x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Robben has Real rocking

A magnificent Arjen Robben goal - described by the Dutch winger as the best in his career - was the difference between Real Madrid and Villarreal at the Bernabeu.

Real Madrid's Arjen Robben, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring against Villarreal.
Real Madrid's Arjen Robben, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring against Villarreal.

Real Madrid's three-month headache is finally relenting. On Sunday, a magnificent Arjen Robben goal - described by the Dutch winger as the best in his career - was the difference between the Spanish champions and Villarreal at the Bernabeu. Robben was given a standing ovation when he was substituted in the second half as Real sort to protect their slender lead. So much for the theory that there are too many Dutch players wearing white.

Real's brief recovery under new coach Juande Ramos remains tentative, but the three points were enough to lift his side up to third, 12 behind leaders Barcelona and one behind Valencia. "Little by little we are changing some things around and that should help us to keep improving," Ramos said. "We could have scored more but the team tired towards the end because there are many players who have not played for a some time."

Injuries to Gonzalo Higuain and Guti meant Ramos gave debuts to new signings Klaas Jan Huntelaar, the Dutch forward, and French midfielder Lassana Diarra. Huntelaar should have doubled the lead given by Robben's curling 31st minute shot when a Sergio Ramos cross found him at the far post, but the former Ajax man saw his effort saved. At the other end, Giuseppe Rossi saw his close range head saved by Iker Casillas, who was once again faultless.

"Madrid were good until they got the goal and then we gained control of the ball and at times looked like the home side," said Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini. "The difference was that they scored." Pellegrini has now seen his side slip to seventh after a third successive league defeat, with Deportivo La Coruna one of the teams who have moved above them. The Galicians making it seven league wins from nine with a hard fought 2-1 victory at Getafe.

"I liked my team a lot," said delighted Depor coach Miguel Angel Lotina, evidently satisfied with the wonderful football his side are playing. Sevilla, second before the weekend games, have slipped to fourth after only managing a 1-1 draw at home to bottom club Osasuna. Sevilla thought a Jesus Navas goal was enough to give them victory until the struggling Navarrans grabbed a dramatic last minute equaliser through legendary Uruguayan striker Walter Pandiani.

Victory for Recreativo Huelva moved them out of a relegation zone now occupied by Espanyol, Mallorca and Osasuna. amitten@thenational.ae