Real Madrid struggling to qualify for Europe

Overseas football
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The Independent Online
The six-times European champions Real Madrid saw their chances of qualifying for Continental competition next season fade yesterday after losing 1- 0 to struggling Sporting Gijon, the team being booed from the pitch at the Bernabeu stadium.

The result leaves Real in seventh place, four points off a Uefa Cup place with just seven games left. Real have only failed to qualify for Europe once in their illustrious history.

The defeat came on a day when the club announced that it would not compete in the Intertoto Cup, the summer competition which also offers places in the Uefa Cup. Veteran midfielder Michel Gonzalez was the target of abuse from the crowd on his 400th appearance for the club.

In other games, an 82nd-minute goal from Fernando Gomez gave Valencia a 1-0 victory over Albacete which keeps Luis Aragones's side in the title race. Valencia stay third, three points behind Barcelona, who beat Real Sociedad 1-0 on Saturday, and six points behind the leaders, Atletico Madrid, who drew 1-1 at Oviedo.

In the Portuguese league, Maritimo held the leaders, Porto, to a 1-1 draw which meant that Bobby Robson, the Porto coach, has still not managed a win in Madeira since he joined the club in 1992. It put the club's championship celebrations on hold for another week. Benfica, who beat Braga 3-0 on Friday, are virtually assured of second place, 11 points behind Porto on 63.

Borussia Dortmund missed a chance to regain the initiative in the Bundesliga when they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by mid-table Werder Bremen. Dortmund, beaten 1-0 by leaders Bayern Munich last weekend, could not dislodge the Bavarians at the top after a 36th-minute goal from the Brazilian Junior Baiano cancelled out their 14th-minute goal by Rene Tretschok.

Ajax resumed normal service after their midweek Champions' League home defeat at the hands of Panathinaikos with a 2-0 victory over NAC Breda in the Dutch league. Ajax remain five points clear of PSV Eindhoven, who beat Vitesse Arnhem 1-0. PSV must take all three points from today's home game with Ajax to stay in with a chance. Both clubs have five games to play.

Panathinaikos appeared to be experiencing a hangover from the Ajax game when they suffered a surprise 2-1 loss to Ionikos Nikea in the Greek league.