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Bilbao hold Real Madrid as Ronaldo sees red Neymar blasts ‘false friends’ amid Barca probe

MADRID, Feb 3, (AFP): Cristiano Ronaldo was sent-off as Real Madrid lost ground in the La Liga title race with a 1-1 draw away to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday. Atletico Madrid became outright leaders for the first time since their double winning season in 1996 earlier in the day with a 4-0 win over Real Sociedad. The draw moves Real level with Barcelona, who suffered a shock defeat at home to Valencia on Saturday, three points behind Atletico. It could have been so much better for Madrid as after a difficult opening 45 minutes, Jese Rodriguez looked to have them on the road to a 11th consecutive victory when he prodded home Ronaldo’s cross 25 minutes from time.

However, after Ibai Gomez had spectacularly equalised, Ronaldo was shown a soft red card for lashing out at Carlos Gurpegi. And in the end Madrid were grateful to goalkeeper Diego Lopez for salvaging a point as he made lave saves from Gomez and Aritz Aduriz. Carlo Ancelotti’s men could have been in front after just 20 seconds as Ronaldo took advantage of a poor clearance by Gorka Iraizoz, but his effort flew inches wide. Thereafter, it was Athletic who had the upper hand in the first-half and should have been in front when Aduriz shot wide when clean through on Diego Lopez. Iker Muniain also passed up a great chance to open the scoring when he miscontrolled when unmarked inside the area.
 

However, Madrid responded after the break and Iraizoz was forced into two flying saves to deny Luka Modric and Karim Benzema. The visitors did finally find a way through 25 minutes from time as Benzema fed Ronaldo on the left and his low cross was turned home on the stretch by Jese. Real’s lead lasted just nine minutes as Gomez made a stunning introduction as a substitute as with his second touch he fired an effort from 20 yards in off the inside of the post. Madrid were then left to hold on for a point when Ronaldo saw red after a coming together with Gurpegi after having a penalty appeal turned down. Gomez was denied a second by a brilliant save from Lopez, whilst the Madrid keeper also had to be alive to hold Aduriz’s header as the spoils were shared.
 

Brazil starlet Neymar blasted “false friends” as he alluded Sunday to the strain of a tax probe into last year’s money-spinning move to Barcelona.
Brazilian and Spanish authorities are investigating last May’s transfer from initially reported as costing 57.1 million euros ($78million).
Recent weeks have seen various add-ons emerge to take the deal to a total 86 million euros — including a reported 40 million for N&N, Neymar’s family firm run by his father.
Neymar senior last week denied signing a pre-contract with Barcelona until his son had left Santos for the Liga giants — but did admit to receiving 10 million euros in 2011 to guarantee a move by 2014.
In the event, Neymar joined the Catalans in the Spanish close-season but with Brazilian prosecutors seeking to ascertain if potential tax fraud may have taken place, Neymar spoke out.
 

“I’ve been quiet until now! But I can’t go on listening to all these things about my transfer.
“I called my dad saying I was going to speak out and he said just to leave things with him and concentrate on getting better,” Neymar said in an Instagram posting. “But he will understand me. Sorry to disobey you for a first time — but I’m going to speak out,” said the 21-year-old. Neymar said he had swapped the team of his heart for the team of his dreams in leaving Santos for the Nou Camp. But he said the storm over his transfer had seen “a lot of people come out and talk a load of rubbish — calling our character into doubt.

“I also understood we have masses of false friends,” said the Brazil star, urging his father to join him back in Spain as “I’ll be back playing in a few days and I need you here.” Neymar is currently out sidelined with an ankle injury but hopes to return in time for Barca’s Champions League last 16, first leg at Manchester City on February 18. He added he was confident that “it’s just a matter of time before they realise you did nothing wrong.” The row over the transfer has already forced the resignation of Sandro Rosell as Barcelona president. Rosell stepped down last month having refused to divulge how much money each of the parties to the deal received on confidentiality grounds, prompting Barca club member Jordi Cases to bring a legal case against him.

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