Real Madrid had Gonzalo Higuain’s 49th minute winner to thank for a 1-0 win over Racing Santander on Saturday, but the Spanish giants’ seventh successive league win did little to appease their fans’ concerns.
Higuain netted the decisive goal shortly after the restart but Real were made to sweat as they awaited the final whistle at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The reigning champions held on to close to within nine points of runaway leaders Barcelona, but another 1-0 win — an emerging habit under new coach Juande Ramos — could not stop the jeers, or fans heading for the exits early.
“It was like a lot of our recent matches,” Ramos said. “We won, which is great, although we are finding it difficult to get that second goal.”
“However, one big positive is the team kept a clean sheet and we got the three points,” he said.
Third-placed Sevilla fell nine points behind Real following a painful 2-1 derby defeat to Real Betis which puts more pressure on coach Manolo Jimenez.
Sevilla were reduced to ten men when Argentine Aldo Duscher was sent off on 69 minutes and a minute later Sergio Garcia opened the scoring.
Ricardo Oliveira added a second and it proved important as Freddy Kanoute pulled one back for the hosts.
Iker Casillas made history making his 454th appearance to equal Paco Buyo’s club record in the Real goal and he had little to do as Real controlled proceedings without making the breakthrough.
It was a heated match and tempers flared close to half-time when Pepe cynically pushed Racing striker Jonathan Perreira to the floor before Gabriel Heinze and Fabio Cannavaro hacked the grounded striker.
The referee waved play on and livid Racing players encircled Heinze while words were also exchanged as both sets of players trudged off at half-time.
Racing then conceded four minutes into the second half with Higuain cutting inside before finishing with aplomb.
The Argentine should have scored again shortly afterwards but goalkeeper Antonio Martinez saved with an oustretched foot.
Real’s new French signing Julien Faubert, recruited on loan from West Ham, made his debut just after the hour mark coming on for Arjen Robben who seemed less than happy about the decision.
“He [Robben] wasn’t in the right physical condition to play the 90 minutes,” Ramos said. “When you are tired the risk of injury increases and we are not willing to take those risks.”
Racing went close to equalizing and Cannavaro had to clear off the line to prevent an own goal from Pepe.
Nicola Zigic headed over a great chance for Racing and angry Real fans flocked out of the turnstiles with several minutes remaining.