Madrid's dull win kicks off gauntlet of key games

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The Independent Online

Real Madrid's players will each be paid €120,000 (£100,000) bonuses if they can string together five wins, drag the club out of its current crisis and save the president from having to go through the messy business of sacking coach Bernd Schuster mid-season.

They chalked up the first of those five wins against Recreativo de Huelva, albeit to the tune of whistles and boos from their own supporters who were as unimpressed by the performance as they are by the idea of rewarding the underperforming team.

According to the players, the bonus will be paid out if Real can win their two Champions League fixtures away to BATE Borisov and home to Zenit St Petersburg and beat Getafe and Seville in the league. The club claim the cheques will be cashed only if Real win seven games, also beating Barcelona and Valencia, and a special one-off fixture on 22 December in Dubai.

This game had been talked-up as the end of the world for Schuster but in the end it was more gloomsday than doomsday as Madrid stumbled to a dull 1-0 win over the second worst team in La Liga, courtesy of a lucky deflected goal. Wesley Sneijder saw his shot from the edge of the box hit the Recreativo defender Beto and fizz past keeper Asier Riesgo after 38 minutes. Real never lose when Sneijder scores and the visitors never looked like troubling that record, although had the referee seen the Real defender Pepe handle in the area the situation may have been different.

Sneijder strained a thigh muscle in the second half and is doubtful for tomorrow's trip to Belarus, while the striker Gonzalo Higuain twisted an ankle and is definitely ruled out. The Argentine forward joins Ruud van Nistelrooy on the sidelines and leaves Real with just two fit strikers.

The triple Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt has accepted an invitation to train with the club in the near future but the Jamaican sprinter will need to guard against picking up an injury when he turns out at Madrid's training ground. Real now have nine players on the sidelines and Schuster has bemoaned the lengthening list. "We can't go on like this," he said.

Real's rivals Barcelona toiled to a 1-1 draw at home to Getafe. The visitors scored through Manu del Moral in the 19th minute, while Barca struggled to break down their opponents without the rested Lionel Messi.

Daniel Alves crossed for Seydou Keita to head the equaliser in the 72nd minute. Barca hit the woodwork twice but failed to make it 10 straight league wins as Getafe held firm.

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