La Liga Week 14: Super Raul Pulls Real Madrid 4 Points Clear of Barcelona and Villareal

Real Madrid extended their lead at the top of the Spanish league to four points this weekend thanks to a 3-1 victory over Racing Santander which was inspired by a splendid performance from Raul Gonzalez. Racing arrived at the Bernabeu with the best defensive record in the league, having conceded only nine goals in thirteen games. However, Madrid took just ten minutes to score twice and more or less put the result beyond doubt.

After just three minutes Robinho on the left touchline passed inside to Baptista who fed Van Nistlerooy, the Dutchman threaded a fabulous pass between two defenders to Raul who finished in his usual cool manner. Madrid had a bit of luck with the second goal, Baptista sent Sneijder through against the keeper, Sneijder first shot was saved but he tried again from an extremely tight angle, Racing defender Sergio Sanchez was running back to cover but could do no more than send the ball into his own net.

Racing did not give up, Duscher produced a fine shot that was splendidly saved by Casillas and Smolarek hit the post a bit later. Inbetween Raul nearly made it 3-0 when he lobbed the goalie but Garay got back to clear off the line. Raul got the third in the 69th minute, shooting home a direct free-kick, and Munitis got a consolation goal for Racing.

With his two goals Raul equalled Messi and Luis Fabiano at the top of this season’s goalscorers table He also moved into equal seventh place in the overall goalscorers in La Liga’s history. Raul is now level with Edmundo “Mundo” Suarez on 195 goals. The six goalscorers still above Raul are: Telmo “Zarra” Zarraonaindia (251 goals), Hugo Sanchez (234), Alfredo Di Stefano (227), Cesar (225), Quini (219) and Pahiño (210). At thirty years old Raul still has time to overtake some of these greats.

In the big derby game in Barcelona, Espanyol drew 1-1 with Barça on Montjuic. Frank Rijkaard left Ronaldinho on the bench again while Thierry Henry is out injured. Strangely, Barça have looked better away from home without these two stars. Andres Iniesta gave Barça an early lead after a fantastic run from Leo Messi, and Barça should really have wrapped up the game in the first half. In the second half Espanyol pinned Barça back for the first 25 minutes and were eventually rewarded through a goal by “Coro” Corominas.

Barça then regained the initiative and should have won it at the end, but goalkeeper Carlos Kameni kept out all Barça’s efforts. For a full report on the Espanyol-Barça game go to

Barça’s point took them above Villarreal who lost 2-0 at Valladolid. Joseba Llorente put the home team ahead on 18 minutes with a superb header from Sisi’s right-wing cross. The second came from a left-wing cross from Sesma which Victor converted for his sixth goal of the season. Valladolid have now hosted the top three in the league this season and have not lost to any of them.

Atletico Madrid move above Espanyol into fourth place after a comfortable 0-2 win at Betis. Diego Forlan scored his fifth goal of the season to put the visitors ahead after combining well with Kun Agüero. Then in injury time a counter attack directed by Maniche ended with Raul Garcia shooting home to secure the three points. Betis are in serious relegation danger this season, finding themselves four points adrift of safety.

The biggest shock of the week saw Ronald Koeman’s Valencia go down 0-3 at home to Athletic Bilbao. Valencia were knocked out of the Champions League in midweek and seemed to be still in shock. Yeste opened the scoring for the Basques on 32 minutes with a direct free kick. Fernando Llorente got the second on the hour, heading home a cross from David Lopez. Llorente got his second of the game in injury time to complete Valencia’s miserable week.

Sevilla continue their Jekyll and Hyde season with a 1-0 defeat at Almeria. It’s difficult to understand how a team that can outplay and beat the likes of Real Madrid and Arsenal, can lose to teams like Almeria. This was Sevilla’s eighth league defeat of the season and they are now 14th in the table. Dani Alvez saw his second red card of the season early in the second half and then a headed goal five minutes from the end from substitute Acasiete Arialeda gave Almeria the three points which take them above their Andalusian rivals in the table.

There was a big scare in the Getafe-Levante match when Levante defender Iñaki Descarga was knocked out after a clash of heads with De la Red. He was unconscious for several minutes and was rushed to hospital, terrible memories of Sevilla player Antonio Puerta’s tragic death came flooding back. Fortunately, he recovered consciousness and the latest reports say he is out of danger. Getafe won the game 2-1 thanks to two goals from Braulio which made Riga’s early goal for the visitors count for nothing.

Recreativo moved out of the relegation zone with a 2-1 home win over Zaragoza. Diego Milito scored his sixth goal of the season after a great pass from Pablo Aimar to put Zaragoza ahead. Recreativo responded quickly and two goals from Carlos Martins gave them the lead at half time. Recre were under pressure in the second half but they defended well to hold on to the three points. Zaragoza have now gone four games without a victory.

Osasuna also moved away from the relegation zone but their 1-2 victory over Deportivo leaves the Galician team third from bottom. Plasil opened the scoring just after half time with a wonderful volley at the far post, but with eight minutes remaining Deportivo equalized through Ruben Castro. Depor’s joy was short-lived as Portuguese star Dady grabbed the winner for Osasuna, hitting in a free kick which Depor keeper Aouate should have saved.

Finally, Mallorca drew 1-1 with Murcia. Iñigo scored for Murcia after 23 minutes when he took advantage of a mistake by Mallorca defender Nunes, but Mallorca were saved by Webo who scored the equalizer with a fine header shortly after coming on as a substitute for Arango.

Table: Real Madrid 32 pts, Barcelona 28, Villarreal 28, Atletico Madrid 27, Espanyol 26, Valencia 24.

Top Scorers: 8 goals: Messi (Barça), Raul (Madrid), Luis Fabiano (Sevilla). 7 goals: Agüero (Atletico), Güiza (Mallorca), Rossi (Villarreal), Kanoute (Sevilla).

Nic writes at the Barcelona blog.

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