Late win puts Real Madrid nine points clear of Barcelona

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Real Madrid are now nine points clear at the top of the Spanish Liga after a 3-2 home win Sunday over third-placed Villarreal.

28 January 2008

MADRID - Real Madrid are now nine points clear at the top of the Spanish Liga after a 3-2 home win Sunday over third-placed Villarreal.

Spirited Villarreal twice equalised in Madrid but were finally beaten by a goal 13 minutes from time from substitute Wesley Sneijder.

The late win keeps Real's 100-percent home record intact - and leaves them well placed to claim their 31st Liga title.

The whites now have 53 points from 21 games, nine more than Barcelona, who were held to a 1-1 draw in Bilbao.

Star of the show in the Estadio Bernabeu was Robinho, in his best form since joining Real in 2005.

The Brazilian shot the hosts ahead after just eight minutes, on a perfect pass from veteran playmaker Guti.

In the 15th minute, Guiseppe Rossi levelled for Villarreal with a clever, left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area. It was the first league goal that Real had conceded in 564 minutes.

The hosts dominated from then on, forcing several sharp saves from Villarreal keeper Diego Lopez.

In the 52nd minute, Lopez did well to save from Raul Gonzalez and Guti but could do nothing to prevent Robinho from making it 2-1 by putting away the rebound.

Villarreal defender Joan Capdevila made it 2-2 in the 76th minute after the Real defence failed to clear a corner. Just one minute later, Sneijder restored Real's lead with a low, left-footed shot after being put through by Fernando Gago.

"They made things very difficult for us," the Dutchman told radio station Cedna COPE. "But we just about deserved to win, since we created many more chances than them."

Real kicked off against Villarreal in the knowledge that Barcelona had been held to a draw in Bilbao.

Barca went ahead in the 35th minute when 17-year-old Bojan Krkic scored with a low, left-footed drive after being set up by Deco.

Lionel Messi came close to making it 2-0 on the hour. But Barcelona suffer premature relaxation, and in the 75th minute the lively hosts equalised when supersub Fernando Llorente turned in a centre from the right by Aitor Ramos.

Earlier Sunday, Atletico Madrid had suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat at Mallorca on a solitary goal from Juan Arango. Atletico winger Jose Antonio Reyes picked up a second, late yellow card, ending the visitor's chances of snatching a draw.

The defeat leaves Atletico in fourth place with 37 points, one behind Villarreal.

In fifth place on 36 points are Espanyol, who suffered a shock defeat 2-1 Sunday at home to lowly Betis.

Racing Santander remain in sixth place on 33 points after a 2-2 draw at home to Zaragoza.

In joint seventh place now, level with Sevilla on 29 points, are Almeria, who won 1-0 at crisis club Valencia with an early goal from Felipe Melo.

Valencia fall to 11th place and have not won since 11 November in La Liga. The hapless Mestalla crowd spent the second half demanding the resignation of unpopular coach Ronald Koeman.

Levante remain rock bottom on 12 points, despite winning 3-2 at Murcia.

Second from bottom on 20 points are Deportivo Coruna, who beat Valladolid 3-0. Then come Murcia and Huelva - who lost 3-1 at home to Getafe - on 22 points, and Bilbao and Osasuna on 23.

[Copyright dpa 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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