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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 15, 2007

La Liga: Third win in a row for Real

MADRID, September 15 (Primera Liga) - Real Madrid made it three wins out of three at the start of the new Primera Liga season on Saturday after seeing off 10-man Almeria. Wesley Sneijder was again on the mark with his fourth goal of the campaign while Argentinian duo Javier Saviola and Gonzalo Higuain netted Real's other goals. It was not totally straightforward for the champions, though, and they looked on the ropes for a while in the second half when newly-promoted Almeria, despite losing Albert Crusat to a 62nd-minute red card, got the score back to 2-1 through Kalo Uche. But Real weathered the storm to keep their 100% record intact following wins over Atletico Madrid and Villarreal. There was little sign of the Real that blitzed Villarreal 5-0 last time out for the first 37 minutes of this contest, with barely a shot on target from the league leaders. Sneijder curled a free-kick wide early on while Saviola saw a 'goal' correctly ruled out for offside, but otherwise it was a largely innocuous start from Real. Almeria's best chance came in the ninth minute when an Iker Casillas throw eluded team-mate Sergio Ramos and was intercepted, but Uche was unable to make the most of the opening that subsequently came his way. Just as the period looked set to drift uneventfully into half-time, Real managed to conjure up a goal from nowhere. Raul tried his luck with a shot from outside the area that Almeria goalkeeper David Cobeno could only tip onto the inside of the post, and, after the ball had rebounded back across the face of goal, Saviola darted in to slot home. Real may have had the lead but coach Bernd Schuster still decided to ring the changes at the break, bringing on Royston Drenthe and Higuain for Robinho and Gabriel Heinze. The changes did little to improve Real's fortunes straightaway, though, and it was Almeria who looked the more likely scorers at the start of the second period. They even had the ball in the back of the net in the 54th minute, and Kalu can consider himself unfortunate to have his effort chalked off for a debatable offside flag. Almeria were further incensed eight minutes later when Crusat was sent off for a professional foul following a challenge on Saviola on the edge of the visitors' box. Crusat had made up great ground to reach Saviola, who had broken clear from the halfway line after stealing possession, and he looked to have got the ball with a superb sliding tackle. But referee Alfonso Alvarez Izquierdo judged that Crusat had gone through the player to get the ball, and promptly showed him a red card. Real needed just seven minutes to make their numerical advantage count, with Sneijder doubling his side's lead with brilliant free-kick. The Dutchman had already tried his luck with a few free-kicks, and that practice proved invaluable in the 69th minute when he curled a 25-yard effort into the top corner. That should have been game, set and match to Real, but Almeria refused to give in and they pulled a goal back just three minutes later. Fernando Soriano threaded a ball into Uche inside the Real area and the Nigerian striker turned inside Fabio Cannavaro before ramming a shot into the roof of the net. That goal gave renewed hope to Almeria and they gave Real a number of scares as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser. But the promoted side could find no way through and Real wrapped up the points late on when Higuain ran onto a through-ball from midfield before nonchalantly lobbing his shot over Cobeno.