Real Madrid down Valencia

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Ruud van Nistelrooy and Sergio Ramos scored a goal each to help Real Madrid beat Valencia 2-1 and maintain hopes of a record 30th Spanish league title.

Updated: April 24, 2007 17:03 IST
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Ruud van Nistelrooy and Sergio Ramos scored a goal each Saturday to help Real Madrid beat Valencia 2-1 and maintain its hopes of a record 30th Spanish league title.

Van Nistelrooy volleyed Madrid into the lead in the 18th minute, and Ramos headed in another in the 73rd from a cross by David Beckham, who was making his first appearance for six weeks as a substitute.

Fernando Morientes scored in the 52nd for Valencia, whose six-game winless streak away from home has left its chances of a third title in six years looking remote.

FC Barcelona leads the league with 59 points, followed by Madrid with 57, Sevilla with 55 and Valencia with 53.

On Sunday, Barcelona visits Villarreal, while Sevilla entertains Athletic Bilbao.

Real Sociedad boosted its hopes of avoiding relegation with a 2-0 win over nine-man Atletico Madrid.

Madrid and Valencia, which each won the league twice between 2001-2004, played out an uneventful but physical first half which was enlivened by Van Nistelrooy's goal.

The Dutch striker completed a slick Madrid move by delivering a fierce, angled volley from Miguel Torres' cross from the left. The goal was Van Nistelrooy's 16th of the season.

Morientes, returning to Madrid where he won three Champions League title, missed two opportunities before the interval.

However, the Spain striker made no mistake when he turned home a low cross by right winger Joaquin Sanchez, who had previously raced past Torres.

With Valencia dominating the second half, Madrid coach Fabio Capello brought on Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez in the 63rd minute and Beckham two minutes later. Beckham, who joins the Los Angeles Galaxy in August, has missed the last five games with sprained right knee ligaments.

Guti and Beckham's appearance revitalized Madrid, with the former England midfielder supplying a outswinging cross from a free kick which Ramos took full advantage of.

The game was briefly interrupted just before the final whistle when a bare-chested spectator ran onto the field and put his arm around Beckham.

Sociedad striker Darko Kovacevic scored only his second goal of the season from Savio Bortolini's cross from the left in the sixth minute at Anoeta stadium.

Savio, who is on loan until the end of the season from Flamengo, then knocked in substitute German Herrera's floated pass from the right in the 84th.

Sociedad remained in 19th place but with 27 points after winning four of its past six games.

Atletico, which stayed with 50 points, had midfielder Peter Luccin ejected in the 70th and defender Fabiano Eller 11 minutes later.

The defeat ended Atletico's three-game unbeaten run and struck a blow to its chances of a return to European soccer next season.

Atletico coach Javier Aguirre was forced to watch the game from the stands as a punishment for his ejection during last weekend's game with Levante.

Also Sunday, it's: Espanyol vs. Real Betis; Levante vs. Getafe; Mallorca vs. Gimnastic Tarragona; Zaragoza vs. Celta Vigo; Deportivo La Coruna vs. Osasuna; and Recreativo Huelva vs. Racing Santander.

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