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Benzema hits mark as Real remain on tail of Barca's high flyers

KARIM Benzema scored the only goal as Real Madrid saw off Mallorca to remain four points behind Barcelona at the top of La Liga last night.

Jose Mourinho's men were far from convincing in the Balearics, but the French striker showed quick feet on the hour mark to fire past Israeli goalkeeper Dudu Aouate to give his side three points.

Barca eased their way past Racing Santander at the Nou Camp after Pedro scored within two minutes to get the ball rolling. Leo Messi chipped in with a 33rd-minute penalty, before Andres Iniesta completed the job. But despite their four-point lead at the top Pep Guardiola is warning his side against complacency.

"Madrid are a very good team and their coach is the best," he said after the victory. "Mourinho is a very good coach. He's a very smart guy and he's motivated. Madrid are a strong team this year, but they have always been a strong team.

"When I was a player and now, as coach, Madrid have always been strong, no matter who is the president and no matter who is the coach."

A 4-3 win over Malaga maintained Valencia's push for a Champions League spot, while Luis Fabiano hit a hat-trick as Sevilla strolled to a 4-1 win over Levante.

In Italy, Udinese stunned Inter Milan as the champions lost more ground in Serie A. Despite leading 1-0 through Dejan Stankovic, Cristian Zapata levelled five minutes later before Antonio Di Natale put Udinese in front. Maurizio Domizzi sealed the win in the 69th minute to lift Udinese to within a point of Juventus and Palermo and just two behind fifth-placed Inter.

Juve were held to a scoreless draw with Sampdoria, while a 2-0 win over Bari keeps Napoli in the hunt. Table toppers AC Milan beat Cesena 2-0 while Lazio slipped to a 3-1 defeat to Bologna as Roma beat Cagliari 3-0.

Elsewhere, Mario Gomez scored a hat-trick to fire Bayern Munich into third in the Bundesliga with a 5-1 win over Kaiserslautern. Dortmund's title march hit a bump as they were held 1-1 by Stuttgart, while Raul scored his 10th goal of the season as Schalke beat Hanover 1-0.

Irish Independent