Real stun Barca to reignite title race (update)
Real Madrid breathed new life into
the Spanish title race when they produced their best performance of the
season to claim a 4-2 victory at home to league leaders and arch-rivals
Barcelona on Sunday.
First half strikes from Zinedine Zidane, Raul and Ronaldo and a superbly
taken effort from Michael Owen midway through the second secured Real an
enthralling win at the Bernabeu that left them six points behind the
Catalans with seven games left.
Barca suffered what could prove to be an even more important blow when
leading striker Samuel Eto'o left the pitch with a knee injury late in
Earlier Sevilla moved up into third place, a distant 11 points behind
Real, after a 3-1 victory over fellow high-fliers Espanyol, while
Villarreal are in fourth with a game in hand after scrambling a 1-1 draw
away to Deportivo Coruna in the late match.
At the other end of the table Osasuna eased their relegation worries
after gaining their first win in 13 games and their first since the
start of the year with a 1-0 victory at home to Racing Santander.
Real Mallorca and Albacete, however, were left staring relegation in the
face after respective defeats at Real Zaragoza and Getafe. The two sides
are now 10 points adrift of safety with just seven games left to play.
Knowing that nothing less than victory would keep alive their hopes of
depriving Barca of the title, Real flooded forward in attack from the
first whistle and were rewarded with a two-goal lead inside the first 20
Zidane helped himself to the first when he scored with a diving header
after Ronaldo had skipped his way down the right-hand side of the area,
looked up and dinked a neat cross towards the far post.
Real made it 2-0 when the unmarked Ronaldo ended his recent scoring
drought with a simple header at the far post after Beckham had sent a
trademark free kick into the box.
The second setback sparked Barca into a response and Mexican midfielder
Rafael Marquez went close with a bullet header from a corner before
former Real player Eto'o continued his prolific scoring record against
his old club.
The African Player of the Year exchanged a one-two with Xavi, scorched
past Ivan Helguera and Roberto Carlos and then netted with a deft finish
with the outside of his foot.
Barca took control for the next 15 minutes and could have got back on
level terms but Iker Casillas produced a fine reflex save to deny
Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Beckham slid in with a last-ditch challenge
to dispossess Eto'o.
But it was Real who hit Barca once again on the stroke of halftime when
Raul stabbed in under Victor Valdes at the near post after Roberto
Carlos had steamed down the left wing and cut back a pass into the area.
Barca had a number of chances to narrow Real's lead but a combination of
some top class keeping from Casillas and some desperate last-ditch
defending kept the Catalans at bay.
Real went 4-1 up when England striker Owen notched up his 11th league
goal of the season after latching on to a superb through-ball from
Beckham, controlling with his shin and then steering the ball coolly
There was no relenting in the breathless pace, however, and Barca had a
strong penalty appeal turned down when substitute Maxi Lopez was brought
down by Roberto Carlos in the area.
Ronaldinho then fooled Casillas with a sweetly struck free kick from the
edge of the area 17 minutes from time but his side were unable to narrow
Real's lead any further.