Real Madrid rekindled their hopes of
challenging for the Primera Liga title with a 3-2 defeat of Santander on
Saturday, before leaders Barcelona conceded home points in a 1-1 draw
Valencia came out strongly in the game, which brought four-match winning
streaks to an end for both teams, but were soon hemmed back by Barcelona.
The hosts played their swiftest and most skilful football and Valencia
spent much of the first half fending off attacks.
Barcelona were unable to convert their elegant football into goals
however and Valencia, returning after the break with a far more
aggressive game, were the first to find the net when Stefano Fiore
powered in the ball in the 63rd minute.
An already nervous Barcelona were further undermined when Goalkeeper
Victor Valdes was sent off 10 minutes later for handling outside the
But despite being a man down, Barcelona equalised with a controversial
penalty from Ronaldinho in the 79th minute after the Brazilian went down
in the area between two defenders.
Canizares dived left as Ronaldinho slotted the ball to his right to seal
a fractious match.
"All the players have fought a lot...it has been a hard game, with both
teams throwing everything they had into it looking for results, and
because of this it was an intense and sometimes tough game," Barcelona
coach Frank Rijkaard told reporters.
Real also spent much of their match playing catch up, with goals from
Michael Owen and Raul putting them back in the game when Racing twice
pulled ahead before a last-gasp goal from Zidane in injury time clinched
Creative Israel international Yossi Benayoun, linchpin of the Racing
attack, set the pattern when he sent a header soaring over Iker Casillas
in the 24th minute.
Michael Owen, relishing an unaccustomed place in the starting line-up,
seized his chance to pull the two sides equal with a header after 35
But six minutes after the break Javi Guerrero slotted in a pass from
Benayoun that found him alone in the area, putting the visitors behind
Raul levelled the score 10 minutes later when he knocked a header from
Walter Samuel over the line and the game looked to be ending in a draw
as both sides struggled to find the net until Zidane sealed the victory.
Real rose to second place on 29 points but were still 10 points behind
Barcelona, while Valencia moved to third, also on 29. Fourth-placed
Espanyol travel to Numancia on Sunday.
Racing looked the better team for much of the match but coach Mariano
Garcia Remon shrugged off the criticisms of his Real squad.
"It seems that this team has to work wonders for people to say that (Real)
Madrid has played well...I am leaving here content because we wanted to
win, because we are not dead, and this is important," said Garcia Remon.
Earlier, Levante notched their sixth match without a win when they drew
1-1 with in-form Albacete.