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Real Madrid denies Barcelona chance to clinch title

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The Canadian Press
5/4/2013 5:35:30 PM
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BARCELONA, Spain -- Cristiano Ronaldo headed in two goals to help Real Madrid beat Valladolid 4-3 in the Spanish league on Saturday, but the entertaining win was overshadowed by growing dissatisfaction with coach Jose Mourinho for criticizing the club.

Madrid's ninth straight home win in league play denied Barcelona the chance to clinch the league title this weekend.

Madrid reduced Barcelona's lead to eight points, meaning the Catalan side can't seal the domestic title by beating Real Betis on Sunday with four rounds still remaining.

Elsewhere, third-place Atletico Madrid booked its spot in next season's Champions League with a 0-0 draw at Deportivo La Coruna.

Valencia eased to a 4-0 win over nine-man Osasuna to stay in the hunt for a top-four finish, while Malaga lost 1-0 at Granada to slip three points behind Valencia in sixth place.

Sections of the Santiago Bernabeu crowd jeered Mourinho's name when it was announced before the match, scolding the manager for his recent comments that he may be leaving the club and a country where he doesn't feel "loved."

Mourinho used his team's exit from the Champions League on Tuesday as an opportunity to link his immediate future to a return to England. He repeated on Friday that he didn't know if he would stay at Madrid next season, while also taking another veiled shot at benched Spain international Iker Casillas by saying his only mistake was not having brought in new goalkeeper Diego Lopez before this winter.

That latest dig at Madrid's captain even made some of Mourinho's most trusted players bristle.

"You have to have a little more respect for Iker," said Madrid defender Pepe. "The coach's comments were not the most appropriate. Iker is an institution in his club and in Spain. He has to know that we and the fans are with him."

Pepe added that Mourinho's future was a matter "he has to resolve with the club" while "we have to honour its colours."

Club spokesman Emilio Butragueno refused to talk about Mourinho.

"We are here to talk about the match, not about Mourinho," he said.

Mourinho, who is under contract with Madrid until the summer of 2016, appears to running out of allies at the club. He didn't speak after the match, sending assistant Aitor Karanka in his place.

Karanka supported his boss, saying that "no player has been disrespected," while accepting the ire of Madrid's fans for what they widely perceive as a snub by Mourinho.

"We have to respect the fans' decision," Karanka said. "We have done our jobs for the last three years, some people have liked it more than others. We have to respect that."

Hurt feelings aside, Valladolid went ahead in the eighth minute when forward Oscar Gonzalez picked off a pass and slotted the ball under Lopez.

Valladolid goalie Jaime Jimenez kept Madrid at bay until Angel Di Maria cut back and unleashed a left-footed strike that Valladolid defender Marc Valiente deflected into his own net in the 26th.

The score even, Madrid pressed the visitors into their area and Ronaldo hit in the 32nd from a cross by Di Maria, deftly flicking the ball under Jimenez.

"Having them score is a way for us to wake up," said Kaka. "Although it shouldn't be that way."

But just when Madrid looked set to romp, Valladolid levelled at 2-2 when Omar Ramos placed a perfectly weighted pass behind Pepe at the far post for Javi Guerra to tap in.

After Ronaldo rattled the goalframe with a free kick, Kaka restored Madrid's advantage four minutes after halftime.

Ronaldo gave Madrid the cushion it needed in the 70th.

The Portugal forward rose up to meet a Mesut Ozil corner kick and drive it into the far corner, taking his league goal haul to 33 this season, second only to Barcelona's Lionel Messi with 44.

Valladolid, however, wasn't done and added some drama to the final moments when midfielder Lluis Sastre blasted in a beautiful volley from outside the area three minutes from time.

At Mestalla Stadium, Roberto Soldado opened for Valencia with his 19th goal of the season. Ricardo Costa, Ever Banega, and Jonas all added goals as the hosts rolled over Osasuna.

Valencia closed to within two points of fourth-place Real Sociedad-- currently in control of the last Champions League berth-- before it visits Getafe on Monday. Osasuna is two points above the relegation zone with four games to play.

"We have to keep the pressure up," said Valencia coach Ernesto Valverde. "They (Sociedad) are only two points ahead, and they are obliged to win. This is going to be the dynamic until the end."

Granada's second consecutive win lifted it four points above the drop.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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