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Valencia draw reduces Madrid lead

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By David Redshaw

Monday 09 April 2012

Real Madrid’s lead at the top of La Liga was reduced to four points as Valencia earned a 0-0 draw at the Bernabéu to keep Barcelona’s title hopes alive.

With José Mourinho’s men having to play second-placed Barca at the Camp Nou in two weeks time, the title race is now wide open as Los Blancos have seen a 10-point lead slowly whittled away over the past month.

Cristiano Ronaldo almost gave Madrid the perfect start in the opening 10 minutes when he struck a post with a shot from the edge of the area, and Valencia’s Ricardo Costa followed suit on 25 minutes when his header came back off the woodwork with the goal at his mercy after Iker Casillas had beaten out Tino Costa’s shot.

Mesut Ozil then saw his effort cleared off the line by Jordi Alba and with honours even at the break Madrid boss José Mourinho brought on Ángel Di María to replace Gonzalo Higuaín. However, the visitors hit the woodwork for the second time in the evening through Tino Costa, who saw his shot come back off the crossbar, but Los Ché had to thank Vicente Guaita for keeping them in the game after that. First the Valencia shot-stopper turned a Di Maria piledriver for a corner and followed up by denying Karim Benzema with a double save.

The hosts had another two chances to win the game in stoppage time, Benzema seeing his shot turned away and Di Maria unable to get enough on the ball with virtually the last kick of the game, but Los Ché held on to earn themselves a valuable point in their pursuit of Champions League football.

Unai Emery’s men are still in third place with 49 points but could be overtaken by Málaga on Monday night if the Costa del Sol side win their home game with Racing Santander.

“This is a difficult place to come and Madrid’s results have been strong here,” said Emery after the game. “We did not let them pass the ball easily and we stopped them counter-attacking. We had our bits of luck but at all times we felt we could win. I saw a good refereeing performance, and the result was not decided by refereeing mistakes.”

Madrid coach Mourinho declined to attend the brief post-match Press conference, instead sending out Aitor Karanka, but his assistant refused to comment on questions about the performance of referee Clos Goméz.

“Everyone saw what happened and we cannot do anything about that,” said Karanka. “The players have given everything, making chances right until the 95th minute. We are still four points ahead and are looking forward to our next game.”

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