Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Ramos winning run shows critics as Robben rolls a six

Numancia 0 Real Madrid 2

It is still more Robben reliant than Rolls-Royce but Juande Ramos is not worried about claims he keeps winning ugly as Real Madrid chalked up their sixth consecutive victory.

The former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben set up the first for Raul and scored the second, his fourth in five games, as Real beat the team that took the scalp of Barcelona on the opening day of the season.

"There is no good football, no elegance and very little worth watching," Alfredo di Stefano said after the game, having seen Raul equal his record of 307 goals for Real in all competitions.

But Ramos's immediate mandate when he took over in December was not to play total football but to prevent the club's season becoming a total disaster. In six weeks, with an inspired Robben in top form, he has succeeded in transforming their campaign.

Robben was suspended when Ramos lost his opening fixture against Barcelona but has been the difference since as they have secured second place in La Liga behind Barcelona and he undid the Numancia defence two minutes into the second period.

The winger cut in from the right and released Gonzalo Higuain whose shot was saved and Raul tapped in the rebound. Robben then got the second cutting in from the right and finding Juan Pablo's bottom left-hand corner with a shot from the edge of the box.

"I wanted to play 90 minutes. But the manager said to me that we have a lot of games coming up and he wanted to give me a rest, the game was won," Robben said as he explained why he was taken off midway through the second half. With no-one expecting Julien Faubert, signed on loan from West Ham last week, to light up the Bernabeu, Robben remains Real's most important player.

"They only thing we are worried about is winning our own games," Robben added when asked about the chances of catching Barcelona. "I may not even watch their match [with Racing Santander last night]. We have to concentrate on ourselves which is what we are doing and we have won six in a row now."

"He is a fantastic player," Ramos said of Robben, "and he is getting more and more confident with every week. His form has been a real positive for us."

As ever, winning is not enough for some Real supporters but Ramos stood up to the criticism from Di Stefano. "The way we are playing can improve but we are putting together a fantastic run of results," he said. "I am very happy with the players. Things were very tight in the first half but the game opened up once we scored and we were able to play some football."

Numancia hit a post in the first half through Javier del Pino but could not contain Robben or respond when Raul had put the visitors ahead. The only sour note for Real was the sending off of Fernando Gago near the end.

They will unveil Faubert today but one possible summer target, Xabi Alonso, has distanced himself from a move away from Liverpool. The former Real Sociedad player admitted he almost signed for Real Madrid ahead of Liverpool in 2004 but committed his future to the Premier League club.

Alonso said: "Are we saying that contracts are worth nothing? I have three more years here and some of the other players have even longer deals. I remember when Rafa arrived people said half of his old Valencia team would be accompanying him but in the end no one came. And [Jose] Mourinho has not taken half of Chelsea to Inter Milan. The whole thing is a matter between the club and Benitez. The players are not affected.

"I spoke with Real Madrid but there was no agreement between the clubs. Then Liverpool came to the table and an agreement was reached quickly. They won me over with how serious they were and I soon came to realise what a fantastic club it is."

Numancia (4-4-2): Juan Pablo; Juanra, Boris, Ortega, Cisma; Del Pino (Quero, 62), Nagore, Dimas (Mario, 79), Barkero; Goiria, Brit (Aranda, 53).

Real Madrid (4-3-3): Casillas; Ramos, Cannavaro, Pepe, Heinze; Diarra, Sneijder, Gago; Robben (Van der Vaart, 64), Raul (Javi Garcia 83), Higuain (Huntelaar, 76).

*Lionel Messi needed half an hour to save nine-man Barcelona from defeat against Racing Santander. The leaders trailed to a Nicola Zigic penalty and had Gerard Piqué and Ráfa Marquez sent off but Messi scored twice after coming on in the 61st minute.