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Higuain and Robben on target as Real Madrid beats Osasuna 3-1

GOALS by Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain and Dutch winger Arjen Robben helped beleaguered Real Madrid rally from a goal down at halftime to a 3-1 victory over Osasuna in the Spanish league yesterday.

Madrid's Sergio Ramos canceled out Javad Nekounam's first-half strike for Osasuna, before Higuain and Robben led the Spanish champion to its fourth straight win, two days after president Ramon Calderon resigned after being linked to a vote-rigging scandal.

"The team has been through a lot this week because of that happened, but it also knew how to overcome. I hope we can continue picking up wins and finish the season confidently," new president Vicente Boluda said.

Last-place Osasuna led through Iran midfielder Nekounam, who got over Fabio Cannavaro and headed Jaroslav Plasil's looping cross into the far corner in the 20th. Goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez mishandled Ramos' long shot in the 50th to allow Madrid to begin its rally. Higuain tapped in Robben's cross in the 64th minute and the Dutchman added Real's third goal in injury time.

Osasuna winger Juanfran Torres was sent off in the 83rd after a second booking for protesting even though he appeared to deserve a penalty after being tripped inside the area on both occasions.

"Madrid isn't playing so well but is still picking up good results and those results provide confidence and confidence allows you to play much better," Madrid coach Juande Ramos said.

Osasuna coach Jose Antonio Camacho was not happy with the penalty decisions, saying: "Like everyone else, I think the referee was mistaken."

That view was shared by Juanfran, who denied he had set out to win a spot-kick.

"I can't believe it, it's the first time this kind of thing has happened to me," Juanfran said. "I swear that I didn't dive on either of the two penalties. The linesman saw it very clearly but didn't intervene."

Also Sunday, it was: Villarreal 2, Mallorca 0; Malaga 4, Espanyol 0; Valladolid 1, Real Betis 3; Recreativo Huelva 2, Sporting Gijon 0; and Getafe 0, Racing Santander 1.

Barcelona beat Deportivo La Coruna 5-0 Saturday to become the first team to reach 50 points at the halfway point of the season. Barcelona, which has dropped only seven points this season, leads Sevilla and Madrid by 12 points after 19 games.

Fernando Llorente converted a 90th-minute penalty as Athletic Bilbao rallied for a 3-2 win over Valencia on Sunday.

David Villa put Valencia ahead with his 15th goal of the season two minutes in, but Igor Gabilondo headed an equalizer in the 18th at the San Mames.

Fernando Morientes restored Valencia's lead with his first of the season in the 30th minute, only for Javi Martinez to level in the 42nd, moments after Valencia goalkeeper Renan Brito Soares limped out with a leg injury.

Valencia stayed fourth with 34 points.

Hugo Sanchez's Almeria held on for the final 35 minutes with 10 men to draw 1-1 against Javier Aguirre and Atletico Madrid in La Liga's first all-Mexican coaching duel.

In a scrappy match at the Juegos Mediterraneos stadium, Atletico's slack defense allowed Kalu Uche to move in and slot in his own rebound in the sixth.

Florent Sinama-Pongolle equalized with a header in the 22nd while Diego Forlan threatened before the close of the half.

Almeria defender Hernan Pellerano was ejected in the 54th for picking up a second booking and Atletico's Pablo Ibanez headed off the crossbar from the ensuing set piece.

Almeria goalkeeper Diego Alves denied Sergio Aguero from close-range in the 74th and Forlan again in the 88th allowing Almeria to stay unbeaten in four league games under Sanchez and leave Atletico winless in 2009.

Atletico were reduced to 10 men for injury time after Ever Banega picked up a second yellow card in the 90th. Nine yellow cards were shown in all.

At El Madrigal, Villarreal snapped a six-game winless streak and picked up its first victory in all competitions since Nov. 30.

Joan Capdevila headed Miguel Ibagaza's corner home in the 29th and Giuseppe Rossi scored his eighth from the penalty spot five minutes later to leave second-last Mallorca winless in 12, having collected only three points from a possible 36.

Villarreal is fifth with 33 points, Atletico has 31 points with Malaga and Deportivo has 30.

Antonio Galdeano and Nabil Baha scored penalties while Adrian Lopez and Albert Luque also scored as Malaga moved into a UEFA Cup place, while 18th-placed Espanyol's winless streak was stretched to 10.

Recreativo moved five points clear of the drop zone with 20 thanks to an early own-goal by Jorge Garcia and Adrian Colunga's score in the 55th.

At Valladolid, Sergio Garcia scored two second half goals to lead Betis, which snapped a six-match winless run.

Garcia caught goalkeeper Justo Villar out for goals in the 63rd and 90th after Francisco Munoz had opened for the visitors in the 16th.

Luis Prieto was unmarked to turn Pedro Leon's curling free kick in for Valladolid in the 23rd.

Nicola Zigic's 25th-minute goal for Racing handed Getafe a fourth-straight defeat.

Sevilla beat Numancia 1-0 Saturday.


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