Real Madrid go top of La Liga – for now

Real Madrid moved top of La Liga, until Sunday evening at least, with a 2-1 win at Alaves.

Captain Sergio Ramos headed Real in front in the 52nd minute, before then giving away a penalty which saw Lucas Perez equalise (65).

But Zinedine Zidane’s side restored their lead four minutes later when Dani Carvajal bundled the ball in from close range and that proved decisive as the visitors moved three points clear of Barcelona, who play at Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

Gareth Bale started for Real Madrid at Alaves
Gareth Bale started for Real Madrid at Alaves

Real had seen Paris Saint-Germain fight back with two late goals to draw their Champions League match on Tuesday night, but were not expected to be given much concern at the Mendizorrotza Stadium.

Gareth Bale was drafted in for a first start since early October, with Alphonse Areola replacing goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Luka Modric also returning to the team. Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard missed out as he nursed an ankle problem.

Bale almost broke the deadlock in the 11th minute after Isco had clipped the ball across from the left. The Wales forward – at the centre of another country-versus-club row during the international break – glanced a header goalwards but watched it bounce back off a post.

Alaves went close through defender Ximo Navarro as driving rain continued but Real Madrid finally broke the deadlock in a low-key affair after 52 minutes. Toni Kroos floated in a deep free-kick, and captain Ramos was left unmarked to glance a header into the bottom corner.

Alaves were sparked into life after going behind. The home fans were twice calling for a penalty, first for a handball by Modric and then what looked a trip by Ramos.

Referee Guillermo Cuadra did point to the spot in the 65th minute after Ramos pushed Joselu in the face with his trailing arm, and was shown a yellow card.

Perez, the former Arsenal and West Ham forward, made no mistake from the penalty but Real were soon back in front after 69 minutes.

Modric floated the ball in from the right and though Isco’s header at the back post came back off the woodwork, Carvajal bundled the ball in from close range.

Alaves forced a string of corners during the closing moments, as Perez’s point-blank effort was blocked and then a header from Manu Garcia was saved, but the visitors closed out eight minutes of added time – with substitute Federico Valverde dragging a golden late chance wide.

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