Raul celebrates his record-setting goal in Real Madrid's victory over Sporting Gijon.
AP

Raul brace nets win, sets record

Raul netted a brace en route to becoming Real Madrid's record goalscorer on a day when the reigning champions breathed a little life back into the Primera Liga title race.

Raul needed just 15 minutes to put his side ahead against Sporting Gijon and enter the record books with his 308th goal for the club, taking him one clear of the legendary Alfredo di Stefano.

It was also a special day for Klaas Jan Huntelaar, who grabbed his first goal for the Spanish giants to help Juande Ramos' in-form side to an eighth successive league win.

Marcelo added a third in the second half.

Crucially, the victory also allowed Madrid to narrow the difference to league leaders Barcelona slightly, even though that gap still stands at an imposing 10 points.

Barca were held to a 2-2 draw at Real Betis last night and Madrid knew they could not afford to let that slip go unpunished if they were to have any realistic hope of claiming a third straight title.

And despite missing a host of senior players through suspension and injury, Ramos' men were not found wanting as they quickly took control of the match.

Gonzalo Higuain had already sent a header just wide with Sporting goalkeeper Inaki Lafuente beaten when Raul volleyed himself into club folklore with a quarter-of-an-hour on the clock at El Molinon.

Sergio Ramos' thunderous cross from the right looked difficult to control, but Raul managed to get his left foot on the ball and steer his shot just inside the right-hand post.

That sparked huge celebrations among the Madrid players and no doubt a deluge of deserved plaudits over the coming weeks for the long-serving Madrid captain.

It was also celebration time 20 minutes later when Huntelaar broke his duck.

The winter signing from Ajax has been in the news recently with reports he was unsettled at the club, but there was nothing but joy on the Dutchman's face as he wheeled away after slotting a low shot past Lafuente following Higuain's flick-on.

In between those two goals Raul saw another goal-bound effort tipped behind for a corner while just before the break Ramos ignored better-placed team-mates to blaze a shot over as the visitors completed a dominant first-half display.

Marcelo ensured the points would be travelling back to the capital after making it 3-0 four minutes after the break.

Higuain created the opportunity with an audacious back-heel to put Marcelo clean through and the Brazilian full-back, who was playing on the left wing in the absence of the injured Arjen Robben, clipped home a clever finish.

At that point it looked as though Madrid could run up a similar score to earlier in the season, when they trounced promoted Sporting 7-1 at home, and that might have been the case had Huntelaar's thumping header been allowed to stand in the 72nd minute.

That was ruled out for a debatable offside, but Madrid did manage one more goal as Raul made it 4-0 four minutes later.

Leading scorer Higuain was again involved with a low effort that Lafuente should have done better with, and Raul was quick to pounce on the fumbled shot to slot home what must be one of the easiest of his 309 goals for the club.

At the other end, Sporting barely troubled the Madrid net although they did go close twice late on with a glancing header by Sergio Matabuena and a fine effort by David Barral that struck the far post.

But aside from those chances, and a fumbled long-shot from Iker Casillas that went for a corner, an impressive Madrid otherwise comfortably kept their hosts at bay to record their seventh clean sheet in their last eight matches.


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