Real Madrid 3 Racing Santander 1
Real Madrid paid tribute to departed club legend Ferenc Puskas with a match-winning display tonight, ending stubborn Racing Santander’s seven-match unbeaten run with a 3-1 victory.
Goals from Sergio Ramos, Jose Antonio Reyes and Mahamadou Diarra put Real on their way to a seventh league win, with Ezequiel Garay’s spectacular reply for Racing little more than a consolation.
Real marked the occasion with a lone cellist playing during a minute’s silence before the match while the giant screens at the Bernabeu showed a video montage of the much-respected Hungarian, who died on Friday at the age of 79.
Once the action started, it took the Real players, who were wearing black armbands, all of five minutes to show their respects to the ‘Galloping Major’.
Ruud van Nistelrooy won a corner on the right, and from Reyes’ resulting flag-kick, Ramos headed home at the far post for the contest’s opening goal.
Raul thought he had made it 2-0 in the 14th minute after pulling down Ivan Helguera’s superb through-ball before lobbing Racing goalkeeper Tono, but the Real captain’s celebrations were cut short by an offside flag.
Racing’s only three efforts in the opening 25 minutes unsurprisingly came from headers, with giant striker Nicola Zigic coming the closest when he forced Roberto Carlos to clear off the line following a corner.
Although they were finding it hard to gain the upper hand, Real should have doubled their lead in the 33rd minute when Van Nistelrooy put Guti through on goal.
But the midfielder, having got past the out-coming Tono, found himself pushed too far wide of goal to get a shot away.
Racing were certainly not overawed by their opponents and they finished the first half the stronger with Oscar Serrano, Garay and Zigic all forcing decent saves out of Casillas, but without making the breakthrough.
Having lost 2-1 to Celta Vigo in their last home league match, Real’s fans must have been concerned that their side was at risk of a repeat showing as the players struggled to score the crucial second goal.
And with David Beckham, Ronaldo and Antonio Cassano all unavailable, Real coach Fabio Capello had limited attacking options on his bench other than Robinho.
But the home faithful need not have worried as Real put further distance between themselves and Racing by netting a second in the 57th minute.
Reyes was the man to score it, the Spain winger side-footing his shot just inside the near post after a swift Real break. That goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of visiting Racing, but if it didn’t, then Diarra’s second goal of the season in the 70th minute almost certainly did.
The powerful midfielder needed two attempts to beat Tono from close range but, after his initial effort had been superbly saved, the Malian made no mistake with the rebound.
Racing pulled a goal back almost immediately though, when centre-back Garay rifled home a brilliant free-kick from the edge of the box, his effort giving Casillas no chance to save as it flew into the top corner.
But the visitors were unable to build on that strike and Real were able to see out the closing minutes fairly comfortably, although Casillas was needed to make a decent stop to deny Zigic near the end.
The late dismissal of Guti for his challenge on Racing substitute Vitolo soured the win slightly for Real, but coach Capello will still be pleased his side were able to safely negotiate what could have been a tricky fixture.