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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb, 2, 2008

La Liga: Madrid stunned by ambitious Almeria

ALMERIA, February 2 (Primera Liga) - Real Madrid's eight-game winning run came crashing to a halt on Saturday as Almeria stunned the Primera Liga leaders with a goal in each half.

Juanito Gutierrez put the hosts ahead after 18 minutes although replays suggest the ball may not have fully crossed the line.

Alvaro Negredo then doubled the lead just after half-time from the penalty spot after he had been brought down by Fabio Cannavaro.

Real had extended their lead at the top of La Liga to nine points last weekend but second-placed Barcelona could now reduce the deficit when they play Osasuna on Sunday.

Almeria demonstrated why they have won their last four league games without conceding a goal. Unfazed against the champions, they were clinical in attack and gave little away in defence.

They took the lead in controversial fashion. Madrid's defence made a hash of clearing Jose Manuel Mane's low cross and Juanito side-footed high into the goal.

Iker Casillas scooped the ball away just as it was going in but the referee ruled that it had already crossed the line and television replays proved inconclusive.

Minutes later, Juan Manuel Ortiz rounded Casillas but the angle was too acute for him to shoot and by the time he had composed himself to cross, Michel Salgado had made it back to block out for a corner.

The visitors gradually moved up through the gears and looked dangerous with the pace of Robinho on the break.

He romped clear from midfield in the 27th minute and passed to the onrushing Sergio Ramos, who was poleaxed by Almeria goalkeeper Diego Alves on the edge of the area.

The goalkeeper was lucky to escape with only a booking and Guti fired the ensuing free-kick just wide.

Cannavaro and Ruud van Nistelrooy also forced saves from Diego but Madrid were largely frustrated and squandered possession alarmingly easily.

Almeria threatened briefly again before half-time when Negredo volleyed wide from the edge of the box and Guti ended the first-half action with a strike from the edge of the box which Diego saved comfortably.

The hosts were given the perfect start to the second half when Cannavaro hacked down Negredo in the middle of the area as the striker anticipated a cross from the left.

Negredo picked himself up and calmly rolled the penalty into the bottom left corner, sending Casillas the wrong way.

Real attempted to fight their way back into the clash but a combination of sound goalkeeping and lazy finishing kept them at bay.

Salgado shot weakly at Diego and Robinho forced another save after jinking his way into the area from the left.

The goalkeeper then produced a superb diving, one-handed stop to keep out Raul's header.

At the other end, Albert Crusat raced through but his attempt at a lob was easily caught by Casillas.

Almeria appeared happy to sit back on their lead and it almost proved costly when a Madrid counter-attack resulted in Gonzalo Higuain volleying a shot into the ground and on to the crossbar in the 75th minute.

Julio Baptista summed up Real's miserable evening when he fired a good chance into the side netting late on.

'I'm not worried by this,' Real coach Bernd Schuster told a news conference. 'This setback comes at the perfect time for us and I'm sure we'll react well.

'This defeat just shows that this is the most competitive league and that's why it is the best.'

In Seville, Real Betis lost one nil at home to Deportivo La Coruna at the Estadio Manuel Ruiz de Lopera.

Centre half Aguado Pablo Amo scored the only goal, stealing in at the far post to turn home a smart right wing cross from Fabricio Coloccini .

Antonio Juan Rodriguez had the chance to extend Depor's lead when he took a 77th minute penalty but he missed.

Deportivo climb out of the relegation zone while Betis stay in 14th place.

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