Mon, Nov 20, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Real Madrid fans remember Puskas

MOURNING `PANCHO' Although the match started on a somber note, the home fans in the Bernabeu Stadium had plenty to smile about by the end of the game



Real Madrid beat Racing Santander 3-1 in the Spanish league on Saturday as it paid tribute to its all-time great Ferenc Puskas, who died the previous day aged 79.

Sergio Ramos, Jose Antonio Reyes and Mahamadou Diarra, who like their teammates wore black armbands, scored to lift Madrid level with defending champion FC Barcelona in the standings.

In Saturday's late game, Sevilla climbed into top place by beating 10-man Valencia 3-0 on goals by Julien Escude, Luis Fabiano and Frederic Kanoute.

Sevilla's emphatic victory over the 2002 and 2004 champion maintained its perfect record at its Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium this season.

Valencia, which had David Silva sent off early in the first half, is winless in four games and stayed sixth.

Banners in the crowd read ``Puskas R.I.P'' and ``Puskas, eternal, legend'' in Spanish, while images of the Hungarian forward in action were displayed on the video screen at Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Both sets of players gathered around the center circle before kickoff to hear a cellist seated on a dais on the field play a somber composition by Pau Casals.

Puskas, nicknamed ``Pancho'' by Madrid fans, joined the club as a veteran in 1958. During an eight-year spell he scored 324 goals in 372 matches and helped the club win three European Cup titles and five straight Spanish league titles.

Santander, which went into the match on a seven-game unbeaten run, fell behind in the fifth minute when Ramos leaped to power home a downward header from Reyes' corner.

Having withstood several uncomfortable moments, Madrid doubled its lead in the 58th minute. Diarra and Emerson threaded the ball through to Reyes, and the forward beat goalkeeper Tono Rodriguez at the near post with a low shot.

Diarra added the third goal in the 70th by poking the ball home from close range at the second attempt after a low cross from Raul Gonzalez.

Madrid lacked the injured Ronaldo and David Beckham, who watched from the stand after the club allowed him to spend Friday in Italy to meet film stars Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes on the eve of their wedding.

Madrid defender Fabio Cannavaro, who captained Italy to the World Cup in July and is expected to be named European player of the year on Nov. 27, received an ovation from the crowd on being substituted in the 75th minute.

Santander, which beat Madrid 2-1 in December on its previous visit, pulled a goal back in the 76th through defender Ezequiel Garay's spectacular free kick.

Madrid was reduced to 10 men just before the end of the match when midfielder Jose Maria ``Guti'' Gutierrez was sent off for a foul on midfielder Victor ``Vitolo'' Anino.

Valencia, again lacking six injured players including captain David Albelda, suffered Silva's ejection in the 18th minute for an elbow on right back Daniel Alves. In the opening minute, Silva had received a similar foul from Alves which went unpunished.

From the resulting free kick, Escude fired Sevilla into the lead.

In the 58th minute, Alves' deft forward pass provided striker Luis Fabiano with the chance to steer the ball home for Sevilla's second goal.

Kanoute's ninth goal of the season, taking him clear at the top of the scoring chart, arrived in the 71st when he chested Antonio Puerta's cross and sidefooted home.

Valencia's problems worsened three minutes from time when Brazilian midfielder Edu, who had been doubtful for the game, was carried off in clear pain after injuring his knee while attempting to make a tackle.

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