The England striker Michael Owen once again underlined his case for a place in the Real Madrid starting line-up when he came off the bench to grab his eighth league goal of the season and spark a fightback that allowed his side to scramble a last-gasp 2-1 win away to a dominant Osasuna side last night.
The former Liverpool player, who has been growing increasingly frustrated with being consigned to the bench despite his prolific scoring record, threw himself at the ball to head in from close range after a Roberto Carlos free-kick 13 minutes from time to cancel out a first-half strike from Pierre Webo.
David Beckham had a hand in the winner three minutes later when the Osasuna keeper, Ricardo Sanzol, was unable to hold his curling free-kick in the driving rain. Ivan Helguera stabbed home the loose ball to keep Real four points behind Barcelona in the standings.
"I don't know if this goal will turn out to be important at the end of the season, but it came at the right time," said Owen. "On a personal level it has given me even more confidence."
But the evening had started badly for Real as Osasuna hounded them down in midfield and imposed a frenetic pace in the early stages of the match.
Real did not manage to mount an attack of their own until Beckham found Ronaldo after a high-speed counter-attack. But the Brazilian appeared to have his mind on his Valentine's Day engagement party with model Daniella Cicarelli as he prodded a weak shot into the arms ofSanzol.
It was Osasuna who continued to dominate with the forward combination of Richard Morales and Webo proving a handful for Thomas Gravesen and the Real back four.
And it was those two who broke Real nine minutes before the break. Morales nodded a long pass into the path of Webo, who turned past Ivan Helguera and then smashed past Iker Casillas at the near post.
Osasuna had a host of chances to extend their lead after the break, but they were made to pay the price for their profligacy when Owen began the fightback with his determined header.
Goals: Webo (36) 1-0; Owen (77) 1-1; Helguera (80) 1-2.
Osasuna (4-4-2): Sanzol; Izquierdo, Cruchaga, Josetxo, Clavero; Valdo, Punal, Garcia, Moha (Delporte, 83); Webo (Aloisi, 54), Morales (Milosevic, 78) Substitutes not used: Elia (gk), Cuellar, Munoz, Lopez.
Real Madrid (4-4-2): Casillas; Salgado, Helguera, Samuel, Roberto Carlos; Beckham, Gravesen (Solari, 62), Zidane, Guti (Owen, 73), Raul, Ronaldo (Borja, 90+1) Substitutes not used: Cesar (gk), Bravo, Celades, Pavon, Portillo.
Referee: A Perez Burrull.
* Barcelona consolidated their lead at the top of La Liga with a 4-1 victory over Real Zaragoza on Saturday. Third-placed Valencia's hopes of retaining their title virtually ended after a 2-1 defeat at home to Deportivo La Coruña.
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