Real labour to victory

Madrid, January 19:

Real Madrid came from a goal down to cut Barcelona’s lead at the top Spanish League to 12 points with a hard-fought 3-1 home victory over Osasuna on Sunday.

Real were fortunate to survive two strong penalty claims as they laboured to a win that lift them into second above Sevilla on goal difference. Osasuna went ahead through Javad Nekounam’s 19th-minute header but gifted Real an equaliser early in the second half with goalkeeper Roberto allowing Sergio Ramos’s tame shot to creep in. Gonzalo Higuain struck just after the hour mark to turn the game in Real’s favour and Arjen Robben added a third they scarcely deserved.

Valencia lost ground on Real and Sevilla after falling to a 3-2 defeat at Athletic Bilbao. Valencia twice took the lead but Fernando Llorente scored a 90th-minute penalty to win

the game and Valencia are now four points behind second-placed Real.

Atletico Madrid failed to take full advantage of Valencia’s slip drawing 1-1 at Almeria who played with 10 men from the 53rd minute. Florent Sinama Pongolle cancelled out Kalu Uche’s opener. Atletico now sit sixth, three points off the Champions League places.