Real Madrid now three points behind leaders Barca

March 15th, 2009 - 6:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, March 15 (DPA) Real Madrid are now just three points behind Spanish leaders Barcelona after a stormy 5-2 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Primera Liga.
Saturday’s win was the perfect way for the whites to recover from Tuesday’s 4-0 Champions League meltdown at Liverpool.

Real now have 60 points from 27 games, just three points less than Barcelona, who play Sunday at midtable Almeria.

Two second-half goals from Klaas Jan Huntelaar, who was ineligible to play against Liverpool, tipped the balance in Real’s favour after Bilbao had pulled two goals back.

Real’s Arjen Robben opened the scoring with a classy solo goal in the 23rd minute, and Gabriel Heinze made it 2-0 with a brave header.

Heinze then brought Bilbao back to life with a clumsy own goal. Straight afterward, Bilbao playmaker Fran Yeste was harshly sent off for a scuffle with Real’s Iker Casillas.

There was still time in the first half for Spain striker Fernando Llorente to make it 2-2 with a header that Casillas made a hash of.

Huntelaar took centre-stage in the second half. He made it 3-2 in the 47th minute with a clever near-post drive, then polished Bilbao off on the hour with a precise, left-footed chip.

Six minutes from time Gonzalo Higuain made it 5-2 from the penalty spot, after a disputed foul on Marcelo by Andoni Iraola.

Earlier Saturday, crisis club Valencia had managed to force a late 1-1 draw at home to lowly Recreativo Huelva.

Valencia - whose players have not been paid since December due to the club’s alarming financial situation - have picked up just three points from their last six games.

Unai Emery’s depressed team were again without injured Euro 2008 top scorer David Villa and missed his craft in attack.

The disappointing draw leaves Valencia stranded in eighth place, level on 40 points with fellow under-achievers Atletico Madrid.

“Every game is turning out to be a torment for us,” said Valencia captain Carlos Marchena, who was sent off 20 minutes from time, with Huelva winning.

Huelva’s goal came in the 56th minute, when Javier Camunas got in front of a sluggish Valencia defence and scored with a deft flick.

The once-formidable Valencia defence has failed to keep a clean sheet for 23 games now.

Supersub Pablo Hernandez made it 1-1 six minutes from time with a delightful run and lob, and then veteran Fernando Morientes missed a good chance to score a winner for Valencia.

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