Pellegrini hails Madrid spirit
Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini hailed his side's spirit and mental strength as they closed the gap on Primera Division leaders Barcelona to one point with a 2-0 home win over third-placed Valencia on Sunday.
Madrid's title dreams looked to have suffered a massive setback when they were defeated by Barca in last weekend's 'El Clasico' at the Bernabeu. That result saw Madrid's 12-match winning streak and perfect home record this season come to an end, and more crucially it saw them fall three points behind the Catalan side with only seven games remaining.
That gap increased to six points when Barca beat Deportivo La Coruna 3-0 on Wednesday, but Madrid hit back 24 hours later with victory over Almeria. The capital club then got one of the helping hands they needed on Saturday when Espanyol held Barcelona to a goalless draw in the Catalan derby, and Madrid ensured that chance did not go to waste as they deservedly saw off Valencia thanks to goals in either half from Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Pellegrini said: "I'm very pleased with the mental strength and the fighting spirit that the team have. The team have kept a similar level all season. At the Bernabeu we've played 16 games and we've won 15, and we've scored a lot of goals. We've always lifted ourselves after difficult moments, after falling in the Champions League, after the game against Barcelona.
"We've shown spirit and I'm very proud of both the group and all the players individually. I'm very happy with my squad both on and off the pitch. It was very important to win in Almeria and follow it up against Valencia. We are a team full of goals."
Striker Higuain, who took his tally to 25 in the league with a 25th-minute opener against Valencia, said on his club's website: "I think we played one of our best games tonight. We dominated against a tough opponent. We never gave up and played especially well in the first half. There are five finals left and many points to play for."
Valencia coach Unai Emery, meanwhile, had few complaints about the result as his side fell a massive 24 points behind Madrid in the standings. He said: "Madrid have been better and that has been reflected in the scoreline.
"It's very difficult to stop Real Madrid because they have so much firepower. It's a fair result and we've not done enough going forward. We came here with the intention of winning the game, but our opponents are challenging for the league and have been better than us."