PICS: Real Madrid title hopes dented; Roma ends Juventus’ unbeaten run

Real Madrid ended a difficult week with a frustrating 0-0 draw at Real Betis on Sunday that did little to enhance their prospects of catching Barcelona in the La Liga title race.

After losing 1-0 at home to Barca in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final on Thursday, Real dominated against Betis but missed several opportunities.

Barcelona are top on 62 points, nine clear of second-placed Real who have now had consecutive draws. Betis are fifth with 41 points, three points off the Champions League places.

“We will keep fighting. It’s still March and there is a lot to be played,” Real defender Lucas Vazquez told Movistar Plus.

“We made enough to deserve something more. We were not on target in the last stretch, we are not happy with the result.

“I urge the fans to keep trusting in us. We will fight until the end for the three titles we are competing in.”

It was a lively match at Seville that needed a goal with Real Madrid dominating the proceedings but an often dangerous Betis constantly threatening Thibaut Courtois’ goal.

Real Struggles

After a 5-2 win at Liverpool in their last-16 Champions League first-leg tie, Real Madrid have been struggling up front.

They have scored once in their last three games in all competitions – a set piece in the 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid.

At Betis they started well but Karim Benzema’s effort from a free kick ruled out in the 12th minute as the ball deflected off Real defender Antonio Ruediger’s hand before going in.

The visitors kept pushing and Federico Valverde almost scored but his thunderous strike flew just above the bar.

The tension and intensity grew in the second half, with Real going all out to get a win and Betis having chances of their own to shock the La Liga and Champions League holders.

Roma’s Mancini strikes from distance to beat Juventus 1-0

A long-range strike by defender Gianluca Mancini earned AS Roma a 1-0 home win over Juventus in Serie A on Sunday, ending the visitors’ unbeaten run of seven games in all competitions.

Roma, who became the first Serie A side to be beaten by lowly Cremonese on Tuesday, have now won five home games in a row without conceding a goal.

They moved back into fourth in the standings on 47 points, one point behind third-placed Lazio and level with AC Milan in fifth, in their bid to secure a first top-four finish in five years.

Juventus had their first attempt on target in the fourth minute when forward Dusan Vlahovic latched on to Angel Di Maria’s lofted free kick but his first-time effort was saved by Roma keeper Rui Patricio.

Roma forward Paulo Dybala responded in the 27th with a long curling effort but Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny did well to parry it away.

With little action inside or around either of the boxes, Juventus midfielder Manuel Locatelli tried a brilliant long-range strike in the 42nd minute but failed to surprise Patricio, who made a save.

Two minutes later, Adrien Rabiot’s cheeky header was deflected by Patricio with his knee on to the post, maintaining the scoreline goalless at halftime.

In a clash which sprang to life after the break, Mancini sealed the win for Roma in the 53rd minute, sending a powerful low shot into the bottom left corner and leaving Szczesny no chance.

Juventus, who conceded a goal from outside the box in Serie A for the first time since May 2022, could have bounced back just before the hour mark but Juan Cuadrado’s powerful free kick hit the left post.

Juventus, who had multiple chances to level the score, were left with 10 men just before fulltime when substitute Moise Kean kicked out at Mancini, after the Roma player had grabbed his shirt in a tussle, and got a straight red card one minute after coming on.

Juventus, who got six wins with a clean sheet from their previous seven away Serie A games, dropped one place to eighth on 35 points, seven behind sixth-placed Atalanta who occupy the last European spot.

Inter tighten grip on top four with 2-0 win over Lecce

Inter Milan secured a 2-0 home win over lowly Lecce with goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lautaro Martinez in Serie A on Sunday to tighten their grip on a Champions League spot.

Inter, whose 1-0 defeat at Bologna last weekend further eroded their slim hopes of winning the title, moved back up to second spot on 50 points from 25 games.

They are two points above third-placed Lazio and three ahead of AC Milan in fourth but 15 points adrift of leaders Napoli.

Inter took the lead just before the half-hour mark through Mkhitaryan’s first-time finish before Martinez doubled the lead eight minutes into the second half.

“We were coming off an ugly defeat like the one in Bologna, so there was a lot of talk about it,” Inter coach Simone Inzaghi told a news conference. “We responded well and we have to continue at this pace.

“We played an excellent game with the right approach and we didn’t lower our intensity. The second goal made it easier for us. It was a deserved victory against a team that bothered many.”

Inzaghi’s men have now triumphed in each of Martinez’s last 14 goalscoring home outings in Serie A.

Only AS Roma (five) and Barcelona (one) have conceded fewer goals than Inter (six) at home this season in the big five European leagues.

Lecce, who managed only one shot on target, remain 15th, nine points above the drop zone.

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