MADRID - A clinical finish from defender Marcelo gave Real Madrid a 1-0 win at relegation-threatened Recreativo Huelva in the Primera Liga on Saturday and trimmed the gap to leaders Barcelona back to six points. Barca had put pressure on the champions with a 1-0 win at Getafe earlier in the day, a sixth straight victory that moved them to 78 points with seven matches remaining and put them a step closer to a first Spanish title in three years. Lionel Messi struck his 20th league goal this season after 19 minutes in a dominant display at Getafe's Coliseum stadium. The Argentina forward picked up Xavi's pass in the area, skipped around a group of defenders and struck a deflected shot that had enough power to beat goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic. The home side hardly threatened the Barca goal and Pep Guardiola's side had several other clear scoring chances but were denied by a string of superb Stojkovic saves. The Serb stopped Thierry Henry when the Frenchman seemed certain to score after five minutes, kept out Gerard Pique's acrobatic volley and palmed away a curled Messi effort shortly before halftime. Messi had the ball in the net again in the second half, and television replays suggested the officials were wrong to rule the effort out for offside. Samuel Eto'o struck a post shortly before the end when through on goal. GOOD SHAPE Guardiola deployed free-scoring forwards Messi, Henry and Eto'o from the start against 14th-placed Getafe and said his squad was in good physical shape despite their recent efforts in qualifying for the last four of the Champions League. "All wins are important but it's a fact that there are only seven matches left and every victory gives us a great deal," he told a news conference. "We came here after a very hard match in Munich (against Bayern) and we played well in the first half. "In the second, we weren't so good but Getafe didn't get near our penalty area once." In Huelva, Real struggled to break through the Recre defences in the first half, although captain Raul struck a post just after the half hour and Sergio Ramos sliced the rebound over the bar with the goal at his mercy. Recre carved out a couple of chances and Real keeper Iker Casillas was forced into two sharp saves in quick succession midway through the first period. Brazilian Marcelo scored the winner just after the break when he raced on to Fernando Gago's pass and finished coolly past keeper Asier Riesgo to give Real a 15th win in 16 matches since they lost 2-0 to Barca at the Nou Camp in mid December. "We are doing our job and we just hope that Barca slip up and we can catch them," Marcelo said in a television interview. There was a blow for Real in added time when midfielder Wesley Sneijder was carried off with what appeared to be a serious leg muscle strain. Atletico Madrid won 3-0 at home to struggling Numancia and moved up to fourth place, above Valencia on goal difference, thanks to goals from midfielder Ever Banega, striker Diego Forlan and winger Simao Sabrosa. Atletico and Valencia have 49 points although Unai Emery's side have a chance to cut the eight-point gap to third-placed Sevilla when they host the Andalucians on Sunday.
18 April 2009
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