Liga - Madrid go eight clear with Mallorca win

Sat, 14 Jan 20:53:00 2012

Real Madrid opened up an eight-point lead at the top of La Liga after a second-half comeback saw them defeat Real Mallorca 2-1 at Iberostar Stadium.

Gonzalo Higuain - 0

Looking to extend their winning streak away from home to seven matches and put rivals Barcelona under further pressure, Madrid were awful in the first half in Mallorca, conceding a goal scored by Tomer Hemed and struggling badly in the final third until Sergio Ramos struck the post just before the break.

Jose Mourinho displayed characteristic initiative in the second period when quickly introducing three substitutes and his bravery was rewarded as Madrid responded, Gonzalo Higuain scoring with a fortunate finish, Cristiano Ronaldo smacking the bar and then Jose Mario Callejon scoring a fine winner.

The result means that Madrid are now a full eight points clear at the summit of La Liga prior to Barcelona's game in hand which comes against Real Betis on Sunday.

Madrid came into the game boasting the best away record in the division having taken 22 of a possible 27 points. However, they struggled badly in a first half which witnessed a blunt performance from the favourites.

After only 10 minutes Mallorca threatened as Hemed drove in a cross from the right and Victor Casadesus tried to flick the ball through his legs and past Iker Casillas with his heel, only to see his effort roll wide.

Mallorca were then appealing for a penalty just two minutes later as Casadesus was clumsily brought to ground by Lassana Diarra. Replays showed the Mallorca player was off balance and went down rather easily, but Diarra was lucky not to be punished for the rash challenge.

Mourinho's side were scoring at a very impressive average of 3.6 goals per game in La Liga prior to this contest but it was Mallorca who looked the more dangerous side and on 28 minutes Hemed collected a square pass, held off Sergio Ramos and drove through the centre of the pitch before sliding a low shot wide of the far post.

When Hemed did make the breakthrough on 39 minutes it was well deserved. Mallorca caught Madrid out when taking a corner short and Gonzalo Castro's delivery into the box was converted by a superb diving header from the Israel international.

Madrid's chances had been limited to a half-decent volleyed effort from Karim Benzema and a firm free-kick from Ronaldo, but with the game approaching first-half injury time Ramos suddenly struck the post when he was left unmarked to meet a free-kick from Xabi Alonso down the Madrid right.

Mourinho immediately sought to inject some urgency into his side when substituting holding midfielder Diarra for forward Higuain at half-time, and with Madrid's malaise continuing further changes followed after 59 minutes as Kaka and Fabio Coentrao both entered the fray.

Benzema had a half chance when collecting a fine pass from Mesut Oezil, spinning and blasting a volley over the bar, while Callejon was strongly rebuked by the Mallorca players, and Ivan Ramis in particular, when diving in an attempt to win a penalty.

Mallorca always looked a threat on the counter and were left furious when Casadesus raced through on goal, only to be ruled offside. Replays showed the pass occurred when the Mallorca player was in his own half.

With Madrid overloaded in attack, and Mallorca looking to cling onto their lead, the game took on a very one-sided complexion and Kaka almost drew the visitors level on 70 minutes when collecting a square pass from Coentrao, taking a touch and forcing Dudu Aouate to tip the ball over the bar.

Inside two minutes, though, Madrid did finally score. Oezil was the architect with a sumptuous through-ball for Higuain as he drifted into space in the box, but the forward was fortunate to see his low effort loop up off Fernando Tissone and over Aouate.

Madrid suddenly had momentum and Ronaldo, previously rather a peripheral figure, suddenly sprung to life in the left channel and from 35 yards out unleashed a wicked, dipping, swerving effort that thundered off the crossbar.

Ramos then had a goal disallowed as he was rightly ruled offside when leaping to meet a free-kick from Alonso ahead of Aouate and heading home, but Madrid would not be denied on 84 minutes.

Both Higuain and Benzema failed to exploit some unconvincing defending as Aouate stood firm, but the ball rolled kindly for Callejon and he ran onto it on the edge of the box before lashing home a wickedly dipping effort to secure Madrid all three points.

Tom Adams - @tomEurosport / Eurosport

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