El Centrocampista

Clemente looks for a Sporting chance as la Segunda beckons

Sporting Gijon slipped ever-closer to a drop into the Segunda Division on Saturday night after two late second-half goals sunk Javier Clemente’s hard-working side at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

The win ensured Real Madrid stay four points ahead of Barcelona, at least until this weekends el clásico, and you could be forgiven for thinking that at 3-1 the hosts had an easy game of it.  That was not the case however, and it was only with Canella’s sending off 12 minutes from time that Mourinho’s side were able to finally finish the hard-working visitors off.

Cristiano Ronaldo had put the home side back in the driving seat with a sublime strike five minutes before the red card, but it was only when Karim Benzema netted with nine minutes left that the game was eventually sealed. Sporting frustrated Madrid for long periods of the encounter and had actually taken the lead when De Las Cuevas netted a 29th minute opener – only to be cancelled out by Gonzalo Higuain five minutes later.

The loss maintains the eight-point gap between Granada (17th) and Sporting, who sit behind Zaragoza in 19th. Despite the fact his team put up a fight against the league leaders, Clemente still believes his side could have done more, and that things could have been different had things gone another way.

The outspoken Sporting boss said he didn’t understand why Sergio Ramos was only shown a yellow card and not sent off when he gave away the penalty, converted by De Las Cuevas.

Clemente similarly voiced his confusion at why Pepe wasn’t sent off for his foul on Sangoy. He optimistically reflected on how things could have panned out: “Things would have been different, we could have gone 2-0 up with Real Madrid at a numerical disadvantage.”

The home side’s assistant manager, Aitor Karanka, praised Sporting’s defensive spirit against the league leaders, in a match that saw Real Madrid reach a record 107 goals for the season with five games still remaining, saying:  “They had us locked up well and made us work extremely hard for the victory.”

He added: “We thought we knew what they would come here and do, but it wasn’t the case. However, a point still wouldn’t have done them much good and it is a shame they are in the situation they find themselves in. They posed us a lot of problems until we scored the goals that won us the game.”

Six Sporting players, three injured and three suspended, will be now be missing for Saturday’s visit of Rayo Vallecano, a team who have secured another term in La Liga after earlier harbouring unexpected European ambitions. Neither side is on any kind of form, with both teams having won only once in their last six games.

For the visitors, motivation may come from avenging the 3-1 defeat in the corresponding fixture in December but the hosts must surely see this as three points they can win, and although La Liga survival is improbable, a win (and favourable results elsewhere) may make it less impossible.

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