Real Madrid finally record a much-needed but laboured victory at home to struggling Recreativo Huelva. November defeats to Juventus, Valladolid and third division Real Union have seen the pressure grow on Madrid coach Bernd Schuster, who was given a public vote of confidence last week. While the German was satisfied to see his side move into second place behind Barcelona after overcoming a Recreativo side who have not won in 11 league games since their opening day victory over Betis, Schuster saw his team whistled off by an unhappy crowd. He also suffered further bad news as nine-goal top-scorer Gonzalo Higuain limped off with a heavy ankle sprain in the 79th minute.
With Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro absent after pulling a muscle in his right thigh on international duty last week, Schuster could be forgiven for thinking that he is cursed as Madrid's already lengthy injury list went from bad to worse. "It was important for us to win for many reasons," said Schuster, "and I hope Higuain will be back soon because we can't continue like this. The injuries are hurting us and preventing us from competing on all fronts. It shouldn't be like this in November."
With Dutch forwards Ruud van Nistelrooy and Arjen Robben also injured, the Spanish champions are struggling in attack, but compatriot Wesley Sneijder eased the tension in a nervy Bernabeu with the game's only goal in the 39th minute after beating Riesgo in the Recreativo goal with a shot from outside the area. Sneijder later limped out of the game in the 66th minute with a pulled muscle in his right thigh and remains a doubt for Tuesday's vital Champions League away game at BATE Borisov.
Higuain's replacement was Javier Saviola, the diminutive Argentinian striker who has barely played for Madrid since signing from Barcelona in 2007. Madrid's crippling injury list means that Saviola could start against BATE and in next Sunday's Madrid derby against Getafe. Of the other title hopefuls, fifth-placed Sevilla were held 0-0 at home by Valencia, who remain fourth. Third placed Villarreal, who entertain Manchester United in the Champions League tomorrow, saw their 17-match unbeaten run in the league end with a shock 3-0 home defeat to Real Valladolid.