liga fires up again after old foes unite



After an almighty push by all parties concerned, Spain’s La Liga roars back into action next week after a three-month pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with matches taking place every day and with everything to play for.

The season resumes on Wednesday in bizarre circumstances with the second half of a Segunda Division match between Rayo Vallecano and Albacete that was abandoned in December due to offensive chanting.

The (re)starting gun will be properly fired with Thursday’s derby between Sevilla and Real Betis, while champions Barcelona play their first game on Saturday away to Real Mallorca, with title rivals Real Madrid hosting Eibar on Sunday.

All matches will be played without spectators for safety reasons, although broadcasters plan to replicate crowd noise for television viewers, which will include a minute of applause for Spain’s more-than 27,000 COVID-19 victims.

While clubs such as Eibar and Racing Santander expressed their disquiet about returning and a Cadiz player at first refused to turn up for training, Spain has been largely united by a desire for football to return to lift the mood in one of the worst-affected countries in the world by the virus.

La Liga president Javier Tebas has led the campaign to get the season back on track, warning early on that not completing the campaign could lead to a collective loss of one billion euros ($1.13 billion) in forfeited broadcast revenues and prize money.

Old wounds between Tebas and federation president Luis Rubiales resurfaced in the early stages of negotiations.

But after an eight-hour meeting organised by junior sports minister Irene Lozano in April, they finally pledged to work together to ensure the season was completed.

“How we act in this pandemic and the measures we take will determine how the world looks in the next few years and they were conscious of that and their need to co-operate,” said Lozano of the unlikely meeting of minds.

As part of the commitment, La Liga increased its funding to the ministry and federation, while the latter lifted a ban on matches on Mondays and Fridays, paving the way for matches on every day of the week.

Spain’s footballers have welcomed the return of the season, although they concede it will not be the same without the supporters.

“It’s going to be a very strange sensation. Football is all about the fans,” said Atletico Madrid’s Marcos Llorente.

Spain coach Luis Enrique went further: “Playing matches without supporters is sadder than dancing with your sister,” he said.

“But we have to understand this is a global business and even though the spectacle will be very different, it can help us pass the time and get through this moment.”

Barcelona led the table by two points over Real when the season was paused in March and the two rivals are braced for one of the tightest title races in recent memory.

The fight for Champions League football is even closer, with five teams vying for third and fourth place.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)
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