|Real Madrid's French player Zinedine Zidane celebrates after scoring against Espanyol during their Spanish first division match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, February 5, 2005. |
Real Madrid notched their sixth win in a row on Saturday with a 4-0 victory over Espanyol that narrowed Barcelona's lead at the top to four points.
An unstoppable drive from Zinedine Zidane, two trademark opportunist strikes from skipper Raul and a debut goal from midfielder Thomas Gravesen sealed an emphatic victory. Barcelona host Atletico Madrid on Sunday.
The race for the title has been effectively reduced to a two-horse affair after champions Valencia could manage only a 3-3 drawat struggling Real Sociedad, a result that left them nine points adrift of Real in third place. Espanyol are three points further back in fourth and are likely to drop down the table after Sunday's matches.
At the Bernabeu, Ronaldo looked certain to score in the 12th minute when he rounded Espanyol keeper Carlos Kameni. But the ball ran away from him and he fired into the side netting. Real took the lead moments later, thanks to brilliant skill from Zidane.
The Frenchman, in poor form of late, plucked the ball out of the air with his toe on the edge of the area, left Argentine defender Hugo Ibarra sprawling on the grass with a double step-over and then blasted into the roof of the net. The Real Madrid skipper Raul poked in on the rebound after Kameni had turned a venomous drive from the lively Figo on to the post on the half hour.
Real Madrids French player Zinedine Zidane, left, heads the ball above Espanyol's Maxi Rodriguez of Argentina, during a Spanish league soccer match in the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid Saturday Feb. 5, 2005.
Real Madrid's English player David Beckham, left celebrates with teammate Raul Gonzalez after Raul scored against Espanyol during a Spanish league soccer match in the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid ,Saturday Feb. 5, 2005.
Real eased up after the break, although Raul made it 3-0 when he stole in front of the Espanyol defence to divert a Santiago Solari pass into the net in the 75th minute. Former Everton midfielder Gravesen wrapped up a comprehensive victory five minutes from time when, after coming on as substitute, he guided ashot past Kameni from the edge of the area.