Real Madrid Beats Troubled Barcelona Again - Three Days Before United Showdown

Shaky on defense and sorely missing its coach, Barcelona relegated to third place in Spanish soccer league.

Real Madrid edged Spanish leaders Barcelona 2-1 in La Liga yesterday, just four days after winning 3-1 at Camp Nou in the cup semifinals.

Sergio Ramos headed in a late winner for Real, after Leo Messi had canceled out an early goal from Karim Benzema.

Barcelona was denied a clear penalty after a foul by Ramos on Adriano at the end, and keeper Victor Valdes was sent off for protesting.

The defeat left Real in third place, 13 points behind Barcelona, but with an ever-so-slight hope of pulling off a miracle and catching the Catalans.

Barcelona is sorely missing absent coach Tito Vilanova, who has been in New York for these past two months for throat cancer treatment.

Without Vilanova, his team has looked shaky in defense, ponderous in midfield and blunt in attack. It has also badly missed injured playmaker Xavi.

Barcelona caretaker coach Jordi Roura tried to sound positive, saying: “We came here with the intention of winning, but it was a difficult game.

“Even so, I am pleased with the attitude of the players. They battled hard until the end and could have got a better result.”

Meanwhile, Real captain Ramos said: “We are pleased with our work today. We deserved the three points ... To be 13 points behind is better than 16 points. We will keep on fighting.”

Ramos diplomatically refused to comment on Barca’s problems. Barcelona has failed to keep a clean sheet for 13 league games, its worst defensive run since 1962.

It was the Catalans’ first league defeat in the Bernabeu since 2008, and left Real in good heart ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League showdown at Manchester United.

Real coach Jose Mourinho rested Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira and Gonzalo Higuain ahead of the trip to Manchester.

Real made an aggressive start and Benzema put the home side ahead in the sixth minute by turning in a perfect center from youngster Alvaro Morata.
Thirteen minutes later Messi made it 1-1 with a left-foot drive, after skipping around Ramos. It was his 16th straight-scoring game in La Liga and his 40th goal of the season, leaving him well placed to beat his astonishing record of 50 goals last season.

However, instead of improving after the equalizer, Barca continued to look lethargic and imprecise, with Messi completely out of the game.

Morata and Jose Callejon came close to restoring Real’s lead, then the hosts looked even more dangerous after Cristiano came off the bench.

Ramos made it 2-1 eight minutes from time by heading in a corner from Luka Modric.

Ronaldo then hit the Barcelona post, but the game finished with Barca furious at being denied a penalty for Ramos’ seeming foul on Adriano, with Valdes getting himself sent off for his angry post-match protest.

Reuters