Tue, Oct 28, 2008 - Page 18 News List

LFP : Real edge out Bilbao to go third

ARGENTINE BRACE Gonzalo Higuain scored two as Real Madrid won a hard-fought victory over Athletic Bilbao that put them level on points with archrivals Barcelona

AFP , MADRID

Real Madrid moved a point behind leaders Valencia with a hard-fought 3-2 home win over 10-man Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain scored twice, in the 28th minute and 58th minute, to down Bilbao who had come back to level at 2-2 through a Jose Exteberria strike and an Andoni Iraola penalty after Wesley Sneijder had put Real in front on 12 minutes.

Bilbao had Fernando Amorebieta sent off for a crude foul 14 minutes from time, while Real’s Brazilian defender Marcelo was fortunate to escape a straight red for a brutal tackle at the end of the first half.

Fernando Llorente hit the post for Bilbao late on but Real, beaten 2-1 by Juventus in their midweek Champions League match, snatched the points.

“After Champions League games it is always more difficult, so this victory is important,” Real coach Bernd Schuster said. “It was important to win and be at the top among the leading teams.”

Schuster largely answered questions with curt “yes” and “no” answers in the post-match press conference, avoiding questions about the competency of the referee.

Real moved above Villarreal into third, but are below Barcelona on goal difference, while Valencia lead the standings after a 1-1 draw with Recreativo Huelva maintained their unbeaten start.

Villarreal and 10-man Atletico Madrid served up the best game of the season with a thrilling 4-4 draw at El Madrigal on Sunday.

Atletico went two goals up after 22 minutes through Simao and Villarreal old boy Diego Forlan, but the dismissal of Argentine Ever Banega after 37 minutes for a second yellow card turned the game on its head. Villarreal scored three times in the first nine minutes of the second half, with a Leo Franco howler allowing Marcos Senna’s shot to creep in three minutes after the interval, before Jose Llorente equalized on 51 minutes. Gonzalo Rodriguez then put the hosts ahead on 57 minutes and Giuseppe Rossi, on 68 minutes, added a fourth as Atletico collapsed.

Spanish La Liga

Team
P
GD
PTS
1
Valencia
8
13
20
2
Barcelona
8
17
19
3
Real Madrid
8
11
19
4
Villareal
8
6
18
5
Sevilla
8
8
17
6
Malaga
8
0
13
7
Getafe
8
1
12
8
Mallorca
8
-2
11
9
Almeria
8
-4
11
10
Atletico Madrid
8
1
10
11
Espanyol
8
-4
9
12
Deportivo La Coruna
8
-4
9
13
Sporting Gijon
8
-8
9
14
Real Betis
8
1
8
15
Valladolid
8
-3
7
16
Numancia
8
-7
7
17
Racing Santander
8
-5
6
18
Recreativo Huelva
8
-9
6
19
Athletic Bilbao
8
-7
5
20
Osasuna
8
-5
4


But there was yet another twist as Simao pulled one back for Atletico with his second goal on 83 minutes and Raul Garcia equalized in the 85th minute to make it 4-4.

“You can never let your guard down and that is a lesson for my team,” Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini said. “We played well for 80 minutes, but we relaxed thinking the game was wrapped up. It does not usually happen, but that is why football is the most popular sport.”

Villarreal stay unbeaten and lie two points behind leaders Valencia, but will rue their late collapse. Atletico languish in 10th after the draw which brought an end to a run of three successive defeats.

“Football can be like that. You are down and out with the other team strolling and then you get something out of the game,” Atletico coach Javier Aguirre said. “At the end of the game, Forlan could even have given us the ultimate prize.”

Table-toppers Valencia have made their best ever league start after a 1-1 draw against Recreativo Huelva on Sunday.

Valencia have collected 20 points, with six wins and two draws, better than in 2001-2002, when they won the title under Rafael Benitez.

David Villa’s hot streak continued with his ninth goal of the season, canceling out Javier Camunas’ opener. Barcelona had nudged Valencia, now a point ahead of the Catalan giants, from the top with a resounding 5-0 win over Almeria on Saturday.

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