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Real edge out Murcia

Kevin Fylan | January 04, 2004 17:31 IST

Real Madrid eked out a 1-0 victory at home to Murcia on Saturday to stretch their lead at the top in the Spanish Primera Liga to five points.

Real showed obvious of rustiness on their return from the festive break and were never completely comfortable, despite taking the lead in the ninth minute with a tap-in from Raul.

Murcia missed several clear chances early in the second half and Luis Garcia hit the bar with a free kick five minutes from time but Real held on for a fifth straight league win.

The result gave Carlos Queiroz's side 42 points from 18 games and left Valencia, in second spot with 37 points, needing to win at home to Villarreal on Sunday to cut the deficit to two points.

Third-placed Deportivo Coruna stayed within striking distance of the leaders following a 5-0 victory away to their hapless Galician rivals Celta Vigo later on Saturday.

Albert Luque and Victor scored on the counter-attack to make it 2-0 at half-time and Victor completed his hat-trick after the break, his third coming from a dreadful mistake from Celta keeper Pablo Cavallero. Diego Tristan bagged the fifth late on.

Victory for Deportivo gave them 36 points from 18 games and took them eight points ahead of fourth-placed Atletico Madrid, who had to settle for a goalless draw away to Real Zaragoza.


Real took up in the new year where they had left off in a run of victories over Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Deportivo Coruna and Real Mallorca at the end of 2003, with Raul scoring before Murcia had settled.

Luis Figo created the chance, beating a couple of players on his way to the goal line on the right and crossing towards the far post where Ronaldo won a crucial header to give Raul a simple finish a metre or so from goal.

Murcia, in 19th place in the table and with just one league win all season, were seemingly headed for a heavy defeat but managed to limit the damage to a single goal at halftime after David Beckham and Ivan Helguera missed good chances.

Against all odds, the visitors took control of the game at the start of the second half and might easily have moved ahead.

The referee turned down three plausible penalty claims for Murcia, who went desperately close with a shot from Richi that brushed past a post after 55 minutes.

They continued to create opportunities, helped in part by dismal defending from the home side, and would have deserved the point had Garcia's late free kick crept under the bar.

"We started well and controlled the game in the second half but we were tired after the break," said Real coach Queiroz.

"Murcia made it hard for us. They may be low down the table but they haven't given up."

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