|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Real Madrid labour to victory
September 16, 2007 21:49 IST
Javier Saviola and Wesley Sneijder set up champions Real Madrid for a laboured 3-1 victory over 10-man Almeria in the Primera Liga on Saturday.
The win preserved Real's 100 percent start to the season and left them top on nine points, five ahead of fourth-placed Barcelona who visit Osasuna on Sunday.
Real displayed little of the verve they showed in beating Villarreal 5-0 two weeks ago despite taking a 37th-minute lead when Saviola scored his first goal since signing from rivals Barcelona in the close season.
In a rare first-half attack, Guti found Raul whose powerful shot from the edge of the area was parried on to the post before squirting across goal for Saviola to tuck away.
Almeria, back in the top flight for the first time in 26 years, refused to be over-awed by the occasion, enjoying the lion's share of possession and chances before the break.
The visitors continued to attack in the second half and were unlucky to have a Kalu Uche effort harshly ruled out for offside before Albert Crusat was sent off for taking down Saviola with only the goalkeeper to beat in the 63rd minute.
Raul should have doubled Real's advantage in the 67th minute but Sneijder did two minutes later, with a bending free kick that Almeria keeper David Cobeno could only stare at helplessly, taking his tally to four in the first three games of the season.
After his inspirational performance against Villarreal, the Dutchman was again one of Real's liveliest players and midway through the second period came close to another goal.
Almeria pulled one back in the 73rd minute when striker Uche rounded defender Fabio Cannavaro and smashed a rising shot past keeper Iker Casillas.
Felipe Melo went close for Almeria a minute later but Real made sure of victory with a Gonzalo Higuain lob two minutes from time.
Elsewhere, a toothless Valencia were booed off the pitch despite beating promoted Valladolid 2-1 to push them up to second place on six points.
A simple spill from Valencia keeper Iker Canizares let in Valladolid's Daniel Kome in the 10th minute but Fernando Morientes pounced on another goalkeeper fluff to equalise of the east coast side before David Silva snatched a last-minute winner with a deflected shot.
Zaragoza and Athletic Bilbao sit in 13th and 14th positions after they drew 1-1 in the late kick-off in Bilbao.