Fabregas fires for Barca

Fabregas fires for Barca

 Midfielder Cesc Fabregas moved Barcelona a step closer to the La Liga title with a late strike in a laboured 1-0 victory at home to mid-table Levante on Saturday.

The 84th-minute goal secured a win that took Barca to 84 points with six games left, 13 clear of champions Real Madrid who earlier beat Real Betis 3-1 with a Mesut Ozil double.
A victory away to Athletic Bilbao next Saturday, and a Real defeat at city rivals Atletico Madrid would enable Barca to be crowned champions for a fourth time in five years.

In the late game, Valencia’s push for a top-four finish was boosted with a 5-1 thrashing of Malaga at home when they scored four times in six first-half minutes. Valencia climbed to fifth with 53 points, pushing Malaga down to sixth on 50, and they are one point behind fourth-placed Real Sociedad, who visit Osasuna on Sunday. Betis are seventh with 48 points.

The top two fielded weakened sides with next week’s Champions League semifinals in mind. Barca visit Bayern Munich for their first leg on Tuesday, and Real travel to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.

Barcelona lined up with four fullbacks in defence, Eric Abidal making his first start in over a year since having a liver transplant and playing the full 90 minutes.

The French international partnered Adriano Correia in the centre of defence, while usual first-choice players such as Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba started on the bench.
World Player of the Year Lionel Messi failed to make the squad as he recovers from a hamstring strain.

Barca substitute Alexis Sanchez help breakthe deadlock six minutes from time, crossing from the right for Fabregas, who controlled the ball and fired low into the corner in a crowded area.

In Madrid, Real were without regulars such as Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos and Sami Khedira and after a scrappy opening period were forced into an early change when Marcelo went down injured. The Brazilian left back was carried off on a stretcher.

Cristiano Ronaldo carried Real’s greatest attacking threat and soon after he had crashed a 25-metre shot against the upright, a moment of Ozil inspiration broke the deadlock.
A breakaway started by Ozil led to Ronaldo feeding Benzema to net the second in the 57th minute.

Midfielder Luka Modric was substituted with a muscle strain midway through the half and in the 71st minute Real youth-team defender Nacho brought down Ruben Castro for a penalty. Jorge Molina scored from the spot.

Relegation-threatened Granada recovered to draw 1-1 at home to mid-table Real Valladolid.

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