Real Madrid and Barcelona
pulled away at the top of La Liga when leaders Real edged
third-placed Valencia 3-2 away in a thrilling but ill-tempered
clash after Barca thumped visiting Real Zaragoza 4-0 on
Real's victory, courtesy of goals from Karim Benzema, Sergio
Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo, maintained their three-point lead
over great rivals Barcelona in second and lifted Jose Mourinho's
side to 31 points from 12 matches.
Spanish and European champions Barca widened their advantage
over Valencia, the last club other than the big two to win the
title back in 2004, to four points.
La Liga top scorer Lionel Messi struck his 15th of the
season at a damp Nou Camp, with Gerard Pique and substitute
David Villa also netting against their former club and Pique's
central defensive partner Carles Puyol scoring a rare goal.
An aggressive Valencia put Real under early pressure at the
Mestalla but a lapse in concentration allowed Benzema to open
the scoring in the 20th minute.
With the Valencia players still organising themselves, Xabi
Alonso took a quick free-kick and France striker Benzema brought
the ball under control with his first touch and struck a rasping
volley past goalkeeper Diego Alves with his second.
Valencia dominated the second half as the yellow cards came
thick and fast in response to some robust tackling before Ramos
outjumped his markers to nod home a 72nd minute second.
Home striker Roberto Soldado made it 2-1 three minutes later
with a powerful drive before Ronaldo scored his 14th of the
campaign in the 78th and Soldado poked in his second with eight
minutes of regular time left to set up a thrilling finish.
In almost the final action of the game deep into added-time,
the ball appeared to strike a Real defender near his arm as he
lay on the ground by the goalline but the referee waved away
Valencia's frantic appeals for a penalty.
The irate home players surrounded the officials at the final
whistle and Mourinho was pelted with objects as he quickly made
his way down the tunnel.
In the earlier kick-off, Pique nodded Barca in front from a
Xavi free-kick in the 18th minute before Messi picked up a Cesc
Fabregas pass in the penalty area shortly before half-time and
sent a low, right-foot shot past Roberto.
Captain Puyol followed up his own saved effort to score a
third some 10 minutes after the break and Villa, who replaced
Fabregas in the 66th, put Barca 4-0 ahead with an acrobatic
header 15 minutes from time.
In an interview with Spanish television, Pique said Barca
have a tough month ahead, including Wednesday's Champions League
game at AC Milan and the first of two 'Clasicos' against Real
on December 10 before they head off to the Club World Cup in Japan.
"It's a difficult month, with a lot of important games," he
said. "Madrid is ahead in the league and we want to finish top
of our group in the Champions League but we have the quality to
come through it."
Injury-ravaged Villarreal claimed their third victory of the
campaign when Borja Valero caught Real Betis goalkeeper Casto off
his line with a lobbed effort in the 21st minute that gave Juan
Carlos Garrido's side a 1-0 home win.
Villarreal, who visit Bayern Munich in the Champions League
on Tuesday, climbed to 10th on 14 points.
Struggling Betis won their opening four matches of the
season but have taken only one point from the last eight and are
13th on 13 points, three ahead of Zaragoza in 16th.
Bayern fans snap up 45,000 tickets to watch Champions League final live at Allianz Arena
When Sir Alex wakes up on Monday morning without team to manage, he will not be putting his feet up
Paris Saint-Germain midfielder announces he will be retiring at the end of the current season
Record goal-scorer signs a one-year contract extension with Europa League winners Chelsea
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