An early goal for Gonzalo Higuain was enough to give Real Madrid a 1-0 victory over Valencia on Saturday and the first win for Juande Ramos as coach.
Real bounced back from the 2-0 defeat in the El Clasico against Barcelona last weekend to score after just three minutes, with Higuain firing home after good work from Arjen Robben.
“It was very important that we won, we had three points in our hand and if we had only managed a draw in the end it would have been a big problem,” Ramos said.
In fact, Robben was the key player in the early stages of the match and a constant threat to Valencia, setting up Rafael van de Vaart who hit the post and then he himself saw a shot cleared off the line after he had rounded the keeper.
Valencia, though, gradually came back into the contest and Iker Casillas made a series of stops from David Villa.
In the second half, Real were hanging on, with Casillas parrying a Ruben Baraja strike on to a post, but the pressure eased mid-way through the half following the expulsion of Carlos Marchena for his second yellow card. Real had chances to add to their lead, but Higuain and Juan Guti in particular missed excellent chances.
In Saturday’s late game, Atletico Madrid moved to second spot in the table, eight points behind leaders Barcelona, thanks to a 3-2 victory at Espanyol with the help of two goals from Maxi Rodriguez.
Atletico earned victory in Barcelona, but the home side will have considered themselves unlucky. The visitors went ahead after seven minutes when a Paulo Assuncao shot was blocked and the rebound fell to Maxi Rodriguez who finished clinically.
After a spell of Atletico dominance Espanyol began to press them back, but lacked a finishing edge until the 58th minute when a fine pass from Nicolas Pareja set up Sergio Sanchez to fire home. The pace and skill posed by Maxi and Sergio Aguero were a constant danger for the Espanyol back line and, having missed a couple of excellent chances, Aguero finally found the back of the net with a scrappy goal.
There was still time for two late goals in injury-time, with an excellent Maxi goal followed by a consolation from Valdo Lopes.