Football: Real Put Pressure Back On Barcelona
Posted March 1, 2009on:
MADRID: Real Madrid reduced the gap on bitter rivals Barcelona at the top of the Spanish League table to four points on Saturday when substitute Guti and veteran skipper Raul scored in a 2-0 win at Espanyol.
Espanyol, who had defeated Barcelona last weekend, were in charge at the Olympic Stadium through Ivan de la Pena’s promptings in midfield, but their inability to create clear cut chances was to prove crucial.
An impressive run from De la Pena from the midfield, and a strike from Nene which went close, were all that Espanyol had to show for all their possession in the first half.
Real soaked up the pressure before Guti put them ahead from a free-kick conceded after a rare attack in the 67th minute.
He curled a left-footed shot from 30 yards into the top corner and five minutes later Raul slotted home to give Real the three points and extend their winning run to ten matches.
Earlier, a Frederic Kanoute brace helped Sevilla come from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 in a dress-rehearsal of the Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday.
Sevilla are third in the table, but 13 points behind leaders Barcelona.
Mali international striker Kanoute scored either side of half-time to see off the challenge of Bilbao who took the lead through Inaki Gabilondo.
Both sides started with weakened sides but while Sevilla were dominating it was Gabilondo who made the breakthrough after the visitors’ defence made a hash of clearing a corner and the left-winger fired home from 12 yards.
Kanoute deservedly brought the sides level, bringing the ball down inside the area before beating the keeper in the 38th minute.
Just before the hour mark, he calmly finished in the corner as Sevilla continued to take the game to Bilbao whose coach Joaquin Caparros defended his decision to leave out players with on eye on the Spanish Cup.
“I had to rest them for Wednesday so that they would be fresh but still we had options in the game. We had possession but we committed two silly mistakes,” he said.
Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez said: “Our intention was not to think about Wednesday, we are an ambitious team and we have set ourselves targets in the league which we have to achieve.”
On Sunday, Barcelona face Atletico Madrid and midfielder Yaya Toure feels it’s imperative they don’t allow any more points to slip away.
“We cannot allow Real to make any ground on us. Our last three games have been difficult for us in the way that the opposition had played,” he said.
Elsewhere, Villarreal will be looking to consolidate their Champions League place when they face Real Betis, while misfiring Valencia aim to pick up ground with a win against Valladolid.
At the other end of the table Numancia are in deep trouble and have asked for a big crowd to get behind the players against Deportivo La Coruna.
Mallorca, who have put together back-to-back wins, know that a further victory against Sporting Gijon could take them clear of the relegation zone.
Channel News Asia