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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.