Sports

Zidane makes perfect start at Real, Napoli top in Italy

LONDON: Former France great Zinedine Zidane got off to a perfect start in charge of Real Madrid, the club he graced as a player, but Atletico Madrid and Barcelona also won to stay ahead in La Liga.

Napoli grabbed top spot in Serie A at the halfway point of the season after Inter Milan surprisingly slipped up at home.

SPAIN

Atletico Madrid maintained their two-point lead over second-placed Barcelona at the halfway point of the season when goals from Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco secured a hard-fought 2-0 win at Celta Vigo.

Barca, who have a game in hand over their main rivals, thrashed Granada 4-0 at the Nou Camp, with Lionel Messi netting his first hat-trick in 10 months and Neymar also on target.

Real Madrid stayed firmly in the hunt and Zinedine Zidane enjoyed a winning debut as coach when they crushed visiting Deportivo La Coruna 5-0.

A Gareth Bale treble and two goals from Karim Benzema lifted Real to 40 points, two behind Barca, with Villarreal a point further back in fourth after they beat Sporting Gijon 2-0.

ITALY

Gonzalo Higuain scored twice as Napoli won 5-1 at Serie A newcomers Frosinone to go top as the championship reached the halfway mark.

Napoli have 41 points from 19 games, two clear of Inter Milan and Juventus.

Previous leaders Inter lost 1-0 at home to Sassuolo, with Domenico Berardi converting a penalty in the fifth minute of injury-time, and Juventus won 2-1 at Sampdoria, their ninth win in a row.

Fiorentina dropped to fourth after a 3-1 home defeat by Lazio.

ENGLAND

Minor League Eastleigh and League Two (fourth tier) sides Exeter City, Wycombe Wanderers and Oxford United were the FA Cup third round heroes, holding or beating opposition from a much higher level.

Exeter held Liverpool 2-2 after Juergen Klopp made 11 changes to his team because of injuries and a heavy programme.

Oxford, from the same division, also took advantage of weakened opposition in knocking out Premier League Swansea City 3-2.

Wycombe drew 1-1 with last season’s beaten finalists Aston Villa and Eastleigh held cash-strapped Championship (second tier) side Bolton Wanderers 1-1 in muddy conditions, conceding an equaliser in the last few minutes.

FRANCE

Angers moved up to second in Ligue 1 after beating visitors Caen 2-0, pushing Monaco down to third on 33 as the team from the principality were held to a 2-2 home draw by promoted Gazelec Ajaccio. Angers have 34 points from 20 games, one ahead of Monaco.

Paris St Germain, 2-0 winners over Bastia on Friday with first-half goals from Brazilians Thiago Motta and Maxwell, are the runaway leaders with 54 points.

GREECE

Super League leaders Olympiakos Piraeus set a club record 17 successive league wins by beating Levadiakos 3-1 at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium.

Goals from Ideye Brown, Felipe Pardo, and Alejandro Dominquez helped the side, who have dominated Greek football for the past two decades, surpass the 16 consecutive wins during the 2005-06 season.

The Red and Whites still have some way to go if they are to break Europe’s longest top-flight winning run of 29 games which is held by the Benfica side of 1971-73.

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