Sunday, August 9, 2020

Real edge Getafe to close in on title

Football

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Real Madrid v Getafe - Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium, Madrid, Spain - July 2, 2020 Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos celebrates scoring their first goal, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) REUTERS/Sergio Perez

MADRID: Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos kept his nerve to score a late penalty and secure a 1-0 home win over Getafe last night for a sixth consecutive La Liga victory, taking his side four points clear of Barcelona in the title race.

Ramos coolly passed the ball into the net to finally break the deadlock in the 79th minute after Dani Carvajal was felled by the trailing leg of Getafe’s Mathias Olivera, who was denied a penalty earlier on after being knocked over by Carvajal.

The late strike felt harsh on Getafe, who had squandered a couple of chances to take the lead, but Zinedine Zidane’s side once again saw out a difficult game to capitalise on Barca’s 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

Real, who have not won the title since 2017, lead the table on 74 points ahead of second-placed Barca with five games left.

Real Sociedad came from behind to beat La Liga basement club Espanyol 2-1 at home, earning their first victory since the season resumed after the coronavirus stoppage and boosting their bid for European football next season.

Meanwhile, Spain’s secretary for sport Irene Lozano and La Liga president Javier Tebas have categorically ruled out fans returning to matches before the end of this season to minimise the risk of the coronavirus spreading.

Tebas said last month that fans should be allowed back once it is safe to do so, while the league drew up a draft protocol in the event that the government’s department for sport approved their return.

Yet Lozano, who has repeatedly stated that the campaign should finish without supporters as those were the conditions for matches returning after the March hiatus, drew a line under the matter in a breakfast meeting with reporters on Thursday.

“The safest thing to do is to complete the season without spectators,” she said.

“Football moves masses of people, it’s not like the theatre. A match behind-closed-doors is attended by only 250 people, but a stadium only at one-third of its capacity could mean 30,000 people. That’s why it’s different to other activities.”

None of Europe’s top five leagues have been able to hold matches with spectators since football has returned, although championships in countries such as Serbia, Bulgaria and Denmark have allowed fans back in to matches.

Tebas said the league was no longer planning for fans to return, adding that the main obstacle was the prospect of people congregating before and after games, as happened at a recent derby between Sporting Gijon and Real Oviedo.

“Right now La Liga is not prioritising the return of supporters to stadiums,” he said.