Real
AP

Raul fires Real back into La Liga race

Second-half goals from Guti and Raul gave Real Madrid a hard-earned 2-0 win over Espanyol at Montjuic and saw Juande Ramos' side move within four points of Primera Liga leaders Barcelona, until tomorrow at least.

Following a goalless first hour, Guti came off the substitutes' bench to fire Madrid in front with a free-kick after 67 minutes.

Raul slotted home a second five minutes later to ensure a comfortable win for the champions in the end.

Madrid had won nine league games in a row before this one, but disappointingly lost at home to Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Wednesday.

Espanyol started the day in 19th place, having moved off the bottom with a shock 2-1 win at city rivals Barcelona last weekend.

That success was the team's first since November, the first for recently-appointed coach Mauricio Pochettino and the first at the Nou Camp since 1982.

It was a much-needed boost for the Catalans and seemed to give them belief as they took the game to Madrid early on.

They came close after just six minutes, when Roman Martinez flicked on Luis Garcia's cross, but Iker Casillas claimed.

Nene then fired over as Espanyol continued to push forward with intensity.

Arjen Robben shot wide for Madrid at the other end, but the visitors looked tired and short of ideas against a fired-up Espanyol outfit.

Ivan Alonso failed to make contact after he was set up by Luis Garcia halfway through the first period.

Espanyol were giving it everything, but neither side looked likely to score in a dull first half.

Madrid improved after the break as they began to play higher up in the Espanyol half.

But chances were still few and far between and Espanyol continued to soak up the visitors' pressure with relative ease.

Ramos brought on Marcelo and Guti for Wesley Sneijder and Gonzalo Higuain just short of the hour mark and the double change brought Madrid to life.

Guti's first action was a clever turn and brilliant reverse pass which drew applause from both sets of fans.

The midfielder, who has been out for several weeks through injury, then fired Madrid in front with a free-kick from the edge of the box after 67 minutes.

It was a fantastic curled effort from the former Spain star and Espanyol goalkeeper Carlos Kameni could only push the shot onto the post and into the back of the net.

The Cameroon stopper should perhaps have done better, but there was nothing he could do five minutes later, when Raul stroked a sweet left-footed drive into the bottom left-hand corner after he was set up by Marcelo.

Substitute Raul Tamudo came close to pulling a goal back for Espanyol seven minutes from time, while Raul also threatened with a speculative lob at the other end.