Mourinho home joy as Real close gap on Barca

Updated: Feb 20, 2011, 10:15 AM IST

Madrid: Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho
celebrated nine years unbeaten in the league on home soil as
his Real Madrid team defeated Levante 2-0 at the Santiago
Bernabeu to close to within two points of league leaders

First half goals from French forward Karim Benzema and
Portuguese centre-back Ricardo Carvalho yesterday helped Real
make it a perfect 12 home league wins and keep the pressure on
Barcelona in the title race.

It also meant Mourinho extended his personal unbeaten
home league run with FC Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real
to nine years with his last league home defeat back on
February 23, 2002 when his Porto side lost 3-2 to Beira Mar.

Barcelona, beaten 2-1 by Arsenal in their midweek
Champions League match, will hope to respond with a home win
over Atletic Bilbao on Sunday to restore their five-point lead
at the summit.

"We don`t depend on ourselves and really the pressure is
on us in second, not on the team at the top," Mourinho said.

"I don`t know if I will watch Barcelona v Athletic (Bilbao) on
Sunday. We are travelling (to Lyon) on Monday so perhaps I
will eat out with the family."

Mourinho rested Mesut Ozil, Xabi Alonso, and Emmanuel
Adebayor with Tuesday`s Champions League match in Lyon in
mind, but his side were still too strong for a Levante side
they had thrashed 8-0 in the Kings Cup.

"We gave a rest to (Mesut) Ozil and Xabi (Alonso).
Everyone knows they will play against Lyon, who have had 24
hours more rest than us," added Mourinho.

With just six minutes gone Argentine di Maria dribbled
past three defenders before crossing to give Benzema an easy
tap-in for only his third league goal of the season.

Di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo all went close
before Madrid got their second from a set-piece five minutes
before the break.

Ronaldo floated in a cross from the left and compatriot
Carvalho volleyed home from close range as Levante got their
back line all wrong.

Levante, two points above the bottom three, had won their
last three league outings but hardly troubled stand-in Real
goalkeeper Antonio Adan, deputising for the suspended Iker
Casillas, with the 23-year-old having a comfortable game on
his Real home league debut.

German international midfielder Sami Khedira had the
chance to make it 3-0 early in the second half but didn`t get
a good connection on his shot and goalkeeper Gustavo Munua

Munua had to be at his best on 64 minutes as he tipped
over a header from Ronaldo and then denied Benzema from the
resulting corner.

Ronaldo, who could easily have had a hat-trick, was
thwarted again in the 80th minute as Real pressed for more.

Earlier third-placed Valencia missed the chance to pull
away from Champions League rivals Villarreal following a
disappointing 0-0 home draw with strugglers Sporting Gijon on

Valencia were in a rich vein of form with six league wins
from seven in 2011 but were out of sorts at the Mestalla
stadium as they failed to score in the league for the first
time since early December.

Valencia stay third but fourth-placed Villarreal can move
level on points with a home victory over bottom side Malaga on

For Sporting, who drew 1-1 with Barcelona last time out,
it was a valuable point and they move two points above the
relegation zone.

Valencia, who drew 1-1 with Schalke in their Champions
League last 16 first leg match in midweek, looked slightly
jaded and Sporting almost won the game in the final seconds
with Mate Bilic inches away from connecting with a cross from
the left.

In other matches, Atletico Madrid ended a run of four
consecutive defeats with a 1-0 win at Real Zaragoza on
Saturday to move four points off the top six.

Argentine international forward Sergio "Kun" Aguero
scored the winning goal on 65 minutes to relieve the mounting
pressure on coach Quique Sanchez Flores.

Zaragoza, who hit the woodwork twice in the closing
minutes, hover one point above the bottom three after their
11th defeat of the season.

Bureau Report