French international Karim Benzema made it four goals in his last two league matches with a brace as Real Madrid moved back within seven points of league leaders Barcelona with a 3-1 win at Racing Santander on today.
Even without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, Real were far too strong for Racing and Jose Mourinho's side responded with their eighth league away win of the campaign to close in on Barcelona, who had defeated Real Zaragoza 1-0 on yesterday.
"I don't expect Barcelona to slip up," said Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho. "We know that we win if we do what we have to and when we are superior to our rivals.
"Barcelona win when they do things well, but they also win when they find themselves in trouble because 'things' happen. It happened in Valencia when they could have lost and again against Zaragoza when they could have played a lot of the game with one man less."
Real crushed Malaga 7-0 on Thursday and it could have been a similar scoreline in a dominant first half against Racing as they dominated from the get-go. Xabi Alonso hit the crossbar in the 12th minute with what seemed to be an over-hit cross and two minutes later Brazilian Marcelo missed a sitter.
Marcelo's late run into the box was picked out and the left-back rounded the goalkeeper, but somehow sliced wide of goal when he had done all the hard work. Benzema then thumped the crossbar with a fierce drive before Real produced a fantastic team goal on 23 minutes with some slick one-touch passing.
Alonso fed German international Ozil who began an exchange of quick passes with Togo forward Emmanuel Adebayor and Benzema, before putting the ball on a plate for Adebayor to roll home his second league goal of the campaign. Three minutes later Ozil found Benzema with a brilliant pass and the Frenchman took the ball in his stride before slotting home.
Racing had a chance to get a foothold in the match when Alonso conceded a penalty six minutes after the interval, but Pablo Pinillos took an awful penalty that goalkeeper Iker Casillas held comfortably. However, Racing pulled a goal back in the 69th minute with Swedish midfielder Kennedy Bakircioglu making a clever run to steal a yard on the defence and then finish past Casillas.
Real were in for a nervy final 20 minutes but Benzema ensured that didn't happen by scoring his second three minutes later after a fine pass from Angel di Maria. With Ronaldo missing, Adebayor was entrusted with taking a late penalty and failed with a poor spot-kick to rival that of Pinillos.