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La Liga: Higuaín proves his worth once again

Real Madrid’s Argentine forward proves his doubters wrong with two goals against Espanyol to keep the leaders 10 points clear of Barcelona.

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A 5-0 win against Espanyol keeps Real Madrid top.

The scrawny 19-year-old with the big hair salvaged the ball from the sidelines when 85,000 others in the stadium thought it had gone out of play, played a nice one-two with José Antonio Reyes and slotted the ball into the back of the net to send the fans wild.

It was a last minute winner against RCD Espanyol which kept his side in the running for the Liga title, which they would go on to win a few weeks later. The ecstatic Argentine threw his shirt in the air, Iker Casillas ran the length of the pitch to join in the celebrations, Fabio Cannavaro waved the corner flag aloft and Ruud Van Nistelrooy held the discarded shirt up to the crowd as if to announce it: Gonzalo Higuaín had arrived.

Last night, nearly five years later in the same place against the very same opposition, El Pipita played his 150th league game for Real Madrid. The scrawny boy is no more but with the emergence of Karim Benzema, rather unfairly, doubts still remain.

Much like last season, when Higuaín himself was out injured and it was left to Benzema to prove himself, this time the tables have turned and with the Frenchman sidelined for a few weeks, it is up to the Argentine to show his quality.

Cameras were quick to pick up on the dressing-down directed at Higuaín by José Mourinho last week during the hard-fought win at Rayo Vallecano. His failure to get on the score sheet in the match led to inevitable headlines with a possible Sergio ‘Kun’ Agüero deal plastered over the front pages of sports daily Marca, amidst rumours of offers from Juventus and even Chelsea

In his pre-match press conference, the Madrid coach was adamant, however: “Only a stupid coach would want one of the best centre forwards in the world to leave his team. Higuaín may have failed to score in the last few games, but that doesn’t make him less special to me and I have no intention of seeing him leave Real Madrid.”

But what endears Higuaín to Madridistas is his fighting spirit. He continues to be written off and but never fails to prove his doubters wrong as he did again on Sunday as his side crushed Espanyol 5-0.

First-half goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Sami Khedira were followed up after the break by one for Kaká and two for Pipita, to leave the fans once again singing his name.

Meanwhile, on Saturday the reigning champions Barcelona survived a 46th-minute red card for Gerard Piqué to beat Sporting Gijón 3-1 at home on a night they struggled for a cutting edge without Lionel Messi.

Andrés Iniesta opened the scoring just before half-time but with Messi suspended, Barça looked in real danger of dropping yet more points when David Barral’s 49th-minute equaliser came moments after Piqué saw red. It was Seydou Keita who secured the win as he curled in a wonderful goal with 11 minutes left and Xavi Hernández added a third late on, as Barça extended their unbeaten run at the Camp Nou to 49 games.

Sevilla and Atlético Madrid shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw in the race for fourth place.

Both teams are off the pace having struggled for consistency all season, but European qualification remains possible if either side can finish the season with a flourish.

Atléti came out the strongest at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, taking the lead just nine minutes in when Eduardo Salvio’s glancing header from Gabi’s cross found the bottom corner.

However, Baba Diawara equalised in the second half with a fine finish from a Jesús Navas cross, and neither side could force a winner.

Meanwhile, Valencia secured their first away win in La Liga since November with a Sofiane Feghouli strike earning his side a 1-0 victory at Granada to keep them in third place with 43 points.

RESULTS:

Real Madrid 5 – 0 RCD Espanyol

Granada CF 0 – 1 Valencia CF

Athletic Bilbao 2 – 0 Real Sociedad

Real Zaragoza 2 – 1 Villarreal CF

Sevilla FC 1 – 1 Atlético Madrid

FC Barcelona 3 – 1 Sporting Gijón

RCD Mallorca 1 – 1 Osasuna

Rayo Vallecano 4 – 2 Racing Santander

Getafe CF 1 – 3 Málaga CF





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