Mon, Feb 23, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Arsenal has league title nearly in hand

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL The Gunners defeated Chelsea for the second time in a week, putting them seven points ahead of Manchester United and nine ahead of the Blues

AP , LONDON, GLASGOW, MADRID, MILAN, BERLIN, AMSTERDAM, PARIS

"It's an emphatic victory which makes us feel strong as leaders," Carlos was quoted as saying by leading sports daily newspaper Marca on Sunday. "We showed a real winner's attitude."

Second-place Valencia lost ground after suffering a 1-0 home defeat against FC Barcelona with substitute Gerard Lopez heading home the winner in the 78th minute. Third-place Deportivo could only draw 0-0 at Atletico de Madrid.

After the 25th round of matches, Madrid has 56 points, ahead of Valencia on 51. Deportivo has 50 points, seven more than FC Barcelona. Despite the absence of its suspended midfield pairing of David Beckham and Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez, Madrid demonstrated its ability to Champions League rival Bayern Munich, which it meets Tuesday in Germany.

With Madrid's Portuguese star Luis Figo left on the bench, the spotlight was on French midfield star Zinedine Zidane, who on Thursday extended his contract to 2007.

But it was another of Madrid's stars, Ronaldo, who opened the scoring with a 26th-minute penalty shot after captain Raul Gonzalez was hauled down by Espanyol's teenage defender, Carlos Garcia.

Six minutes later, Spanish international Raul Tamudo equalized with another penalty after midfielder Ivan De la Pena was felled by Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

In the 53rd minute, Zidane struck a precise cross from right to left, which Ronaldo controlled and placed in front of Roberto Carlos, who rifled the ball in.

Madrid's third goal came in the 67th minute after a corner kick by Figo, a second-half substitute, was headed in powerfully by central defender Raul Bravo for his first goal this season.

Two minutes later, Ronaldo beat the offside trap to walk the ball into the goal and record Madrid's 50th league goal of the season.

Central defender Albert Lopo pulled a goal back for Espanyol in the 84th minute.

Espanyol remained 19th in the 20-team first division with 20 points.

Barcelona's Lopez, a former Valencia midfielder, headed home from a corner by Xavi Hernandez to extend his team's unbeaten run to seven matches, its best in the league for four years.

Celta went down 2-0 at home to Malaga and suffered a blow to its morale prior to Tuesday's home match against English Premier League leader Arsenal.

Malaga's first goal came from a 16th-minute penalty, converted by forward Salva Ballesta for his 14th goal this season. Defender Sergio Fernandez was ejected for the foul. The second goal came in injury time through Uruguayan striker Diego Alonso.

Celta stayed in 16th place with 27 points.

Real Sociedad fell 1-0 to another injury-time goal by Sevilla's Uruguayan striker German Hornos, four days ahead of its home clash with Olympique Lyon.

Sociedad dropped to 12th with 31 points.

ITALIAN LEAGUE

Jon-Dahl Tomasson and Kaka netted second-half goals two minutes apart and Clarence Seedorf added another in the 85th to rally league leader AC Milan from a two-goal deficit to a dramatic 3-2 victory against crosstown rival Inter Milan in Italy's top league.

The win in the much anticipated Milan "Derby" in the soldout San Siro stadium consolidated AC Milan's lead in the Serie A standings, with 55 points.

Powerhouse AC Milan, the 2003 European champion, now has an impressive 17-4-1 record. Its closest pursuers, AS Roma and Juventus, must win in Sunday's action of the 22nd round just to keep pace.

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