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Real rides on Raul's treble

A HAT-TRICK from captain Raul helped Real Madrid to a 4-2 comeback win at Sevilla on Sunday which cut Barcelona's lead at the top of the Primera Liga standings to four points.

Barcelona, which plays Real in Madrid next weekend, was held to a 2-2 draw at fourth-placed Valencia on Saturday and Real took advantage to move to 78 points with five games to play as it bids for a third straight title.

Third-placed Sevilla went ahead in the 17th minute when midfielder Renato nipped in front of his marker to head Diego Perotti's cross past Iker Casillas from close range.

The goal galvanized Real and Gonzalo Higuain had two good chances to equalize before Raul turned in a low cross from Christoph Metzelder just before halftime.

The 31-year-old striker hooked in a deflected center on 63 minutes and then pounced on a fumble by Sevilla keeper Andres Palop to make it 3-1 soon afterwards.

Substitute Diego Capel pulled one back with just under 10 minutes left before Marcelo raced clear to score Real's fourth and seal its 16th win in 17 matches since a 0-2 defeat at Barca's Nou Camp in December.

Real coach Juande Ramos said the key to victory was Raul's equalizer, adding that his side had controlled the match in the second half.

"There are five matches and a lot of points left to play for," he said. "This weekend we are at home to Barcelona and the match is of huge importance for the league."

Fifth-placed Villarreal won 2-1 at Getafe to keep alive its chances of returning to next season's Champions League and Atletico Madrid beat relegation-threatened Sporting Gijon 3-1 to climb above Malaga into sixth.

First-half strikes from Joan Capdevila and Joseba Llorente put Villarreal in control and both sides had a player sent off midway through the second half before Manu del Moral pulled one back from the penalty spot late on.

Manuel Pellegrini's side has 55 points, one behind Valencia and two adrift of Sevilla, which suffered its fourth straight defeat.


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