Raul sinks Deportivo
Real Madrid's iconic captain Raul moved to within one goal equalling Alfredo di Stefano's club goalscoring record as Real cut Barcelona's lead at the top to 12 points with a 1-0 home win over Deportivo La Coruna.
Raul appeared to use his ear to glance home Lassana Diarra's fierce 39th minute cross for his 306th goal in the famous white shirt, leaving him just one goal behind Di Stefano, who famously inspired Real to five consecutive European Cup triumphs. Raul, 31, was taken off 20 minutes from the end as coach Juande Ramos put the team first so the former Spain international will have to wait until next week to try and get the goal.
Real moved three points clear of third-placed Sevilla, who lost 2-0 against Racing Santander, as they enacted revenge for their opening 2-1 defeat to Depor at the Riazor Stadium. Portuguese defender Pepe admitted it was frustrating that Barcelona kept winning but pointed out that Real's other rivals were now further away.
"Barca didn't slip up but the teams behind us (Sevilla, Valencia and Atletico Madrid) did, so we have some breathing space," explained Pepe. "We just have to wait for Barca to drop points and take advantage by winning."
It was a fifth straight win for Ramos, who has had to deal with the speculation that Arsene Wenger could replace him at the end of the season. Ramos has a six-month deal but presidential candidate Florentino Perez has stirred trouble by claiming he would bring Arsenal manager Wenger to the Santiago Bernabeu if elected.
"We just have to concentrate on fulfilling our part by winning and wait and see what happens," said Ramos. "It is a long season and a lot can happen."
Barcelona have also been irked by suggestions that Real could break the bank to sign their Argentine star Lionel Messi who scored twice in the 4-1 win over Numancia on Saturday. "I'll never leave Barca," said Messi. "I'll only leave if they throw me out. Barcelona is my home."
With Barca and Real in their custom positions of first and second the rest of the top sides appear to be fighting for the remaining two Champions League slots. Despite playing against ten men for close to an hour Sevilla fell to a surprise 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Racing Santander.
"We missed a great chance to put some distance between ourselves and our rivals," said Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez. "We were the problem as we couldn't handle the organised, direct football Racing played."
Serbian striker Nikola Zigic, measuring in at 6ft 8in (2.05m), was the main danger and scored the crucial second goal at the beginning of the second half. Zigic flopped at Valencia after a 20 million euro move from Racing but the striker, back at Racing on loan, repaid them a little scoring his third goal in four games to down Valencia's UEFA Champions League rivals.
Sevilla now host Valencia on Thursday in a mouthwatering Spanish Cup quarter-final evenly-poised after holders Valencia won the first leg 3-2. Strugglers Mallorca shocked Valencia with a 3-1 win on Sunday with Jose Jurado netting a brace.
Valencia coach Unai Emery, whose side stay four points behind Sevilla, accepted blame for the defeat saying it was his darkest hour since taking charge in the summer. "This is my most painful day as coach," said Emery. "I am to blame for the defeat. It was my fault."
Mallorca moved off the bottom of the table with the win and Osasuna replaced them. Atletico Madrid are still yet to win in 2009 after a 1-1 draw at Malaga who had won four out of their last five games in the league.
Elsewhere Espanyol's third coach this season, Mauricio Pochettino, saw his side draw 1-1 with Valladolid in his first match in charge. Pochettino's next task is to eliminate local neighbours Barcelona from the Copa del Rey with the city rivals facing off at Camp Nou on Thursday in the quarter-final second leg with the first match finishing 0-0.