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Madrid wins 1-0 at Valladolid, replaces Barca at top

(AP Photo/Ricardo Ordonez)

By JOSEPH WILSON

Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Real Madrid took charge of the Spanish league title race after turning to a little-used defender to grind out a 1-0 win at Valladolid on Sunday.

Valladolid's defense scrambled to clear a constant barrage of crosses into its box by the visitors until Toni Kroos finally connected with goalscorer Nacho Fernandez in the 78th minute.

Zinedine Zidane's side moved three points ahead of Barcelona - a day after the defending champions lost 2-0 at Valencia.

"We knew it would be another tough game," Zidane said. "They had only lost once at home. They are a very competitive team and these are three important points."

Besides taking advantage of Barcelona's defeat, Madrid also saw Atletico Madrid stumble yet again and slip further behind.

Atletico was held to a 0-0 draw at home by relegation-threatened Leganes, extending its winless streak to four matches across all competitions.

Getafe moved past Atletico and into fourth place - the final Champions League spot - after edging Real Betis 1-0 at home with a late penalty.

Madrid hosts Atletico next weekend.

Madrid completely dictated the match while Valladolid, partly owned by former Madrid player Ronaldo, did its best to soak up the attacks.

The only real test for Valladolid goalkeeper Jordi Masip came shortly after halftime when he stretched to parry Rodrygo's strike. But Madrid increased the pressure and the goal came from one of its least likely threats.

Nacho, a central defender, started at right back in the place of the suspended Dani Carvajal. He had only made six previous appearances this season.

But Nacho showed the finishing touch of a striker - or teammate Sergio Ramos - when he jumped over his marker and sliced a perfect header just inside the far post and well beyond the reach of Masip.

He ran to Zidane and embraced him after his first goal of the season.

"I wasn't going to join the attack (on the corner kick) and instead hang back, but Zidane told me to go to the near post. And luck would have it that it worked out," Nacho said. "The confidence of my coach is the most important thing for me. All of us are with our coach through the good times and the bad, and I believe that is the secret to the success we have had for all these years."

Getafe substitute Angel Rodriguez got the winner against Betis from the penalty spot in the 89th after Alex Moreno had handled the ball in the area.

Getafe, a modest club from Madrid, came close to earning a Champions League berth last season, finishing fifth.

"We are competing against teams with ambitious objectives and to have the points we do is fantastic," said Getafe coach Jose Bordalas.

Atletico's frustrating draw with Leganes added to the run of poor results by Diego Simeone's team.

Atletico never seriously threatened its crosstown rival at its Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in a match it needed to win to reclaim third place from Sevilla. Now it must worry more about qualifying for the Champions League than challenging for the title.

For many Atletico supporters, this is the worst the team has played since Simeone transformed it into a title winner on arrival in 2013.

"When the results are not coming, it is normal that our fans get angry, and that makes us take responsibility for the situation. We have to take action," Simeone said. "I can't say anything to our fans. We have to show them with our deeds and not with our words. Words are carried away by the wind."

Leganes ended the match with 10 men after goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar was sent off with about a minute to play in stoppage time with a second yellow card that the referee said was due to his attempt to "simulate aggression by a ballboy." Televised images showed Cuellar tumbling backward when a ballboy had seemed to push him with one hand on the chest while the keeper was getting the ball from him.

The visitors finished with defender Jonathan Silva in goal because his side had made all three substitutions. He did not have to make a save.

Sixth-place Real Sociedad saw goals from Aleksander Isak and Cristian "Portu" Portugues - plus an own-goal from Francisco Gamez - to beat Mallorca 3-0 at home.

Celta Vigo drew 0-0 with Eibar and remained in the drop zone just ahead of Leganes.

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Updated January 26, 2020

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