Higuain sends Real back to summit with crucial late tap-in
Real Madrid climbed back above bitter rivals Barcelona to the top of La Liga when Gonzalo Higuain netted a late winner in a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Sporting Gijon yesterday. Barca had gone two points clear of their arch rivals with a 3-1 home win over third-placed Villarreal on Saturday.
A handling error from Sporting goalkeeper Juan Pablo led to Real's goal in the 82nd minute. He palmed a headed effort from substitute Karim Benzema straight to Higuain, who tapped the ball over the line from close range.
Gijon's Alberto Botia was shown a straight red card in the fourth minute of added-time for a late challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo.
Lionel Messi scored two second-half goals in Barca's victory over Villareal at the Nou Camp. Nilmar had equalised David Villa's effort for the hosts before the Argentine's double earned the win for the Catalans.
With the sides level, Messi took centre stage. In the 58th minute Xavi laid off his free-kick to the Argentinian, who then played two one-twos with Pedro on the edge of the area, before chipping in a beautiful effort. Messi struck his second with seven minutes left from what looked like an offside position.
Elsewhere in La Liga, Athletic Bilbao, despite having two men sent off and missing a penalty, clinched a 1-0 win over Almeria. Fernando Llorente struck in the 11th minute after Mikel San Jose had his penalty saved five minutes earlier.
Diego Forlan inspired Atletico Madrid to a 3-0 win over 10-man Osasuna at the Vicente Calderon. The Uruguayan tapped in at the far post after 26 minutes before finishing well in the 70th minute after he had set up Sergio Aguero for Atletico's second. Osasuna's left-back Nacho Monreal was sent off in the 60th minute for a second booking.
In Italy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to haunt former club Inter, as he scored the only goal of AC Milan's 1-0 derby win from the penalty spot after just five minutes. Despite the dismissal of Ignazio Abate for a second yellow card on the hour, Milan held on for the win to move back to the top of Serie A.
Lazio had briefly topped the table after beating Napoli 2-0. Mauro Zarate and Sergio Floccari got the goals to secure the victory.
Alberto Gilardino's 58th-minute strike gave Fiorentina a 1-0 win against Cesena. Francesco Totti scored a first-half penalty to cancel out Vincenzo Iaquinta's opener for Juventus to earn Roma a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico.
In Holland, Ajax were defeated 2-0 by AZ Alkmaar, while in Germany Bayer Leverkusen enjoyed a 1-0 victory at St Pauli -- Renato Augusto scoring on 81 minutes.