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Barca end Real Madrid’s title hopes, Wu Lei makes history
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Barca end Real Madrid’s title hopes, Wu Lei makes history

Madrid, Mar 3: FC Barcelona took a huge step towards the Liga Santander title when they beat Real Madrid 1-0 in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Saturday night.

Barca's second win on Madrid's home turf in just 4 days means they are 12 points ahead of Real in the league table, and 11 ahead of Atletico Madrid, who played away to Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Ivan Rakitic scored the only goal of the game, but Barca's win was perhaps more convincing that Wednesday's 3-0 victory and could have been even easier if referee Undiano Mallenco had sent Sergio Ramos for elbowing Leo Messi in the first half.

Earlier in the day, Wu Lei made history by becoming the first ever Chinese player to score in the Spanish top-flight when he netted Espanyol's third goal in their 3-1 win at home to Valladolid.

Borja Iglesias' 11th goal of the season put Espanyol in front in the first minute, but Ruben Alcaraz leveled just 16 minutes later. In the second half Mario Hermoso's finish from close range restored Espanyol's lead in the 55th minute, before Wu Lei netted his historic goal with a calm finish following Sergi Darder's through ball.

Alaves strengthened their claim for a place in Europe next season with a 2-1 win to Villarreal, who remain third from bottom of the table. Guillermo Maripan opened the scoring in the 54th minute with a header following a corner, but Villarreal drew level just 7 minutes later after Santi Cazorla scored from the penalty spot.

The home side made changes to look for a win they desperately need, but 12 minutes from time, Takashi Inui's first goal for Alaves sent all three points back to Vitoria. Ezequiel Avila netted a 98th minute winner to give Huesca a dramatic win at home to Sevilla.

Avila's goal came just five minutes after Munir El Haddadi had a goal ruled out for Sevilla for offside after the referee consulted with the VAR. Juanpi had put the bottom of the table side ahead in the seventh minute, but Wissam Ben Yedder equalized from the penalty spot six minutes from time, once again after the VAR came into play.

The win leaves Huesca bottom of the table, but just three points off safety after a run of just one defeat in six games. XINHUA

Delhi Capitals' balanced hands look to revive fortunes in 2019, says Dhiraj Malhotra

New Delhi, Mar 3: Delhi Capitals (DC) CEO Dhiraj Malhotra has sent out a challenge to rivals, asserting that his franchise is the most balanced side now, a blend of youth and experienced, which will be looking to change its fortunes in the upcoming 12th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), scheduled to start on March 23.

With a new name and new look, the team will be playing its first match against Mumbai Indians (MI) at Wankhede Stadium on March 24. DC, erstwhile known as Delhi Daredevils, managed to top the 2012 points table, with Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) closely following them. However, they managed to clinch the title shot at the 5th IPL edition, despite losing out a play-off against KKR in Pune. While talking to media , Mr Malhotra said, "I think this time, the whole team is very balanced. Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw in the beginning and Rishabh Pant, along with skipper Shreyas Iyer and Colin de Grandhomme, will be the players to watch out for, in this season."

On the appointment of former Indian batsman Mohammed Kaif as the Assistant Coach, the DC CEO said, "He would be our fielding, as well as assistant coach. We have our main coach in Ricky Ponting. To bring Indian flavour in the team, we roped in Kaif.

"Till a few years back, Kaif was playing. So, he is still in touch with the game. He is a modern-day cricketer," he added.

The question of corruption has haunted the franchises, ever since the match-fixing and illegal betting scandal shook the IPL, leading to a two-year ban on Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR).

On being asked what Delhi Capitals is doing to ensure their team is not vulnerable to corruption, Mr Malhotra said, "We have been educating our team. We have big and healthy sessions with everybody in the team. The players and staff are being educated and that's happening right from BCCI and ICC to the franchises."

"That (2015 match fixing) was just a one-off incident of corruption. I think cricket is quite corruption-free. Even with ICC and BCCI, we have put a lot of stress on anti-corruption completely," he added.

The CEO also said that the success of IPL has led to the inception of other sports leagues in the country. "Because of the success of IPL, people have seen there is demand for more sports in India. Cricket was always there, but now due to the reach of people, other sports are getting popular, more professional and the money is coming into them," Malhotra said.

"Saina Nehwal made badminton famous and the television has made Kabbadi famous. Also, the success of individuals in the Olympics has targeted new leagues," he added. UNI