AAP Soccer

La Liga leaders Real draw with Celta

By AAP Newswire

Real Madrid have dropped two points in the battle for the Spanish La Liga title after they were held to a 2-2 home draw by lowly Celta Vigo.

The point moved Real a point clear of second-placed Barcelona after 24 matches this season.

Santi Mina struck a late equaliser at the Santiago Bernabeu to earn Celta a draw that lifted them out of the bottom three.

The visitors took a surprise seventh-minute lead on Sunday when Iago Aspas threaded a pass through for Fedor Smolov, who finished coolly for his first goal in Spain since arriving in the winter transfer window on loan from Lokomotiv Moscow.

Madrid turned the game around in the second half thanks to goals from Toni Kroos (52nd) and captain Sergio Ramos, the latter a 65th-minute penalty won by Eden Hazard on his return from injury.

Hazard made his first appearance since suffering an ankle injury at the end of November.

It seemed like the hosts had done enough to win but Denis Suarez's fine reverse pass was finished by substitute Mina on 86 minutes.

"Two very important points escaped us, here at home, but we have no other option than to keep working for next week's game against Levante so we can win," Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said.

"It was difficult when they went ahead because they defended well with 11 players."

Earlier on Sunday, bottom side Espanyol held on to a vital point with 10 men in a thrilling 2-2 draw at Sevilla, frustrating the hosts who are without a win in four games.

Lucas Ocampos headed Sevilla in front after 15 minutes at the end of a good team move but Adri Embarba levelled for the visitors at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan after 35 minutes with a low free kick.

Wu Lei fired Espanyol ahead five minutes into the second half but they could not hold on to their lead and Suso drilled home neatly from the edge of the box with 10 minutes remaining for the fifth-placed Sevilla.

Real Betis striker Borja Iglesias was sent off at the end of a dull goalless clash for barging a member of the Leganes staff.

Osasuna eked out a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao in their mid-table derby battle, thanks to Oier Sanjurjo's 29th-minute strike.

Eibar were due to host Real Sociedad but the match was postponed because of poor air quality in the region after fires at a landfill site.