SPORTS

Real brings up century of goals

Leader wins 5-1 in Pamplona; Zaragoza marches toward safety with victory

Gonzalo Higuain (C) celebrates after scoring Real's third against Osasuna.
Gonzalo Higuain (C) celebrates after scoring Real's third against Osasuna.ANDER GILLENEA (AFP)

One of the things that accompany the England national team wherever it goes as surely as a misdirected sense of on-field optimism is a small brass section that seems to have just one tune in its repertoire: the theme to The Great Escape.

It is a number that may well have found its way to the lips of Zaragoza coach Manolo Jiménez, whose side until very recently seemed to be whistling into the dark abyss of Segunda. But the Aragonese team's 1-2 victory at Sporting has given the relegation fight a different complexion. Zaragoza has now gleaned 10 points from its last four games and is the form team at the foot of the table. Its victim on Saturday, Sporting, is heading firmly in the other direction and Racing missed its chance to make headway in the bottom three, going down 0-1 to Granada, which rose from 17th to 15th as a result.

Zaragoza is now three points clear of both Racing and Sporting, having been six points adrift in mid-March. Jiménez recently said he would don the regional dress and dance a jig at the statue of the city's patron saint. The rate Zaragoza is going, he may be left relieved that he did not go further.

At the other end of the table a half-strength Athletic, preserving itself for the Europa League, went down 2-0 to Barcelona at Camp Nou. Andrés Iniesta and Leo Messi, scoring his 13th in seven league games, gave the host a comfortable win to maintain its six-point deficit on Real.

José Mourinho's side did much more than survive its annual nightmare fixture at Osasuna. Goals from Karim Benzema, a lá Marco van Basten, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuaín saw the leader run out 5-1 winners and remain very much on track not just for the title, but also to smash the club record of 107 goals in a season — Higuaín's coup de grâce in the Reyno de Navarra brought up the century.

In Sunday's early game, Atlético made light work of Getafe in a 3-0 win to take Diego Simeone's side a step closer to Champions League qualification, a goal made more tangible by the two that Betis put past fourth-placed Málaga, quite against form as the coastal club was unbeaten in six matches.

Valencia and Levante played out a 1-1 derby tie at Mestalla that kept Unai Emery's side in third place, a point ahead of Málaga, and Levante in fifth in its bid for European action next year.

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