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MADRID — Cristiano Ronaldo came through for Real Madrid again, this time with a backheel flick that saved his team from a loss in the Spanish league.

Ronaldo netted an 87th-minute equalizer with a subtle touch of the ball with his back to the goal, redirecting a low shot by Luka Modric from outside the area to give Madrid a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.
The goal added to Ronaldo’s impressive scoring run and kept Madrid in the fight for second place, three points from Atletico Madrid, which visits Real Sociedad on Thursday.

Barcelona, which drew 2-2 at Celta Vigo on Tuesday, holds a 12-point lead at the top of the standings.

Inaki Williams put Athletic ahead with a chip shot from inside the area in the 14th, but Madrid pressured throughout the match at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium until finally breaking through with the neat close-range touch by Ronaldo, who extended his scoring streak to 12 consecutive matches to tie his best run with the Spanish club. He has 22 goals during that streak, and 26 goals in total in his last 15 matches.

“We leave with mixed feelings,” Athletic coach Jose Angel Ziganda said. “The team played well throughout the match. It was a pity to concede that goal in the end. We were close to victory.”

Athletic goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who reportedly was close to being signed by Madrid in the off-season, had a great performance to keep the hosts at bay earlier.

“To earn a positive result in this stadium, you need the goalkeeper to play well,” Arrizabalaga said. “It makes you mad to concede the equalizer in the end, but if you look at the whole match, they created a lot of chances.”

Athletic nearly made it 2-0 when Raul Garcia struck the crossbar with a shot from near the penalty spot in the 66th.

Ronaldo had struck the woodwork with a header early in the first half.

“We are happy with our performance but not with the result,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “We lacked calm on the final pass and ended up making too many crosses into the area, which was not ideal.”

It was the third straight game without a win at home for Madrid.

Athletic, sitting 13th in the standings, was looking for its first win at the Bernabeu since 2005.

VALENCIA’S SETBACK

Valencia stayed in fourth place after a 2-1 home loss to Getafe, its second straight setback after a run of nine consecutive matches unbeaten.

It had won its last five games at Mestalla Stadium, with its last defeat coming against Real Madrid in January.

Loic Remy scored a goal in each half for Getafe, which moved to eighth place with the victory.

Rodrigo scored his seventh goal in seven matches to pull Valencia closer in the 69th.

The hosts played the final minutes with 10 men as Dani Parejo was sent off for elbowing an opponent.

ESPANYOL STRUGGLES

Espanyol lost 1-0 to Eibar at home, extending its winless streak to five matches and increasing pressure on coach Enrique “Quique” Sanchez Flores.

Fans jeered the team and called for Quique’s dismissal after the loss, the team’s third straight.

Espanyol, which hasn’t scored in five matches, still remains in danger of relegation. It is in 16th place, nine points from the relegation zone.

Eibar, sitting 11th, hadn’t won in sixth consecutive matches.

Defender David Lomban netted the game’s winner with a 32nd-minute header.

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LONDON — Three thoughts on a remarkable game at Stamford Bridge that saw Tottenham grab their first win there in 28 years.

1. Eriksen, Alli strike as Spurs end Chelsea jinx

It had been one of the longest barren runs in English football, but Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli combined to help Tottenham seal the club’s first league victory at Chelsea since February 1990 and, at the same time, leave Antonio Conte’s men eight points adrift of the top four.

The last time Spurs won at Stamford Bridge, the world was watching Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. Most of Mauricio Pochettino’s players weren’t even born yet, illustrating that it was a lifetime ago. But it is all about timing in football and the magnitude of this win cannot be over-stated considering the ramifications that the result has for both teams.

Spurs, preparing to move into their rebuilt stadium next season, can now prepare to host Champions League games once again after giving themselves a huge cushion in the race for the top four. Meanwhile Chelsea must now begin to face up to life in the Europa League next term with only seven games left to play in which to overhaul their London rivals.

Tottenham have already put their North London foes Arsenal in the shade under Pochettino, finishing above them in the league for the first time in over 20 years last season. Now, they can begin to call themselves London’s top club after ending their lengthy Chelsea hoodoo.

Questions have been asked of Tottenham’s mental strength in the big games, but they answered them here. And Pochettino, who had won just once in 19 away games against the top six, has also silenced his doubters with this win, which came after the home side had gone ahead through Alvaro Morata’s 29th minute header. Spurs were able to fight back and claim the win, though, with Eriksen’s long-range stunner on the stroke of half-time prior to Alli’s second-half double.

This really was a historic win for Spurs. After 28 years of waiting, they picked the perfect moment to get that long awaited win against Chelsea.
GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images
2. Conte let down by his players

Not even Antonio Conte’s staunchest supporters expect him to be in charge of Chelsea next season, but this game suggested that his players already know that he won’t be. The shelf life of most Chelsea managers is short, and Conte will have done better than most if he sees out his second season in charge. However, the players at the club have become so accustomed to change in the manager’s office that they appear to switch off once the inevitable looks set to happen.

After taking the lead through Morata in the first half, Chelsea could have extended their lead but simply took the foot off the pedal instead. Eden Hazard was anonymous once again and the lack of drive and purpose within the team after the half-time interval was embarrassingly obvious.

This was a huge game for Chelsea, one that would have put them within two points of the top four had they won. But only one team had the hunger for the win after the break on Sunday and that was Spurs.

Conte’s players just drifted along, but they all know what happens next. A new manager will come in and players will come and go. That’s life at Chelsea but those who remain will regret the half-hearted performance once those Thursday nights in the Europa League come around.
AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK
3. Kane return eases England’s fears and boost Tottenham’s trophy hopes

Harry Kane’s return from injury as a second-half substitute was a big moment for both Spurs and England. For England manager Gareth Southgate, the benefits of having Kane fit and firing in the World Cup are obvious.

England need Kane’s goals if they’re to thrive in Russia this summer and the prospect of the forward boosting his fitness over the final six weeks of the season is a major boost for Southgate. But from a Spurs perspective, it is also crucial to have their talisman back in action.
Spurs should coast home now in the race for the top four, having moved eight points clear of Chelsea with this win, but the FA Cup is still there to be won and Kane’s presence against Manchester United in the semifinal could be decisive.

Pochettino may dismiss the importance of the cup, but Spurs need a trophy and Kane also needs to taste the joy of lifting silverware for this team. His return in this game may have slipped under the radar due to the impact of the win but Kane playing again is a big moment for club and country.

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MONTREAL — New Montreal Impact centreback Rudy Camacho and coach Remi Garde should get along fine.

Not only are they experiencing Major League Soccer together for the first time, but both from Arbresle, a municipality of about 6,000 near Lyon, France.
Camacho, 27, signed a four-year contract with Montreal on Thursday after completing his transfer from Belgian first division club Waasland Beveren. The move fills a big hole in the Impact’s central defence.

“I’ve seen a lot of players on video since I got here,” said Garde, who joined Montreal from Olympique Lyonnais in November. “Rudy caught my attention because he likes to defend, he’s aggressive and he seems to be a leader on the field.”

The Impact (1-2) were left scrambling for defenders when, after dealing the popular Laurent Ciman to Los Angeles FC, his replacement Zakaria Diallo suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury a few days before the start of the regular season. They were already missing second-year centreback Kyle Fisher for four months with a leg injury.

That left Victor Cabrera as their only healthy natural centreback. Left back Jukka Raitala filled in at centreback in the first three games.

Garde recently signed 36-year-old central defender Rod Fanni, who made an impressive debut in a 1-0 home win over Toronto FC on Saturday, to a three-month contract that can be extended. He filled another need Monday with the signing of 28-year-old Uruguayan attacking midfielder Alejandro Silva.

The Camacho deal and Silva’s three-year contract were both done using targeted allocation money, so the Impact still have one designated player spot open after Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taider.

Silva and Camacho are expected to see their first action in Impact blue on March 31 in Seattle, when MLS play resumes after an international break.

Camacho, who had been in town for a week while the Impact and Waasland worked out the deal, watched the game against Toronto as a first look at a league he didn’t know much about.

“Remi Garde called me directly to see if I was interested,” said Camacho, who donned shirt number four as he met with the media. “I had options in Europe.

“I thought it over. There’s my family, there’s football. It’s another adventure. There’s the quality of life. Everything plays into it. But I think I made the right decision and I’ll try to show that on the field.”

While he and Garde are from the same town, they had never met.

“I didn’t know him at all before he showed interest in me,” he said. “It’s just by chance.

“We’re born in the same city, so that’s good.”

The six-foot-one Camacho, who joined Waasland in 2016, started 27 games and played in three Belgian Cup games this season. He scored two goals and acted as captain in his last eight games with the club.

He previously played in lower divisions in France for Nancy, Lyon-Duchere and Sedan Ardennes.

“It’s a very good moment in his career to give his best,” said Garde. “I also like the fact that he built his career smart because he started in low clubs.

“It shows me it’s someone who really wants to achieve. As a player, he’s a strong defender and also I like the way he can pass the ball from behind to build the game. He has very good ability on that. He can play on the left or the right side of the central defence, which is also important for me. I think it’s a very good prospect for us.”

Technical director Adam Braz said this week the team is likely done with signings at least until the summer transfer window.

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Nemanja Matic scored the first goal of his Manchester United career on Monday night and couldn’t have picked a better moment to do it. They trailed Crystal Palace by two goals with 50 minutes on the clock but after Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku drew United level, Matic stole all three points with his injury-time wonder strike.

In the summer, Matic traded life at Stamford Bridge to be reunited with his former manager, Jose Mourinho, at Manchester United. Mourinho likes to surround himself with players who are loyal to him and the midfielder has proven himself to be that, with the manager referring to him as a “Jose Mourinho player,” when he was unveiled at the club.

Chelsea fans claimed they were glad to see the back of him, insisting he had been poor in his final season at the club.

Manager Antonio Conte felt differently though, starting Matic in every game, other than when he was injured for a match against Manchester City, until the Premier League title was won. When Matic left, Conte made it clear that this had not been a decision he approved of and has repeatedly sung the player’s praises since.

The opening few weeks of this season saw social media awash with United supporters thanking Chelsea for their midfielder. Matic put in man of the match performances every week and looked to be one of the missing pieces of the puzzle.

In contrast, Chelsea were stuck with Tiemoue Bakayoko, spending all of the £40 million they made from Matic on an inferior player. His last appearance was in Chelsea’s 4-1 defeat against Watford when he was sent off. It’s safe to say that his debut season with the current champions has been fairly disastrous.

However, while United fans initially were in a great position to scoff at Chelsea’s poor work in the transfer market, Matic went through a period of poor form where his worst attributes were exposed too often. The Serbia international is slow and if he gets caught out of position, United are in trouble. For a stretch, he looked like a completely different player to the opening months, with him ambling through games rather than controlling them.
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When you consider that Matic has played 90 minutes of every Premier League game though, he may be forgiven for looking off the pace at times. He must be exhausted. But the long-term injury to Marouane Fellaini has left Mourinho with few options for rotation, although fans were still eager for him to try someone else.

Yet, despite going off the boil, Matic has seemingly found his feet again. Last weekend, he was exceptional in United’s 2-1 win over Chelsea. No one had more touches of the ball or completed more passes than Matic on either team. Maybe he was inspired by facing his former club, but he looked fantastic and that seems to have prompted a resurgence in him.

On Monday evening, United looked like they were about to lose their first Premier League game against Palace after they went 2-0 down. Yet United managed to adopt the mentality they showed so often under Sir Alex Ferguson and fought their way back in to the game.

Having brought the scoreline back to 2-2, the ball fell to Matic 25 yards out in the 92nd minute. As he looked to position himself to strike the ball, United fans all over the world screamed at their television for him not to shoot. While everyone may be familiar with his incredible strike against Tottenham when still at Chelsea, he hasn’t done much in the way of replicating that at United.

This was likely to be United’s last chance of the game and with the forwards surrounding the penalty area, there had to be a better option than shooting. It was as if you could already hear the groans from the away end, predicting he would slice it out for a throw-in or blast it well over the bar.
Yet Matic caught the ball perfectly and his shot crept just inside the post, resulting in euphoria. Lukaku fell to his knees in celebration before the United players jumped into the ecstatic away end.

It felt as though it had been forever that they had experienced the adrenalin from coming behind to win like that. The players’ heads didn’t drop, despite it looking as though it wasn’t going to be their day, and Matic deserved all the plaudits for sealing the win.

With important games on the horizon, namely Liverpool at the weekend and the second leg of the Champions League fixture against Sevilla next week, United will need Matic to continue his recent rise to form if they are going to pick up wins in these tough matches.