Tue, Jan 06, 2009 - Page 18 News List

LFP: Robben? inspired solo goal helps Real close gap

AFP , MADRID

A brilliant solo goal from Dutch winger Arjen Robben helped Real Madrid close the gap on runaway leaders Barcelona to 12 points as the champions defeated Villarreal 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

Real coach Juande Ramos handed debuts to French midfielder Lassana Diarra and Dutch international striker Klass-Jan Huntelaar ?40 million euros (US$55 million) worth of talent ?but it was Robben who proved the difference. The former Chelsea man jinked his way past several opponents ?leaving Spanish star Marcos Senna sprawling on the ground ?before unleashing an unstoppable 31st minute winner.

Ramos had no hesitation in giving league debuts to Diarra, who he signed for 20 million euros from Portsmouth during the transfer window, and Huntelaar who also cost 20 million euros and was bought by former manager Bernd Schuster.

The Christmas break also allowed Real to recover injured players and they welcomed back Pepe and Gabriel Heinze to strengthen the back four.

Real hit the woodwork on 11 minutes when Robben? deflected shot took a ricochet off the top of the crossbar for a corner.

Robben was Real? standout player and the Dutch star scored a terrific goal just after the hour. Cutting in from the right flank Robben faked to shoot ?deceiving Spanish international Senna who threw himself to the ground in a last ditch effort to block ?before firing a fierce drive into the top corner with his left foot.

Six minutes before the break Huntelaar should have got a debut goal, but Diego Lopez foiled the Dutchman with a reflex save.

Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini? halftime dressing down seemed to work and his team were transformed in the second period, putting Real on the back foot with a series of corners.

Villarreal pushed forward and their best chance came on 70 minutes when Giuseppe Rossi? header was pushed onto the crossbar by Casillas. The visitors were the better side in the second half, but the ball wouldn? go in.

Valencia hold on to second spot after Sevilla drew 1-1 with bottom side Osasuna on Sunday.

A Jesus Navas goal looked set to propel Sevilla up to second, but Walter Pandiani equalized in the final minute to stun the home fans.

Former Real legend Hugo Sanchez, who won five consecutive league titles in Madrid colors from 1985 to 1990, had a great start with new club Almeria, with his first match in charge ending in a 1-0 win over Real Betis.

Meanwhile, Recreativo Huelva beat Numancia 3-1, a win that lifted them out of the bottom three.

Spanish La Liga

?/td>

Team
P
GD
PTS
1
Barcelona
17
40
44
2
Valencia
17
12
33
3
Real Madrid
17
9
32
4
Sevilla
17
9
32
5
Atletico Madrid
17
13
30
6
Deportivo La Coruna
17
3
30
7
Villarreal
17
5
29
8
Malaga
17
-1
25
9
Valladolid
17
0
23
10
Getafe
17
-3
21
11
Racing Santander
17
-3
21
12
Sporting Gijon
17
-12
21
13
Athletic Bilbao
17
-4
20
14
Almeria
17
-8
19
15
Real Betis
17
-2
18
16
Numancia
17
-14
17
17
Recreativo Huelva
17
-13
16
18
Espanyol
17
-11
14
19
Mallorca
17
-14
14
20
Osasuna
17
-6
13

?/p>

This story has been viewed 1245 times.
TOP top