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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Dec, 22, 2007

Baptista lifts Real Madrid over Barca

BARCELONA, Spain -- Julio Baptista scored a wonder goal and Real Madrid won 1-0 at traditional rival Barcelona on Sunday to move seven points clear in the Spanish league title race.

The powerfully built Brazilian swapped passes with Ruud van Nistelrooy before driving the ball high into the top corner of the net in the 36th minute to silence the Barca fans at Camp Nou.

Madrid's third victory at Barcelona in 24 years stretched the defending champion's lead over the second-place Barcelona from four to seven points going into the midseason break. Madrid has 41 points to Barca's 34.

Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas rescued his team with quality saves, but Barcelona missed injured forward Lionel Messi while Ronaldinho again looked out of form.

Italy
ROME -- Inter Milan punished a blunder by AC Milan goalkeeper Dida to beat its neighbor 2-1 and remain seven points ahead in the Italian title race.

Inter's players formed a guard of honor at the stadium the two teams share to welcome Milan back as winner of the Club World Cup.

But Dida and veteran Milan defender Paolo Maldini were far too generous in return. After Maldini's poor clearance went straight to Esteban Cambiasso, the Inter forward mistimed his shot only for Dida to dive too far across goal and the ball rolled past him for a 63rd minute winner.

Milan went ahead on Andrea Pirlo's 17th minute free kick, but Julio Cruz tied it for Inter in the 36th.

Inter leads at the season halfway stage with 43 points, AS Roma is next with 36 after Saturday's 2-0 victory over Sampdoria. Juventus is third with 35 and 12th place Milan has only 18 points.

England
LONDON -- Cristiano Ronaldo beat former teammate Tim Howard from the penalty spot with two minutes to go and Manchester United edged Everton 2-1 to cut Arsenal's Premier League standings advantage to one point.

United was awarded the spot kick for Steven Pienaar's foul on Ryan Giggs and Ronaldo netted when the American goalie guessed the wrong way with his dive. It was Ronaldo's second of the game to take him to the top of the Premier League scorer's list with 11.

His 22nd minute 20-yard strike had given the Red Devils the lead at Old Trafford. Tim Cahill's header five minutes later made it 1-1. The outcome ended Everton's streak of 13 league and cup games without defeat, which included 11 victories.

United's ninth straight home victory took it to 42 points from 18 games, one behind Arsenal, which edged neighbor Tottenham 2-1 Saturday.

Joe Cole's breakaway goal in the 22nd minute gave Chelsea a 1-0 victory at Blackburn on Sunday, when home goalkeeper Brad Friedel of the U.S. made two standout saves to keep out shots from Frank Lampard. Chelsea remains six points behind Arsenal.

Newcastle's Mark Viduka scored his second equalizer of the game three minutes from the end to prevent a major upset, the Magpies salvaging a 2-2 draw with last place Derby.

Netherlands
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Excelsior Rotterdam scored after only 30 seconds on the way to its first victory over powerhouse Ajax.

Mitchell Pique and Geert den Ouden put Excelsior 2-0 ahead by the 49th minute. Hedwiges Maduro scored for Ajax in the 63rd. Ajax's second league defeat of the season left the 29-time champion in third place after Feyenoord's 2-0 win at NEC Nijmegen.

Chasing its third league title in a row, PSV Eindhoven beat FC Utrecht 4-1 Saturday to move top of the standings.

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