Michael Owen showed he has lost none of his sharpness while waiting on the sidelines at Real Madrid when he scored his seventh league goal of the season after coming on as a late substitute as his side came from behind to beat Real Zaragoza last night.
The striker latched on to a neat headed pass from his team-mate David Beckham, darted into the area and then threaded a shot between two defenders and inside the far post five minutes from time. The Zaragoza goalkeeper, Luis Garcia, however could have done better.
The game also marked the debut for Owen's former Merseyside rival Thomas Gravesen, who was given a huge cheer when he replaced Luis Figo and quickly made his presence felt with a few tough challenges. "It was great to make my debut here," said the former Everton midfielder. "We did really well to come back and it was like a dream come true for me. As for Owen, every time he gets a chance he scores - it was a fantastic goal."
It wasn't plain sailing, however, for Madrid who had fallen behind in the first half after a stunning virtuoso goal from striker David Villa. Picking up the ball out on the right touchline, Villa spun past Ivan Helguera before speeding off towards the area. He then left centre-back Walter Samuel for dead with a dazzling step-over before drawing Iker Casillas wide and slotting the ball past the keeper and into the net.
But the home side, who have shown a more gritty attitude under their new coach Wanderley Luxemburgo, responded well and probed for gaps in the Zaragoza defence, finally getting the breakthrough three minutes before half-time. Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo sliced open the defence with a quick exchange leaving the ball to Raul who finished off by scooping the ball over Garcia.
The home side were given a double break at the start of the second half. Zaragoza centre-back Alvaro left his side with 10 men when he picked up a second booking for a challenge on Raul on the half-way line and a minute later Ronaldo headed in to put his side 2-1 up. Zaragoza were up in arms as Figo had appeared to receive the ball in an offside position, while they were left incandescent when the referee waved play on after Villa was hauled down in the area by Michel Salgado.
Beckham looked more tuned in than in recent matches as he sprayed the ball to the wings, although he still struggled with his free-kicks. He moved to the right in place of Figo, but still managed to pop up in the middle again to provide his assist for Owen.
Earlier Barcelona gained an agonising 1-0 victory at home to 10-man Real Sociedad after Samuel Eto'o atoned for an early penalty miss by grabbing a late winner when he headed in from a corner nine minutes from time that kept them seven points clear of their arch-rivals at the top of the table.
Goals: Villa (21) 0-1; Raul (42) 1-1; Ronaldo (54) 2-1; Owen (85) 3-1.
Real Madrid (4-4-2): Casillas; Salgado, Helguera, Samuel, Roberto Carlos; Figo (Gravesen 68), Beckham (Celades 87), Solari, Zidane; Raul, Ronaldo (Owen 67) Substitutes not used: Cesar (gk), Bravo, Pavon, Arbeloa, Portillo
Real Zaragoza (4-4-2): Garcia; Ponzio, Alvaro, Jimenez (Aranzabal 23), Toledo; Cani (Galletti 74), Zapater, Movilla, Savio; Oscar, Villa Substitutes not used: Ruben (gk), Cuartero, Soriano, Generelo, Drulic
Sent off: Real Zaragoza Alvaro (53)
Referee: J. Lozanitos Omar
Man of the match: David Villa
Attendance: 70,000Reuse content