Eurosport - Sat, 20 Mar 22:55:00 2010
Real Madrid moved three points clear of Barcelona at the top of La Liga after recovering from a goal down to beat Sporting Gijon 3-1 at the Bernabeu.
Fernando Alonso was on hand to give his side the lead just a minute later, and Gonzalo Higuain clinched victory with a clinical strike in the 68th minute to improve Real's superior goal-difference over rivals Barcelona in the process.
"We only have the league left to fight for and we have the responsibility to win every day," Real midfielder Esteban Granero said.
"We lacked fluidity in the first half but when they scored it stung us and we knew how to react."
It was a frustrating first period for Manuel Pellegrini's side as Gijon defended stoutly and thwarted every advance from their hosts, with clear-cut opportunities sparse, before the floodgates opened in the second.
Cristiano Ronaldo was marshalled effectively by Alberto Rivera, but the forward headed wide after he stole into the Gijon penalty area unmarked to head wide from Marcelo's pinpoint cross out on the left byline in the eighth minute.
If the Portugese should have made Juan Pablo work in the Gijon goal, then Gonzalo Higuain was equally profligate as he dragged his shot tamely wide after being slipped through by Xabi Alonso on the half hour.
Real started brightly after the break and should have been given the lead by midfielder Rafael van der Vaart in the 47th minute as the Dutchman somehow contrived to head over the bar, unmarked from close range, as he met Higuain's exquisite delivery from the right.
Guti was brought on at the expense of Lassana Diarra as Real sought to step up their attacking intensity, but they were caught out at the other end as Torres David Barral unleashed a stunning finish to give Gijon a shock lead.
Just two minutes later, Ronaldo drove a vicious free-kick straight at Pablo, who parried the ball tamely into the path of Van der Vaart, who finished clinically to restore parity.
Pablo made partial amends for his earlier error with a stunning save to his left to tip away Marcelo's fierce drive in the 57th minute, but Real's pressure was relentless.
Just seconds later, Guti whipped over a corner which Ronaldo headed towards the back post where Alonso was lurking, and the midfielder turned the ball home from close range to give Real the lead.
Higuain then opened up a two-goal cushion for the hosts with a delightfully incisive run and low left-footed shot which beat Pablo at his far post to ease the pressure on the league leaders.
Casillas made a fine save to deny Gimenez Diego Castro in the 79th minute, as the forward received a slick through ball by Diego Camacho, and his attempted shot was smothered superbly by the Spain goalkeeper.
Gijon refused to be dictated to in the closing stages and broke from the back tirelessly, but Real sealed their 3-1 win to move three points clear at the top of the table, albeit having played a game more than Barcelona in second.
Elsewhere, Espanyol overcame fourth-placed Sevilla 2-0 courtesy of a brace from Pablo Osvaldo's at the Cornella El Prat.
Osvaldo planted a stooping header into the bottom corner of Andres Palop's net in the eighth minute, and he doubled his tally on the hour mark with a clinical finish to round off a slick move.
Manolo Jimenez's side dominated the play, but were unable to muster a response as the hosts defended stoutly to preserve their lead and clinch a valuable victory.
Orbaiz netted a 14th minute opener, before Del Moral Manu equalised on the half hour, with Leon levelling the scores for a second time after Fernando Llorente had restored the hosts' lead.
Valladolid comprehensively outplayed Deportivo to prevail 2-0 with Viera Nauzet Aleman and Haris Medunjanin on the scoresheet at the Municipal de Riazor.