Madrid (AFP) – A depleted Real Madrid delivered a major boost to Atletico Madrid’s title hopes on Sunday by drawing 0-0 with Getafe in La Liga.
Atletico had thrashed Eibar 5-0 to reignite their own fading challenge and their victory proved even more valuable after Real Madrid were held to a goalless draw at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.
It means Atletico extend their advantage at the top of the table from one to three points over Real while Barcelona, who now have a game in hand after winning the Copa del Rey final on Saturday, are five points back.
Sevilla could yet join the race after they defeated Real Sociedad 2-1 but with six points separating them and Atletico, it remains more of an outside chance.
Real Madrid have enjoyed an incredible two weeks after beating Barcelona in the Clasico last weekend between knocking out Liverpool over two legs in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
But a crippling list of injuries and absentees means the squad is down to its bare bones and this was the game that finally caught up with them.
Zinedine Zidane took only 13 senior outfield players to Getafe and still decided he had to rest Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema by starting them on the bench.
Sergio Ramos, Ferland Mendy and Lucas Vazquez are both injured while Eden Hazard and Dani Carvajal were not deemed ready to return.
Nacho Fernandez and Casemiro were both suspended, with Raphael Varane and Fede Valverde unavailable due to Covid-19 protocol.
It meant Zidane named only three senior defenders, with the 21-year-old Victor Chust handed his first La Liga start at centre back and Alvaro Odriozola coming in at right back.
Benzema and Kroos both came on but neither could turn the tide for Madrid, who will hope to have players back now for Wednesday’s trip to Cadiz.
The first leg of the Champions Leaue semi-final against Chelsea is also only nine days away.
It represents a slight shift in momentum after four wins in 11 league games had seen Atletico’s 10-point advantage in February reduced to one before this weekend.
But a thumping victory over struggling Eibar at the Wanda Metropolitano may prove the spark to turn Atletico’s form around.
Atletico’s problems were also deepened by an injury to Luis Suarez earlier this month but Marcos Llorente and Angel Correa filled the void, both scoring twice either side of Yannick Carrasco making it three just after half-time.
It is the first time Atletico have scored five goals since they hammered Cadiz back in September, a comfortable win appearing almost cathartic for a team that have struggled so much for goals in recent weeks.
Eibar, who stay rooted to the bottom of the table, were perhaps the perfect opponents for the start of a recovery but games against Huesca, the out-of-form Athletic Bilbao and Elche should now offer Atletico a chance to regain momentum before a crunch trip to Barcelona on May 8.
Atletico scored four goals in 11 minutes either side of half-time, with Correa finding the net in the 42nd and 44th minutes, first prodding in at the back post before twisting on Carrasco’s pull-back to make it two.
Carrasco then scored himself four minutes after the interval, sent clear by Saul Niguez’s ball over the top and in the 53rd minute, Correa found Llorente in the box and he had time to turn and pick his spot.
The excellent Llorente started and finished the fifth, combining quickly with Renan Lodi and Carrasco again to seal an emphatic win.
Getafe came closest to opening the scoring in the first half against Real Madrid when Jaime Mata’s glancing header struck the post while at the other end Mariano Diaz’s header had to be cleared off the line.
Madrid came under pressure before the hour-mark, the best of a handful of chances falling to Enes Unal’s whose shot drew an excellent save from Thibaut Courtois.
Benzema and Kroos came on but Getafe still looked more likely to win it, Nemanja Maksimovic testing Courtois again with a deflected effort that had to be pushed over ther bar.
Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla came from behind against Real Sociedad to stay in touch with the leading trio.
Carlos Fernandez gave the home side a fifth-minute lead, but goals from Fernando and Youssef En-Nesyri, his 16th in the league this season, secured Sevilla a third straight win.
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