Defence is king for qualified Real and Villarreal

MADRID - Real Madrid and Villarreal singled out strong defensive displays as the reason for their progress to the last 16 of the Champions League. The Spanish champions survived freezing temperatures in Belarus on Tuesday to beat BATE Borisov 1-0, thanks to an early goal from Raul, and qualify from Group H. Villarreal held European champions Manchester United to a 0-0 draw at the Madrigal to qualify from Group E. For Real Madrid a second consecutive clean sheet, after they beat Recreativo Huelva 1-0 on Saturday, was something of a novelty. Bernd Schuster's side have been heavily criticised by fans and local media for some below-par performances and a leaky defence of late, and they last kept consecutive clean sheets in mid-September. With Fabio Cannavaro out injured, Schuster opted for Sergio Ramos and Pepe in the centre of defence for a second consecutive match and was pleased with the result. "The other day, the game against Recreativo wasn't spectacular but effective because we defended well and didn't concede a goal," Schuster said. "The first half here was perfect. We defended further away from our goal which is something we did well last year. It was crucial the work we did off the ball, which is something we have been struggling to do this season. We are doing it better again now." Real, who are two points behind leaders Juventus, have to beat Zenit St Petersburg at home next month to have a chance of taking the top spot in Group H. Villarreal recovered from a chastening 3-0 home defeat to Real Valladolid at the weekend, their first league defeat of the campaign, to shut out United. The Valladolid setback came two weeks after they were dumped out of the King's Cup 6-1 on aggregate by Segunda B (third tier) Poli Ejido. "The team needed a game like this to prove we aren't that bad," Villarreal goalkeeper Diego Lopez said. "We showed last season we could go on a long run without conceding a goal. We need to establish some consistency if we are to achieve something important at the end of the season." The top spot in Group E will be decided when Villarreal, who are behind United on goal difference, visit Celtic and United host AaB in the final round of matches on December 10.