Real smash magnificent seven

Spain's front runners extend their lead in style.

     Arjen Robben enjoys a rare start and a rarer goal
    Raul Gonzalez and Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez each scored two goals to help Real Madrid trounce Valladolid 7-0 and extend its lead atop the Spanish league standings.

    Julio Baptista, Arjen Robben and substitute Royston Drenthe also netted for coach Bernd Schuster's side, which led by five goals before halftime.

    Madrid's win, the league's biggest of the season, stretched its advantage to eight points over second-place FC Barcelona with 15 games remaining.

    It also extended the defending champion's perfect league home record this season to 11 wins.

    Also, Florent Sinama-Pongolle scored twice to give struggling Recreativo Huelva a 2-1 win at Espanyol.

    Other results were: Racing Santander 0, Atletico Madrid 2; Osasuna 1, Zaragoza 0; Athletic Bilbao 1, Levante 0; and Mallorca 0, Almeria 0.

    Madrid leads with 56 points, while Barcelona has 48.

    Villarreal follows with 42. Atletico rose to fourth with 41, two more than Espanyol.

    On Saturday, Barcelona drew 1-1 at Sevilla, Villarreal downed Murcia 1-0 and Deportivo La Coruna drew 1-1 with Getafe.

    No Ruud, no problem

    Madrid's overwhelming win, which came on the back of last weekend's surprise defeat at Almeria, was achieved without injured leading scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy.

    Defenders Pepe, Christoph Metzelder and Gabriel Heinze were also out with injuries.

    Robben, who has been plagued by injury since his offseason move from Chelsea, made a rare start and set up Baptista with a pass in the ninth minute.

    Madrid forward Robinho then fell unchallenged to the ground four minutes later and was substituted with what reports said were stomach problems.

    Soon afterward, Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas required a bandage for an injured hand.

    Real Madrid's Julio Cesar Baptista is engulfed
    Robinho after finding the net [AFP]
    Valladolid caved in during a 13-minute spell before the interval.

    Raul doubled his team's lead in the 31st by rounding Valladolid goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo and angling his shot into the empty net.

    Robben then scored his first league goal for Madrid two minutes later, steering the ball past Asenjo after being set free on the left by Guti's long ball.

    Asenjo's bad night continued when he fouled Baptista and Raul converted the resulting penalty in the 39th for his 11th goal and Madrid's 50th of the league season.

    With Valladolid in disarray, Guti broke free in the 44th to receive Drenthe's pass before sweeping the ball home for the fifth.

    Guti's second goal came in the 62nd when his curling shot from the edge of the area crossed the line after rebounding off Asenjo's right post.

    Drenthe closed the scoring when he burst past two Valladolid defenders to control Guti's cross and fire the seventh goal in the 80th.

    Recreativo take valuable points

    Recreativo is fighting to avoid relegation and the win marked a great start for new coach Manolo Zambrano, who guided his team to its first victory in eight games after replacing the fired Victor Munoz on Monday.

    Sinama-Pongolle, who hit the post earlier in the game, swiveled to fire his first goal in the 18th minute.

    The Frenchman doubled his tally eight minutes later when he turned home a bouncing cross from left back Poli Fernandez, who was ejected in the closing

    Espanyol reduced the deficit in the 40th through Ewerthon, who was making his debut.

    The Brazilian striker recently arrived on loan from Stuttgart to replace Espanyol's captain Raul Tamudo, who will be sidelined until April with a broken arm.

    Forlan double breaks drought

    Atletico striker Diego Forlan scored twice as his team won at Santander for its first victory in four league games.

    The Uruguayan fired home in the 56th minute and added a second with a spectacular long-distance shot 16 minutes later, taking his season's tally to nine goals.

    Osasuna eased its relegation worries with a victory over Zaragoza thanks to Jaroslav Plasil's goal on the stroke of halftime.

    The game was the 609th of Zaragoza coach Javier Irureta's career, making him the Spanish league's second most experienced coach ever, behind Spain's national coach Luis Aragones.

    Bilbao also boosted its survival hopes by edging last-placed Levante behind striker Fernando Llorente's 55th-minute header.

    Levante, whose players complained this week about being owed a major part of their salaries over the past two seasons, is 12 points from safety and looks virtually certain to be relegated.

    Almeria played out a dull draw at Mallorca.

    In Sunday's late game, Valencia defeated Real Betis 3-1 thanks to a brace from returning striker David Villa and a further goal to David Silva.

    Betis hinted of a comeback when scored just after the halftime through Edu to make the score 2-1, but Villa wrapped up all three points with two minutes remaining.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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