Real rally to beat Sporting Gijon

MADRID: Real Madrid used a second-half flurry of goals to rally for a 3-1 victory over Sporting Gijon and move three points clear of Barcelona at the top of the Spanish league on Saturday.

Madrid were shaken into action by David Barral’s 53rd-minute goal, with Rafael Van der Vaart and Xabi Alonso scoring within two minutes of each other to put the home side ahead by the 57th minute at the Santiago Bernabeu. Gonzalo Higuain then scored his 20th goal of the season in the 68th as Madrid moved onto 68 points. Barcelona have 65 points.

Sevilla followed up their midweek Champions League exit with a 2-0 defeat at mid-table Espanyol while Pedro Leon’s 86th-minute goal earned Getafe a 2-2 draw at Athletic Bilbao in a match which saw both teams finish with 10 men. Also, Valladolid ended their three-game losing streak with a 2-0 victory at Deportivo La Coruna, last-place Xerez beat Tenerife 2-1 for a second straight win.

Juan Pablo Colinas’ diving save from Higuain’s long shot in the 43rd minute was the last meaningful action of a first half devoid of excitement as neither team created real scoring opportunities until Barral’s opener at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Sporting striker was played into space on the right side of the area and, using a teammate at the far post as a decoy, finally elected to fire a powerful shot past goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Barral’s goal provoked a reaction from Madrid, with Van der Vaart controlling the rebound from Cristiano Ronaldo’s freekick and volleying home a 55th-minute equaliser. Ronaldo had a part in the second as he headed a corner kick into the path of Alonso, who was alone at the far post to guide the ball home.

Miguel de las Cuevas tested Casillas in the 65th minute before Higuain extended Madrid’s lead when the Argentina striker ran into space before sliding a left-footed shot under Colinas. Things certainly weren’t going the visitor’s way as a Sporting clearance nearly bounced back off Ronaldo into the net in the 72nd. Ronaldo, carrying the load with Kaka and Karim Benzema missing through injury, then volleyed over the bar in the 85th.

Sevilla failed to impress after getting dumped out of Europe’s top-tier competition by CSKA Moscow. They trailed from the eighth minute when Pablo Osvaldo headed home before Osvaldo made it 2-0 on the hour mark. Sevilla stayed fourth with 44 points — three back of Valencia — while Espanyol improved to 31.

At El Riazor, Nauzet Aleman and Haris Medunjanin scored either side of the break for Valladolid, who are tied for 18th with Tenerife — five points better than Xerez, for their first win of the season.