Mon, Aug 27, 2007 - Page 19 News List

LFP: Real come from behind to win

SNEIJDER SNATCHES VICTORY Despite new signings Gabriel Heinze and Arjen Robben being kept in reserve, Real edged out Atletico thanks to a late goal in the Madrid derby

AFP , MADRID

Atletico Madrid's Simao, left, takes a tumble after being challenged by Real Madrid's Guti during their Spanish league soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on Saturday.

PHOTO: AFP

Real Madrid opened their Spanish league title defense on Saturday by coming from a goal down to edge city rivals Atletico 2-1 at the Bernabeu to earn praise from new coach Bernd Schuster.

"We played well in a hard-fought derby. We didn't have any weak points and we really pushed ourselves to seal the win," said Schuster, who as a player won a host of Liga honors playing for both Madrid clubs as well as Barcelona.

The German has splashed out 120 million euros (US$170 million) on new talent since replacing Fabio Capello, but that counted for little as Real made a nightmare start, falling behind to a goal from Sergio Aguero inside a minute.

But Raul headed them level and former Ajax man Wesley Sneijder notched the winner 10 minutes from time.

"It would have been a pity, given the chances we missed, only to draw," insisted Schuster, who lauded sacked predecessor Capello for delivering the club's 30th league title last time round despite the huge pressure on his shoulders.

Atletico arrived not having won at the Bernabeu for eight seasons.

But they too have substantially added to their squad, not least by recruiting Jose Antonio Reyes, who spent last season on loan from Arsenal with Real and scored the last-day goals which won the title.

The Spanish international, however, had to make do with a place on the bench before coming on to a mixed reception midway through the second half.

Spain's Tour de France cycling champion Alberto Contador handed the championship trophy to Real skipper Raul before kick-off and the former then formally kicked off the campaign before a sellout 80,000 crowd.

Real kept some of their eight new players in reserve, including Argentine defender Gabriel Heinze and Dutch winger Arjen Robben, signed just two days before the match from Manchester United and Chelsea respectively.

The hosts also left German international defender Christoph Metzelder on the bench before he replaced Italian world champion Fabio Cannavaro, suffering from an ankle knock sustained in training.

Javier Aguirre's Atletico, inspired by expensive recruits including Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan and Portuguese forward Simao shook Real by taking the lead after 56 seconds.

Mario Andres Pernia sent over a corner from the right and compatriot Aguero nodded in from point blank range.

Raul levelled on 14 minutes with a fine header from a tantalizing Sergio Ramos cross on the flank where David Beckham was providing much of the ammunition during the title run-in.

It was Guti, as so often in the past, who unlocked the door to victory, his slide rule freekick pounced on by Sneijder, who stroked home a low shot.

Atletico almost snatched a point late on when Giorgios Seitaridis crossed from the right and Forlan slid home only to be given offside.

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