Real Madrid breaks La Coruna curse with 3-1 win

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Real Madrid broke a 19-year winless streak at Deportivo La Coruna's Riazor Stadium with a 3-1 victory, while Barcelona extended its unbeaten run to 20 matches b

Updated: January 31, 2010 17:27 IST
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Real Madrid broke a 19-year winless streak at Deportivo La Coruna's Riazor Stadium with a 3-1 victory, while Barcelona extended its unbeaten run to 20 matches by beating Sporting Gijon 1-0 in the Spanish league on Saturday

Esteban Granero gave Madrid the lead in the 13th minute, heading in unmarked after La Coruna's defense failed to clear.

Karim Benzema scored shortly before the break, when Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez set him up with a superbly timed backheel following Kaka's through pass. The France striker scored a second in injury time, after La Coruna's Ivan "Riki" Sanchez Rico had converted a late penalty following Sergio Ramos' challenge on him in the area.

It was the first time Madrid had beaten La Coruna in the Riazor since the 1991-92 season and the win gave the team 47 points, five less than leader Barcelona. La Coruna was fifth on 34 points and Gijon was 10th on 24.

Pedro Rodriguez put Barcelona ahead in the 30th, gathering a long pass from Andres Iniesta and galloping from a deep position into the area before shooting past goalkeeper Juan Pablo Colinas.

"It's very difficult against (Barcelona), it's like chasing shadows, but we did the best we could," Gijon coach Manuel Preciado said.

With Cristiano Ronaldo suspended and Gonzalo Higuain injured, Madrid had a makeshift strike partnership of Benzema and Raul Gonzalez.

The busy Benzema drew a fine save from Daniel Aranzubia with a stinging volley in the eighth minute. He struck again minutes later, streaking down the right and firing in a cross that Raul just failed to connect with.

La Coruna frequently looked overwhelmed as Madrid attacked in numbers. Guti, who recently returned to the side after a long spell on the bench, took command of the midfield alongside Xabi Alonso.

Despite Madrid's lead, La Coruna looked a threat on the counterattack in the second half. Juan Rodriguez tested Iker Casillas in the 60th with a long-range effort and Adrian Lopez shot just wide shortly before fulltime.

Barca was in control from the start at Gijon's El Molinon Stadium, dominating possession and looking a constant threat going forward.

Coach Pep Guardiola left Thierry Henry on the bench, playing Rodriguez up front alongside Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Messi conjured Barcelona's first serious chance in the 13th by drifting through the defense and finding Rodriguez, whose flick to Iniesta resulted in the midfielder shooting just high.

Seconds later, Ibrahimovic's shot hit a post and Rodriguez followed up to tap the ball in _ although he was ruled offside.

Ibrahimovic was at the heart of Barca's offense again when he gathered a through pass from Messi on the edge of the area before blasting high.

The hosts responded immediately, Mate Bilic heading a cross straight at goalkeeper Victor Valdes from close range.

Barcelona managed to impose its short passing game despite the wet conditions, although it was let down by further slack finishing. Rodriguez passed back in space to Messi, who shot wide from the edge of the area in the 68th. The roles were reversed minutes later as Rodriguez fired high after Messi set him up.

Messi showed his frustration in the 82nd, getting booked for a late challenge on Diego Castro.

Earlier, Luis Garcia's goal gave Espanyol a 1-0 win against Athletic Bilbao at its Cornella-El Prat Stadium.

The hosts had trouble creating chances until Pablo Osvaldo nearly reached a dangerous through pass from Jose Callejon in the 27th.

Espanyol took increasing control of the game and early in the second half Adonia Iraola had to make a last-ditch tackle on Joan Verdu when the striker was set up by Garcia after Osvaldo's backheel.

Garcia scored his second league goal of the season in the 60th when goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz failed to hold Javier Marquez's low shot and Garcia followed up on the rebound.

Espanyol was 14th in the standings and Bilbao eighth.

On Sunday it's: Sevilla vs. Valencia; Tenerife vs. Zaragoza; Xerez vs. Mallorca; Villarreal vs. Osasuna; Valladolid vs. Almeria; Getafe vs. Racing Santander; and Atletico Madrid vs. Malaga.

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