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Rediff.com  » Sports » Raul header gives Real victory

Raul header gives Real victory

October 23, 2003 08:18 IST

A ghosted header from Raul proved just enough to give below-par Real Madrid a 1-0 victory over Partizan Belgrade on Wednesday and keep the nine-times European Cup winners top of Group F with maximum points from three games.

Real struggled to make headway in a drab first half at the Bernabeu but claimed the lead when Raul got the faintest of touches to a powerful Luis Figo header seven minutes before the break.

It was Raul's 45th goal in the Champions League and took him to within four of former Real Madrid forward Alfredo di Stefano's all-time European Cup record.

There was precious little else to note about a poor Real display in the opening period but a more positive approach from Partizan led to an entertaining second half.

Ivica Iliev and Ljubinko Drulovic both went close just after the break and the home defence had several more uncomfortable moments as the second half wore on.

Real also looked far more dangerous after the break and only brilliant goalkeeping from Djordje Pantic prevented them adding to their lead.

Pantic kept David Beckham out at his near post in the 65th minute and also pulled off sharp saves from Figo, Ronaldo and substitute Santiago Solari.

With Iker Casillas also in eye-catching form, there were no further goals and Real held on for a valuable win that leaves them all but certain of a place in the knock-out stages.

Partizan coach Lothar Matthaeus could be proud of his side's plucky display, and for keeping Real down to one goal, but the Serbia & Montenegro champions have just a point from three matches.

DISCIPLINED DEFENCE

Real are well used to visiting teams at the Bernabeu keeping 10 men behind the ball but they seemed at a loss as to how to break down the disciplined Partizan defence.

Zinedine Zidane made a couple of promising runs from midfield and Ronaldo was an intermittent menace in the Partizan box but otherwise Real had to rely on set-pieces.

With 10 minutes gone, Beckham floated over a free-kick for Roberto Carlos to crack just over.

Ronaldo's quick free kick created further problems with Raul beating his marker only to head wide.

Figo then skewed his shot wide from a good position after Ronaldo had teed up the Portuguese winger.

Almost inevitably, Real's opener came from a dead ball situation.

Beckham swung a corner out towards the penalty spot for Figo to head towards goal and Raul to supply the finishing touch.

Casillas was almost caught cold in the 47th minute, when he spilled a snap shot from Iliev, the Spanish keeper gathering gratefully at the second attempt.

A few minutes later, Drulovic almost levelled the scores, his first-time blast from 12 metres going just over.

Real were rattled, and their unusual lack of touch in front of goal had coach Carlos Queiroz making changes midway through the second half, with Solari and Javier Portillo coming on for Ronaldo and Zidane.

PORTO WIN A THRILLER

Porto won a thriller 3-2 in Marseille to move into second place on four points in the same group. Marseille have three and Partizan one point, but Porto, UEFA Cup winners last year, look capable of making the last 16 in this competition.

Didier Drogba opened the scoring for Marseille with his fifth goal of the competition after 24 minutes, but Porto, beaten at home by Real three weeks ago, came storming back.

Maniche (31) and Derlei (35) put the visitors ahead and Dmitri Alentichev sealed the victory nine minutes from time with a simple tap-in. Steve Marlet scored Marseille's second with a header from a free-kick after that, but Marseille could not save the match.

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