Real Madrid extend lead as Valencia stumble
MADRID: Real Madrid enjoyed themselves at the expense of relegation-threatened Espanyol with an emphatic 4-2 victory which consolidated their position as league leaders on Saturday.
The reigning Spanish champions then saw their lead extended to five points after their nearest rival Valencia went down 1-0 at home to Barcelona later on Saturday.
Ronaldo opened the scoring for Real with a penalty after 25 minutes after Raul had crashed to the floor in similar fashion to his controversial injury-time collapse against championship rivals Valencia a week ago.
However, Tamudo equalised for Espanyol in almost identical circumstances six minutes later, scoring from the spot after Ivan De La Pena had gone to ground without any Real player looking as though they had touched him.
The two dubious penalties will inevitably continue the debate about Spanish refereeing standards after a week in which they have been under considerable scutiny, despite Real coach Carlos Queiroz pleading for the carping to stop.
“It’s pointless looking at referees through a microscope in this way. This debate is starting to get ridiculous. I am saying this in the defence of football, in defence of the referees, in defence of the players and in defence of the game itself,” said Queiroz.
The only people without any defence were Espanyol, who deserved their share of the honours at the break but quickly regained their reputation as having the worst rearguard in the Spanish first division.
Seven minutes after half time, Roberto Carlos found himself in acres of space in which to receive a pass from his fellow World Cup winner Ronaldo and steady himself before unleashing a blistering left foot shot from the edge of the area.
Raul Bravo then got a rare goal after 66 minutes heading the ball home unchallenged as four Espanyol defenders just stood and watched the Spanish international defender use their keeper Erwin Lemmens for target practice.
Ronaldo then completed Real’s quartet two minutes later, his 21st league goal of the season, catching the Espanyol defence pushed too far forward as he ran onto a deep pass from Esteban Cambiasso.
Alberto Lopo got a consolation goal for Espanyol six minutes from time when the Real defenders were caught napping but it was too little, too late.
Real Madrid now have 56 points from 25 games. By contrast, Espanyol are second from bottom and three points adrift from their nearest rival, and are staring at their decade-long stint in the top flight of Spanish football coming to an end.
“Real just overwhelmed us,” conceded Espanyol coach Luis Fernandez.
His team’s inability to contain Real lead to Fernandez literally, and comically, chewing on his own tactics notebook in frustration during the second half.
Gerard Lopez’s 78th minute strike, after only being on the field seven minutes, proved to be decisive as Barcelona ran out 1-0 winners against Valencia to notch up their fifth successive victory.
Both sides had good chances to open the scoring earlier but good goalkeeping combined with poor finishing conspired to keep the game scoreless, until Gerard sprung into action. To hinder Valencia’s chances of grabbing a late equaliser, Amadeo Carboni picked up his second yellow card 10 minutes from time and was given his marching orders. Earlier on Saturday, Deportivo La Coruna’s Spanish international strike force of Diego Tristan and Albert Luque squandered a series of second half chances as Deportivo had to settle for a 0-0 draw at Atletico Madrid.
The Galicans stay in third place with 50 points, with Barcelona edging closer in fourth with 43 points. —AFP