Mon, Apr 30, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Real on brink of La Liga title

WITHIN REACH:Karim Benzema netted a brace in the second half after Cristiano Ronaldo had scored in the first to open a 10-point gap over Barca

AFP, MADRID

Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, left, heads the ball to score past Sevilla goalkeeper Javi Varas in their La Liga match at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, Spain, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Karim Benzema struck a brace in a 3-0 win over Sevilla on Sunday as Real Madrid edged closer to their first La Liga title in four years.

The win gave Real a 10-point lead over archrivals Barcelona and that would be enough to secure the championship if Barca lost to Rayo Vallecano de Madrid later yesterday.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring at the Santiago Bernabeu for Jose Mourinho’s side and Benzema added a brace after the interval to put them within touching distance of a first Spanish title since 2008.

Real, who were eliminated from the Champions League after a semi-final defeat to Bayern Munich last week, took their record-breaking haul of league goals for the season to 112.

“It was an important win and the team deserves to be champions, as the players have shown their mentality and character,” Real assistant coach Aitor Karanka said.

Referring to their European exit, he added: “The players went into the game tired and down, but they responded well, even though winning the league will not cure anything.”

“We will go out looking to win games, even when we are the champions, if that happens, as we only have one plan. It will be fantastic to win the league and it is the most important objective at the moment,” he said.

Mourinho, looking to wrap up the championship as quickly as possible, fielded his strongest side, with the only change from the Bayern match being the introduction of Esteban Granero for Sami Khedira.

Real had an early scare when Sevilla defender Federico Fazio drove the ball into the back of the net, but the referee whistled for a foul by Alvaro Negredo on Pepe.

Sevilla, who are still in the hunt for a place in Europe next season, have garnered just one point from their past two games and it took no time for Real to quickly assert themselves.

Both Ronaldo and Benzema tested the visitors’ defense with a number of dangerous runs, and it seemed a matter of when and not if the hosts would score the opener.

The breakthrough came after 19 minutes when Benzema supplied Ronaldo in the box, allowing the Portuguese striker to turn inside Jorge Coke, before smashing the ball into the corner.

While Real were impressive going forward, they were — in keeping with their midweek performance against Bayern — leaving themselves exposed at the back.

Thankfully for the champions-in-waiting, Sevilla, who are still missing Frederic Kanoute and Manu del Moral, failed to convert their chances.

Former Real player Jose Antonio Reyes shot tamely at Iker Casillas, and then both Jesus Navas and Negredo fired wide from excellent positions.

Real continued to dominate and Ronaldo was just centimeters away from his second goal moments before the break when, from an indirect free-kick and with several of Sevilla’s players creating a defensive wall meters from the goal, his drive came back off the post.

In a four-minute spell shortly after the restart, any chance of a Sevilla fightback was ended by Benzema.

Taking advantage of some poor defending, the Frenchman stole in at the far post to roll in an Angel Di Maria cross after Coke miskicked in the 48th minute.

Four minutes later, Benzema made it three when he headed home a cross by Sergio Ramos.

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