Benzema keeps Real in the hunt

France striker reponds to criticism from within team by scoring winner as Real go back within four points of Barcelona.

    Benzema has faced criticism both from coach Mourinho and teammate Kaka over his performance [AFP]

    Real Madrid clawed Barcelona's lead at the top of the Spanish Primera Division back to four points as Karim Benzema's 61st-minute goal gave them a 1-0 win over Mallorca at the Bernabeu.

    The France striker answered his critics as he gathered a pass in front of the area, shuffled to his left and beat goalkeeper Dudu Aouate with a low shot for his second league goal of the season.

    Cristiano Ronaldo was below par in an ineffectual Real performance on Sunday and Kaka was replaced by half time.

    Benzema started the last two games on the bench and endured a week during which both coach Jose Mourinho and Brazil playmaker Kaka criticised his failure to establish himself as the team's number one striker with Gonzalo Higuain out due to injury.

    Results & fixtures

    Saturday January 22

     Valencia 4-3 Malaga
     Barcelona 3-0 Santander
     Sevilla 4-1 Levante

    Sunday January 23

     
    Getafe 1-3 Espanyol
     Zaragoza 1-0 Deportivo
     Gijon 1-0 Atl Madrid
     Almeria 3-2 Osasuna
     Real Madrid 1-0 Mallorca
     Villarreal v Sociedad

    Monday January 24

     
    Athl Bilbao v Hercules

    Atletico Madrid's hopes of a place in the European Champions League next season were dealt a blow when they were beaten 1-0 at struggling Sporting Gijon.

    A defensive error allowed striker David Barral to score six minutes after half time and the defeat leaves Atletico seven points behind fifth-placed Espanyol, and follows their elimination from the Copa del Rey at the hands of city rivals Real Madrid.

    Espanyol continue run

    Surprise package Espanyol continued their fine run with a 3-1 comeback win at Getafe and are two points behind fourth-placed Villarreal, who were hosting promoted Real Sociedad in Sunday's late kickoff.

    A win for Villarreal would lift them back above Valencia, who are third after Saturday's 4-3 win at home to Malaga.

    Champions Barca won their 14th successive league match on Saturday when they beat visiting Racing Santander 3-0 and have 55 points from 20 matches.

    Almeria, who play Barca in the semi-finals of the Copa on Wednesday, climbed off the bottom with a 3-2 win at home to Osasuna and are 18th.

    Sporting moved out of the drop zone places after the win over Atletico alongside Real Zaragoza, who secured a 1-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna with Sad Boutahar's 38th-minute free kick.

    Sporting and Zaragoza's victories kept Almeria in the relegation places but the Andalucian club moved off the bottom of the table ahead of Malaga and Levante with a 3-1 win over Osasuna, who are just a point above Almeria.

    It was Almeria's first league win of the season at their Juegos Mediterraneos stadium.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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