Liga - Real extend lead over Barcelona

Sat, 07 Jan 19:50:00 2012

A Karim Benzema brace and three assists from Mesut Ozil helped Real Madrid to a 5-1 win at home to Granada, putting Jose Mourinho's side six points clear of Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

Real Madrid's players celebrate after scoring during the Spanish league football match Real Madrid against Granada at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, on January 7, 2012. - 0

Benzema opened the scoring with a fine team goal for Real before Mikael Rico grabbed a surprise leveller for the visitors from the south of Spain.

But Sergio Ramos added a second for Real before an early second-half blitz saw the hosts extend their lead through Gonzalo Higuain and a second for Benzema.

Cristiano Ronaldo added a fine late fifth but the match was well won as Real ensured Barca would have to beat city rivals Espanyol on Sunday if they are to stay in touch with the leaders.

The first half played to type as Real dominated possession and flashed the fancy footwork, while Granada looked for the counter on their first Liga trip to the Bernabeu for 36 years.

Initially it was one-way traffic as Benzema – starting alongside Higuain and Ronaldo – flashed a wicked ball across the face of goal, while Raphael Varane headed a corner wide and fellow defender Ramos put over from a similar situation.

The hosts’ 20th-minute lead was thus entirely deserved – it was also pleasing to the eye as Ronaldo’s wonderful scooped pass met a flying Ozil, whose backheel on the turn was converted from close range by Benzema.

It was Harlem Globetrotters stuff, but Granada shocked the Bernabeu by equalising immediately as Ike Uche flew down the right, made mincemeat of Marcelo and crossed perfectly to Rico, who was left unmarked by Ramos to turn a smart header past Iker Casillas.

The 5,000 travelling fans had been noisier than the Merenegue majority, and they got even louder as their unfancied heroes went for Madrid, Rico forcing a very good save from Casillas after a one-two with Benitez.

Real were in danger of being shocked by the minnows – who were playing in a regional fourth division six years ago – but they regained their composure and retook the lead on 34 minutes.

There was a mild air of controversy about the leveller as, a minute before Ramos powered in a header from an Ozil corner, Granada felt the Spain defender should have been sent off for a light rabbit punch into the back of Allan Nyom as the pair tangled on the touchline.

It would have been a harsh dismissal though, and keeper Roberto was rightly more angered at his defence’s poor marking that allowed a white shirt to meet a corner unmarked not for the first time in the half.

All of Granada’s good work in the first half was undone early in the second though as some shocking defending allowed Real to score twice in three minutes to take an unassailable 4-1 lead.

Two minutes into the half a comedy of errors allowed the ball to trickle from Marcelo – who had lost possession – to Higuain, with both centre-halves and Guilherme Siqueira all standing ball-watching as the Argentine rolled a low finish home.

A couple of minutes later Benzema gobbled up a fine fourth, fine because he did exceptionally well to control a high ball from Ozil before cutting inside to drill a low shot past Roberto – however, Siqueira was again at fault as he failed to close down the France striker, allowing his shot to go through his legs.

Benzema came off soon afterwards, clutching his inner thigh but still able to walk unaided, but Granada’s challenge was over as their heads dropped.

Real did not push overly hard for a fifth, although a strangely quiet Ronaldo hit a free-kick just over and put a header beyond the bar from a Kaka cross later.

And the pair combined again late on as Kaka's run saw the loose ball drop to Ronaldo, who sealed the rout with a vicious finish beyond the helpless Roberto.

Reda Maher - on Twitter @Reda_Maher / Eurosport

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