Benzema brace helps Real trim Barcelona's lead

Benzema brace helps Real trim Barcelona's lead

Flying high: Karim Benzema celebrates after his double helped Real Madrid outplay  Deportivo Coruna 3-1 in the Spanish La Liga on Saturday. AFP

Barca had laid down a marker with a 1-0 victory at Sporting Gijon earlier on Saturday but Manuel Pellegrini's Real shrugged off the absence of the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo and injured top scorer Gonzalo Higuain to keep pace with the champions.

Undefeated Barca have 52 points from 20 matches, Real are on 47 and Valencia, who play at sixth-placed Sevilla on Sunday, are in third with 39.

Real had not won at Deportivo's Riazor stadium in 19 years but Benzema went close early on for the dominant visitors before a defensive howler gifted them the lead in the 13th minute. Defender Laure Sanabria attempted to head the ball clear but could only divert it to the unmarked Esteban Granero, who sent a powerful header past goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia.

Brilliance from mercurial midfielder Guti created Real's second for Benzema five minutes before the break.

Kaka raced clear on the left and put Guti through on goal but instead of shooting he backheeled the ball to the France striker, who swept home with Aranzubia stranded.
Riki netted an 87th-minute penalty for Depor after Sergio Ramos had brought the striker down in the penalty area before Alvaro Arbeloa set Benzema up for his second in added time.

Pedro's clinical finish had earlier fired Barca to victory at a rain-lashed Molinon stadium in Gijon. Barca took control from the start, with Xavi and Andres Iniesta providing the creative spark in midfield and Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Pedro, starting on the left instead of Thierry Henry, threatening up front.
Gijon battled bravely to keep the visitors at bay but were caught out on the half-hour when Messi tapped a quick freekick to Iniesta.

With the home defence on their heels, the Spain midfielder released Pedro who sprinted through the centre to finish coolly past goalkeeper Juan Pablo with a low, left-foot strike.

Barca had scored 12 goals without reply in their previous three league games and carved out a host of chances in the second half.

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