Champions League Roundup: English Clubs Fly High as German Duo Disappoint Once Again

Tottenham secured an historic result against Real Madrid on Wednesday night to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, beating the reigning European champions 3-1 at Wembley thanks to a brilliant brace from a resurgent Dele Alli. 

Spurs led 1-0 at the half, but a stuttering Real – who lost 2-1 to Girona on Sunday – were ripped apart in the second half. Alli added his second after putting Casemiro on the floor, before Christian Eriksen finished off a lightning counter-attack to wrap the game up. Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed a late consolation, but couldn’t change the result.

For the full story on that incredible 90 minutes at Wembley, Ben Davies’ match report is up ​here. 

Borussia Dortmund‘s recent woes continued at the Westfalenstadion, surrendering a 1-0 lead to APOEL to draw 1-1 with the Cypriot side for the second time in a fortnight. 

Raphael Guerreiro broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark, capitalising on his side’s absolute dominance, but Mickael Pote stabbed home an equaliser early in the second half as the hosts remained winless in the group – now sitting five points behind second placed Real. 

A thrilling game between Napoli and Manchester City at the Stadio San Paolo finished 4-2 to the visitors, but it was the hosts who took the lead early thanks to a stunning team goal finished off by Dries Mertens. 

Headers from both of City’s centre-backs turned the game on its head before Leroy Sane’s foul in the area allowed Jorginho to level from the spot – but the young winger made up for it with a blistering counter-attacking run shortly afterwards; Sergio Aguero picking the ball up to finish past Pepe Reina and become the Citizens’ all-time leading goalscorer in all competitions. 

For more on City’s 4-2 win, finished off by Raheem Sterling, Aarron Bates’ full match report is up ​here. 

Shakhtar continued their impressive form with an 3-1 win over Feyenoord to reach the brink of qualification in Group F’s other game, going six points clear of Napoli with two games to play. The game burst into life early on with three goals in five minutes – the home side roaring back with two goals from Marlos and one from Facundo Ferreyra after Nicolai Joergensen’s opener. 

Liverpool were frustrated throughout a tight first half for the second time in five days, but a delightful flicked goal from Mohamed Salah finally broke Maribor’s resistance four minutes after the break. 

James Milner saw a penalty saved at 1-0, but a slick passing move around the box saw Emre Can fire home the second of the night to secure the points – Daniel Sturridge scoring his first Champions League goal in nearly seven years to round off a 3-0 win. 

For more on that game, Adam Barnish has you covered ​here. 

Sevilla kept things tight behind the Reds with a 2-1 win at home to Spartak thanks to a stunning strike from Ever Banega, leaving just three points between the group’s leading trio with all left to play for. 

The Argentine set up Clement Langlet in the first half for the Spanish side’s opener before firing home a brilliant, swerving strike from the edge of the area on the hour mark to double the lead – Ze Luis’ goal for Spartak providing some late drama. 

In the night’s early game, last season’s semi-finalists Monaco left themselves with a mountain to climb to qualify from Group G – a 1-1 draw against Besiktas meaning that they sit bottom of the group with just two points. Rony Lopes got the opening goal with a delightful curling finish, but Cenk Tosun hit the leveller from the spot after Ricardo Quaresma was fouled in the box.

Porto’s 3-1 win over RB Leipzig kept Besiktas from going through with two games to spare, the Portuguese side leapfrogging the Red Bull-backed side into second place in the group, two points clear of Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men – Danilo Pereira bagging the winner after a lovely chipped finish from Timo Werner cancelled out Hector Herrera’s opener. Maxi Pereira struck in injury time to round out the night. 


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Tottenham 3-1 Real Madrid: Alli Brace Sees Spurs into CL Knockout Stages in Historic Wembley Win

Tottenham stunned the world on Wednesday night as goals from Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen handed Spurs a convincing win over Champions League holders Real Madrid. A late consolation goal from Cristiano Ronaldo did little to disrupt the mood in a historic night in London.

​Both teams headed into the match on the back of a league defeat at the weekend; and having drawn at the Bernabeu in the reverse fixture, each side was eager to get the better of the other – and staple their name to the top of Group H.

The return of Harry Kane gave Spurs a huge confidence boost, as well as Dele Alli’s lifted suspension, allowing the England international to play his first Champions League game of the season.

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On the other hand, Madrid were determined to rectify their wrongdoings at the weekend – following a bitterly disappointing 2-1 defeat to newly promoted La Liga side Girona – aiming to use Spurs’ Wembley troubles to get them back to winning ways.

The opening period of the game started quite lively – half chances arriving for both teams. However, Madrid, a side looking bereft of confidence following their poor start to the season, spent the first half hour looking shaky at the back – something obvious when the home side took the lead on 26 minutes.

A smart diagonal ball from youngster Harry Winks caught the visiting defence off guard. A beautifully connected first time cross from Kieran Trippier fell to the feet of Dele Alli – the 21-year-old becoming the first Tottenham player to ever score against Real Madrid on his return to the Champions League.

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The first half continued to live up to expectation. While Madrid upped their game following on from the goal, handing Cristiano Ronaldo a few opportunities; few clear cut chances were created and Hugo Lloris was never really tested.

Likewise, Tottenham continued to press forward when given the opportunity, but little was done to worry Kiko Casilla between the sticks, and the sides headed into half time with the away side trailing.

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The second half began exactly as the first ended, with both sides determined to break through the opposing defence.

However, the night went from good to great for Dele Alli and his side when the Englishman doubled Spurs’ lead and earned himself a brace. Receiving the ball in the final third, the attacker ghosted past Casemiro, selling the Brazilian into diving in prematurely before rifling a shot towards goal.

The effort took a deflection off Sergio Ramos’ thigh, leaving Casilla in no man’s land, and handing Spurs a 2-0 lead after 56 minutes.

Not ten minutes later, Spurs all but secured the three points with their third of the night. A swift counter attack started by Alli caught the away side exposed in their bid to fight back into the game.

The midfielder rolled in Harry Kane, dragging Sergio Ramos – the lone defender – out wide; who then played in Christian Eriksen to go one on one with Casilla, and the Dane never looked like missing.

In the space of 20 minutes, Tottenham were out of sight.

Alli had the opportunity to complete his hat-trick in the 78th minute, Trippier’s cross picking out the Englishman completely unmarked in the six yard area; but the 21-year-old couldn’t quite connect with the ball properly – instead knocking it well wide of the goal.

Ronaldo pulled one back for the visitors only moments later. the ball fell to the 32-year-old inside the box – the Portuguese striker drilling his volley into the bottom right corner.

However, his effort was to spark no glorious comeback, and Tottenham ended the match 3-1 victors; becoming the first ever English team to beat Los Blancos in the Champions League group stages – securing their place in the knockout stages of this year’s tournament.

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Spurs Handed Huge Boost With Harry Kane Passed Fit for Wembley Showdown With Real Madrid

​Tottenham Hotspur have been handed a major boost, with striker Harry Kane passed fit to play against Real Madrid in Wednesday evening’s pivotal UEFA Champions League clash at Wembley Stadium.

Having taken part in full training without any issues, ​the 24-year-old is set to lead the line for Mauricio Pochettino as Los Blancos roll into north London.

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Ahead of the game, the Tottenham spoke to the club’s ​official website saying there is yet to be a final decision until right before the game, but indications are good that Kane will be fit to start.

Pochettino told reporters: “Harry will be on the (squad) list. We have one more day to assess him but today he was good in training. He trained with the group and was good, at the same level of the team.”

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The news comes as a huge fillip for the hosts with Spurs topping Group H, but level on points and goal difference with Wednesday night’s opponents, having scored the same number of goals also. 

Tottenham can book their place in the last 16 with a win over a Real side ​reeling from their shock defeat to Girona at the weekend, with Zinedine Zidane’s men eight points off pace-setters Barcelona in Spain.

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After missing Spurs’ 1-0 loss to Manchester United on Saturday, Kane’s return to the fold greatly enhances their chances of recording a win versus their illustrious visitors – who the Englishman ​continues to be linked with a move to – but Pochettino insisted he would not play if not absolutely ready.

“Now we need to know the feeling from him tonight and tomorrow”, the Spurs boss ​said. “[And] then take the best decision for him, first of all, and then the team. We’re happy. To avoid a risk in the last two games was good for him and we hope he will be in 100 per cent condition to play.”

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Real Madrid Defender Sergio Ramos Wants Barcelona in La Liga Despite Catalan Independence Row

​Real Madrid centre back Sergio Ramos claims he wants his sides’ El Clasico rivals Barcelona to stay in La Liga despite the ongoing row surrounding Catalan independence.

Catalonia, the region of Spain where Barcelona are based, recently declared independence from the rest of the country leading to speculation that Barcelona could breakaway from La Liga, with the Premier League suggested as one potential alternative for Messi and co.

But Ramos, who played the full ninety minutes as Real Madrid were stunned 2-1 away to another Catalan club in the shape of newly promoted Girona on Sunday, claims he would prefer it if Barcelona remained in La Liga.

​Goal.com reports that the centre back told Spanish newspaper Marca: “It’s complicated. I find it hard to believe that the majority want independence and I prefer that Barcelona play in our league.”

Ramos went onto to talk about his experience playing in Catalonia against Girona saying: “On Sunday [against Girona] I felt just as much Spanish as anywhere else. I am more concerned as a Spaniard that our anthem has no lyrics than about the situation in Catalonia. I want our hymn to have lyrics because I feel the healthy envy of seeing other national teams looking up while singing their anthems.

“What I can say or do about it will not change anything. The image of Spain as a country worldwide hurts me as I am Spanish. I do not like this kind of thing to happen, I believe that together we are stronger.”

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Although Ramos says he would like Barcelona to stay in La Liga, the Camp Nou side are currently eight points clear of Real at the top of La Liga, with Los Blancos down in third in the early standings.

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Real Madrid Boss Zinedine Zidane Seen Watching Match Highlights After Girona Defeat

​After a disappointing loss to newly promoted Girona last weekend, boss Zinedine Zidane was seen watching highlights from the game on the team bus a few hours after the match was played out. 

News outlet Cuatro showed the clip and highlighted that Zidane was analysing the game soon after it had happened, proving him to have a very keen eye for detail when looking at what went wrong for Madrid that evening. 

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​​The French boss, who recently won Manager of the Year at FIFA’s The Best Awards along with his team’s star man Cristiano Ronaldo winning Player of the Year, currently sits eight points off pace-setters Barcelona and is being put under a lot of pressure by Madrid fans. Zidane, however, will be sure to learn from the defeat. 

Defender Sergio Ramos said, “We do not ignore the situation in Girona but it is true that it was a bittersweet feeling because we can not leave more points. On the bus we are going to his world, making self-criticism with his films. Zidane is watching the game. The usual thing in this team is to analyse everything the next day.”

​​It is respectable how much effort Zidane puts in as a manager, however Sky Sports’ Guillem Ballague believes that it is his way of managing Los Blancos that could be a hindrance to their performances. 

In a recent ​Sky Sports’ article he said, “But when things start to go wrong you need less of the man-manager and more of the coach. You don’t get that from Zidane. He depends far too much on individual quality rather than the collective team.”

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Samba Star: Real Madrid’s £36.9m Teenage Prodigy Vinícius Júnior & the Weight on His Young Shoulders

Vinícius José Paixão de Oliveira Júnior. Remember the name, if you can that is. The precocious 17-year-old from São Gonçalo – a suburb of Rio de Janeiro – shocked the entirety of football when he became the world’s most expensive teenager at just 16 years of age, after Spanish giants Real Madrid parted with £39.6m to capture the youngster’s elusive talents. 

As unbelievable as that previous snippet of information is, what makes it all the more perplexing is the fact that Los Blancos pounced for the boy just 11 days after he had made his professional debut for Flamengo, which just begs the question, why? 

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Well, after missing out on Seleção stars Neymar Júnior and Gabriel Jesus to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively, club president Florentino Pérez felt that the repercussions of losing out on another one of Brazil’s biggest prodigies to a global rival could be monumental. 

Pérez swooped in early for Flamengo’s biggest talent on the guidance of his youth coaches, who stated that a player like Vinícius only comes around ‘once every ten or 20 years’, and went to ‘extreme lengths’ to poach the attacking virtuoso from Real’s rivals. 

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Neymar, now of Paris Saint-Germain, the world’s most expensive player and incidentally Vinícius’ idol reportedly sent the then 16-year-old numerous messages glorifying the prospect of a transfer to Barcelona, with a move to the Nou Camp presumably being of interest to the boy who has openly stated his preference to Lionel Messi over Cristiano Ronaldo. 

What lengths Pérez went to exactly remain to be told, but whatever they were seem to have done the trick, with the Flamengo superstar set to arrive at the Santiago Bernabéu for the summer of 2018 once he becomes 18, where he is expected to begin life in the Spanish capital playing for the second string team, Real Madrid Castilla. 

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On the contrary, for all the hype around a player dubbed the ‘regeneration of Romário’, there comes the harsh reality. Vinícius has played just 26 senior games for Flamengo, scoring three goals. Undoubtedly, if you were to go onto YouTube and punch in just the letters ‘Vinc’, a whole host of suggestions appear before you. 

Vinícius Jr – The Next Messi’. ‘Vinícius Jr – The Next Romário – Skills, Goals, Assists’. Admittedly, if you were to go ahead and click on any of the aforementioned, you too would become swallowed by the abyss of hype; watching endless loops of this adolescent Brazilian running rings around his peers. 

The, as previously stated, harsh reality being that if you were to watch the 17-year-old in the flesh without the luxuries of editing, you would see although he is special, he is still just a post pubescent footballer finding his way in the game, attempting to justify an exorbitant record-breaking fee before he can ever legally enjoy an alcoholic beverage. 

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Vinícius’ potential issues that he may face are seemingly being foreshadowed by another teenage star; Kylian Mbappé. The PSG forward, who next summer will become the second most expensive player of all time when his season-long loan deal at the Parc des Princes becomes permanent, has been in world class form consistently for almost a year now, even prompting the Ligue 1 side to shell out £166m for him.  

Despite this, for all he has achieved at just 18 years of age – winning Ligue 1, the Golden Boy award, and making the Champions League Team of the Season – the media have jumped on the teenager for merely a string of under par performances for the Parisians of late, with reports going as far to suggest that he may be dropped for the upcoming Champions League clash with Anderlecht. 

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All of this commotion around the Frenchman just goes to show that Vinícius will be under the microscope from the second he steps foot in Madrid. 

Zinedine Zidane and Pérez must make it their mission to shield the boy from the media spotlight if they want him to emulate the likes of Neymar and Jesus in the slightest, and for all his undoubted potential and ability, the leeches that are the footballing media can suck the potential and confidence out of anybody if they try hard enough. 

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The pressure is well and truly on the boy from São Gonçalo already; it remains to be seen whether he shall become ‘the next Romário’, or just simply, the next Freddy Adu. 

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Real Madrid Facing Minor Injury Crisis Ahead of Champions League Group Decider Against Spurs

​La Liga giants Real Madrid have a number of injury worries ahead of their crucial Champions League clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.

The two sides are tied on seven points at the top of Group H, and a win would secure passage to the following round for either team.

According to ​FourFourTwo, Los Blancos could be without Isco, Raphael Varane, Gareth Bale and Keylor Navas when they travel to Wembley for the European encounter.

Zinedine Zidane had told the press that Bale might have been available for selection, yet the Welsh star trained on his own at Valdebebas on Monday, while Navas – who has been suffering with an abductor injury – is also a doubt.

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Varane, meanwhile, was injured during the side’s 2-1 loss to Girona on Sunday, going off at halftime with a hamstring issue. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Isco suffered a knock in the latter stages of the game.

The pair trained on Monday, but similarly to Bale, away from the rest of the team.

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Madrid have been without Dani Carvajal for some time, given his heart problem, while Mateo Kovacic isn’t expected back before mid-November, leaving Zidane with quite the headache.

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Spanish Report Claims Cristiano Ronaldo and Jorge Mendes Planning to Oust Gareth Bale From Madrid

​Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo is reportedly attempting to influence a transfer with the help of his agent Jorge Mendes.

The Portugal international isn’t trying to leave Madrid himself, but is believed to want Gareth Bale sold.

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According to ​Diario Gol, Bale has little support in the team’s dressing room, and is only friends with Luka Modric, who was his teammate back at Tottenham Hotspur.

The Spanish news outlet reports that Ronaldo is keen to see the Welsh star leave the Bernabeu soon, and has someone in mind to replace him. The Portuguese forward has some real clout at the club, and is thought to have inside knowledge when it comes to the transfer dealings and the events taking place behind the scenes.

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According to Gol, the player wants to see 20-year-old Portuguese winger Goncalo Guedes come in as a replacement for Bale if he is indeed sold.

The Paris Saint-Germain ace is currently on loan with La Liga side Valencia and has been quite impressive, helping the side mount a challenge for the league title with three goals in seven outings so far this season.

Guedes is also represented by Mendes, who is also quite close to Florentino Perez. If the story is to be believed, Perez could be convinced to offload Bale and bring Guedes in to keep Ronaldo happy. 

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Bale, 28, is now in his prime and was once thought to be the future of Real, but exit rumours have persisted over the last few seasons, and given his status in the dressing room, Los Blancos may just decide to cash in on the former Spurs man.

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PHOTO: Real Madrid Star Cristiano Ronaldo Becomes the Latest Footballer to Be Threatened by ISIS

​Sympathisers of terrorist group ISIS have been threatening football stars by use of chilling photoshopped images as of late in an attempt to instill a sense of fear in fans who plan to take in next year’s World Cup in Russia.

On Sunday, a new image began doing the rounds on social media, showing Real Madrid and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo on his knees nursing a black eye, supposedly about to be executed.

The photo was accompanied by the caption: “Our words are what you see not what you hear. So just you wait, we are waiting too”.

​​This follows similar horrifying images displaying Lionel Messi and Neymar. In one of the photos, Messi is pictured behind bars with blood running from his eye, while another shows both Messi and former teammate Neymar, with the former lying on the ground while Neymar is on his knees.

​​Fans, though, have hit back at the pro-terrorism group with images of their own.

We can expect heightened levels of security when the tournament kicks off in Russia next summer. And hopefully, the threats will remain as just that and nothing more.

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Girona 2-1 Real Madrid: La Liga New Boys Shock Spanish Giants With Sensationally Spirited Display

Girona provided one of the biggest upsets of the season so far on Sunday afternoon, as the side who are enjoying their first ever season in the Spanish top flight overcame the current champions Real Madrid with a simply sensational and spirited 2-1 victory.

It was Los Blancos who took the lead shortly before the quarter-hour mark, as Isco punished a case of sloppy goalkeeping from close range after Cristiano Ronaldo’s initial effort on the counter attack following the hosts hitting the woodwork just 20 seconds previously. 

But a tremendous second-half display from the La Liga new boys saw them net two goals in four minutes. The first came after Cristhian Stuani lashed home from inside the area as Sergio Ramos’ initial block fell kindly into the former Middlesbrough striker’s path, and the second courtesy of a tremendous back heel from close range to give the little Catalonian side, shockingly, all three points. 

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It was a high-tempo opening inside a packed-out Municipal de Montilivi, a clash that started with a real cup tie feel, and just as the clock skipped past 10 minutes the feisty affair surrounded in political unrest truly came to life. 

The hosts created space down the right-hand side with some tidy build-up play in the middle of the park, allowing right-back Pablo Maffeo Becerra to advance towards the Real area before whipping in a dangerous ball towards the back post. 

Visitors’ goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, in for the unavailable Keylor Navas, seemed to struggle whilst crowded in a melee of both attackers and defenders, with the 31-year-old’s lack of command in his area allowing the ball to ricochet off the right-hand upright. However, exactly 20 seconds later it was in fact his opposite number who was picking the ball out of his net. 

Los Blancos were the first to capitalise on the loose rebound from the woodwork, with Karim Benzema eventually taking control of possession. The France international did extremely well to hold off the host’s defensive efforts and in the blink of an eye had forced his side 70 yards up field before feeding Ronaldo on the edge of the area. 

The Portuguese Euro 2016-winner was able to cut inside from the left wing and release a right-footed effort towards goal, which was spilled by custodian Yassine Bounou into the onrushing path of Isco – leaving the 25-year-old to convert the easiest of finishes as he punished the extremely sloppy goalkeeping to put his side ahead. 

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As the half ticked along Girona continued to give a great account for themselves, taking the game to Madrid and arguably fashioning the best chances of the opening 45 minutes – and just after the half-hour mark they were left wondering again how they were not yet back on level terms.

A simply delightful cross from the left-hand side by left-back Francisco Aday was met with an equally impressive Cristian Portu header, whose looping attempt had Casilla rooted to the spot. 

But somehow the 25-year-old did not see his well-guided attempt nestle in the back of the 31-year-old’s net, as, for the second time of the afternoon, the underdogs were denied by the post – leaving them still training as they went into the break. 

As the second-half got into full swing it was again the hosts who looked the liveliest, and less than 10 minutes in finally found the back of the net courtesy of Stuani’s right-footed effort inside the area following a brilliant attacking run by Riera Pere Pons. 

The Spanish defensive midfielder, by trade, skipped past three Real defenders around the area before attempting to round Ramos, whose tackle halted the Spaniard’s mazing run. However, the standing block rebounded fortunately into the path of the former Middlesbrough man, who lashed home to give his side a deserved equaliser.

The scenes inside the Municipal de Montilivi were some that have never been seen in the club’s history before, but less than five minutes later they were even wilder as Portu’s back heel put Girona ahead. 

After levelling things up the White and Reds continued to press high up the field with intensity and aggression, a tactic which afforded Maffeo to eventually latch onto a rebounded shot from the left-hand side and unleash a fizzing effort of his own from 12-yards. 

The goal-bound attempt was then turned in with a brilliant piece of quick-thinking from teammate Portu, whose skilful play, albeit in a potentially offside position on reflection, beat the Madrid trio of Ramos, Marcelo and Casilla – who all occupied their own goal-line.  

The following 30 minutes was one that will live long in the memory of all 13,500 of those in attendance, with the fight, willingness and heart from the hosts rivalling that of any seen before, and it proved enough to earn a history-making three points. 

The result leaves Madrid eight points behind league leaders Barcelona after just 10 games, a gap which will worry Zinedine Zidane following another disappointing performance and result in La Liga. 

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