MADRID - Karim Benzema went some way to
justifying the 35 million euros Real Madrid paid
to sign him when his goal secured a scrappy 1-0 home win over
Real Mallorca in La Liga on Sunday.
Under coach Jose Mourinho, the France international has
started most games on the bench, scoring only one league goal
before Sunday, and the club have said they are looking for
another striker to replace the injured Gonzalo Higuain.
Real struggled to create chances against a gritty Mallorca,
who held them to a 0-0 draw on the opening day of the season,
and looked in danger of dropping points for a second successive
game until Benzema netted in the 61st minute.
The former Olympique Lyon forward picked up a pass on the
edge of the penalty area, created space for himself and sent a
low shot past Mallorca's Israel goalkeeper Dudu Aouate.
The win prevented Real from slipping further behind leaders
Barcelona, who were seven ahead before kick-off after beating
Racing Santander 3-0 on Saturday.
Barca have 55 points from 20 matches, Real have 51 in second
and Villarreal are third on 42 after a double from Italy striker
Giuseppe Rossi gave them a 2-1 comeback win over visiting Real
Sociedad in Sunday's late kick-off.
Valencia are two points further back thanks to Saturday's
4-3 home win against nine-man Malaga.
Real Madrid's week had been overshadowed by media reports of
a rift between Mourinho and club director general Jorge Valdano
and some fans unfurled a banner with a message of support for
their Portuguese coach.
With an eye on Wednesday's King's Cup semi-final first leg
at holders Sevilla, Mourinho initially rested midfielders Xabi
Alonso and Mesut Ozil and Michael Laudrup's well-drilled
Mallorca side had the best of the early exchanges.
They came desperately close to a shock lead in the 13th
minute when Emilio Nsue sped clear on the right but his powerful
effort flew back off the inside of the post with Iker Casillas
There were whistles around the stadium when the teams went
off goalless at half-time but the introduction of Alonso and
Ozil, replacing Fernando Gago and Kaka, gave the hosts more bite
and penetration after the break.
After Real had taken a deserved lead, Benzema almost added a
second after a goalmouth scramble and La Liga top scorer
Cristiano Ronaldo sent a looping header against the bar with
just under 10 minutes left.
Real survived a scare at the death when Casillas saved
Pierre Webo's close-range strike.
"I decided to make some changes because we are playing
another important match (in the Cup) on Wednesday," Mourinho
told a news conference.
"Getting to half-time at 0-0 was a very good result for us
because we knew we were going to make changes," the Portuguese
added. "The changes had their effect and we got a very hard and
very important victory."
In Sunday's earlier games, Atletico Madrid's hopes of a
Champions League place next season were dealt a blow when they
lost 1-0 at struggling Sporting Gijon.
A defensive error allowed striker David Barral to score six
minutes after half-time and the defeat leaves Atletico seven
points behind fifth-placed Espanyol and follows their
elimination from the King's Cup at the hands of city rivals Real
Madrid on Thursday.
Surprise packages Espanyol continued their fine run with a
3-1 comeback win at Getafe.
Almeria, who play Barca in the semi-finals of the Cup on
Wednesday, climbed off the bottom with a 3-2 win at home to
Osasuna and are 18th.
Berlin will stage Champions League final for the first time in 2015
Borussia Dortmund's Mario Gotze ruled out of Champions League final against Bayern Munich
Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand signs one-year contract
Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini will leave the La Liga club at the end of the current season
Ten years on, the legends speak to FFT
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
He's here, he's there, he's...
The cost of Premier League away travel
Nike CR7 IX for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010