Record-Tying Raul Helps Madrid Defeat Numancia

Raul equaled Alfredo Di Stefano's record, and Arjen Robben added another, as Real Madrid put two past Numancia.
Numancia 0-2 Real Madrid
Goals from Raul and Arjen Robben were enough to earn Real Madrid the three points in an uninspiring performance on Saturday night.

Numancia lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Gorka Brit and Goiria leading the line.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, lined up as expected, with the familiar attacking trident of Robben, Gonzalo Higuain, and Raul.

First Half

It was a measured start from both sides, but Numancia had the first chance when Boris headed straight at Casillas after seven minutes. Gonzalo Higuain then responded with an effort from distance on 10 minutes, to register Real Madrid's first shot on target.

While most had predicted this to be a veritable goal-fest, the opening twenty minutes suggested nothing of the sort. Both sides appeared to be seriously lacking in imagination, as the game descended into a serious of cynical fouls. It took until the 26th minute for a serious chance to occur, when Del Pino was extremely unlucky to see his header bounce back off the post.

With half an hour gone, Numancia should have taken the lead, but Brit wasted a glorious chance, smashing the ball into the side netting from inches out. A few minutes later, Fernando Gago came close when his header from a corner was cleared off the line by Javier Barkero. It was a rare chance in a match that failed to excite, as both sides appeared more concerned with making sure the other did not score.

The rest of the half passed without incident, as both sides entered the sheds wondering how to score a goal, and left the fans wondering why they had paid money to watch this match.

Second Half

Juande Ramos clearly had some choice words for his team at half-time, for it only took them two minutes to find the net in the second half, after barely coming close in the first. Robben found Higuain on the left, and while his shot was parried, Raul was on hand to tap into any empty net in true predatory fashion, thereby equaling Alfredo Di Stefano's goalscoring record. Numancia were shocked, and suddenly had a mountain to climb.

Sergio Kresic wasted no time in reacting, bringing Carlos Aranda on for Brit, but it was Real Madrid who were making all the running, as they added a second on 55 minutes. It was a clever move, as Robben took a quick free-kick, playing a one-two with Raul before jinking past three defenders and finishing into the bottom right hand corner from outside the box. It was a sickening blow for Numancia, who had not looked like scoring one goal, let alone two.

With all the momentum, Real Madrid still looked the most likely to score, and Numancia were in danger of being hammered as they were obliged to push forward. Out of the blue, Goiria was released by a long ball, but he could only shoot straight at Casillas. Meanwhile, Juande Ramos gave Robben a rest, replacing him with Rafael Van Der Vaart.

With Numancia seemingly resigned to their fate, the game returned to its earlier snail's pace, with long shots being the only threat to either goal. With 15 minutes left, Ramos withdrew Higuain, replacing him with Klaas Jan Huntelaar. There was a ray of light for the home side with ten minutes to go though, when Gago was sent off for his second yellow card.

Inspired by their advantage, Numancia pressed forward, and they should have scored when Quero squared the ball from the edge of the box, but there was no one on hand to tap it in. Sensing the need to shore things up, Juande Ramos brought Javi Garcia on for Raul.

Despite having an extra man, Numancia were powerless to get on the score sheet, as Real Madrid racked up their sixth straight win. It was far from a classic, but they remain the only side with a realistic chance of catching up with Barcelona.

Numancia 0-2 Real Madrid

                           Raul 47
                           Robben 55

: Juan Pablo - Juanra, Ortega, Boris, Cisma - Del Pino (Quero 63), Nagore, Dimas, Barkero - Brit (Aranda 51), Goiria

Real Madrid: Casillas - Ramos, Pepe, Cannavaro, Heinze - Diarra, Gago, Sneijder - Robben (Van der Vaart 64), Higuain, Raul (Javi Garcia 83)

Yellow Cards
: Sergio Ramos 6, Gago 13, Nagore 57, Diarra 73, Goiria 77

Red Cards
: Gago 79

Arjun Miglani,