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Madrid beats Barca again; Man U opens 15-pt lead

Saturday - 3/2/2013, 7:34pm  ET

Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos, unseen, celebrates his goal with team mates during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

MADRID (AP) -- Real Madrid beat Barcelona for the second time in five days, a 2-1 win Saturday that will do little to prevent its rival from reclaiming the Spanish league title but could boost coach Jose Mourinho's team ahead of its Champions League match at Manchester United.

Sergio Ramos scored the tiebreaking goal on a header off Luka Modric's corner kick in the 82nd minute, and a contentious second half ended with Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes receiving two yellow cards after the final whistle for arguing with the referee.

Karim Benzema put Real Madrid ahead in the sixth minute off a cross from 20-year-old Alvaro Morata, but Lionel Messi tied the score in the 18th following a pass from Daniel Alves, reaching 50 goals for the third straight season and extending his record La Liga scoring streak to 16 games. With his 18th goal in the clasico rivalry, Messi tied the record set by Real's Alfredo Di Stefano in the 1950s and '60s.

Ramos scored when he outjumped Gerard Pique for the header at the 6-yard box, helping Madrid to its first home league win over Barcelona since 2008.

During a chippy ending, Ronaldo hit a post with a free kick in the 88th minute, and referee Miguel Angel Perez Lasa didn't call a foul on Ramos' trip of Adriano in the penalty area during the third and final minute of stoppage time, prompting vehement arguments from Barcelona players.

Defending Spanish league champion Real Madrid (17-5-4) pulled within 13 points of first-place Barcelona (22-2-2) and within one point of second-place Atletico Madrid (18-5-2). Real won 3-1 at Barcelona on Tuesday to advance on 4-2 aggregate to the Copa del Rey final against Atletico.

After a 31-3-5 start in all competitions, Barcelona has lost three of its last four games, including a 2-0 defeat at AC Milan in the first leg of its Champions League round-of-16 matchup. Barcelona hosts the second leg of the total-goals series on March 12.

Barcelona's slide has coincided with the absence of first-year coach Tito Vilanova, who has been in New York for medical treatment since late January following an operation in Spain to remove a tumor from his saliva gland.

Real Madrid started Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench and inserted the star forward in the 58th minute, wanting to keep him fresh for Tuesday's game at Manchester United. The teams tied 1-1 in Madrid in the first leg of their second-round matchup on Feb. 13.


LONDON (AP) -- Shinji Kagawa's hat trick and a stunning goal from Wayne Rooney kept Manchester United on track to its 20th Premier League title with a 4-0 rout of visiting Norwich, and Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez was spared a backlash from his team's fans with a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion.

Kagawa became the first Asian player with a three-goal game in England's top division, scoring in the 45th, 76th and 87th minutes. Rooney added a goal from long distance in stoppage time.

United (23-3-2) opened a 15-point lead over second-place Manchester City (16-3-8), which plays Monday at Aston Villa.

Following Benitez's midweek criticism of Chelsea fans who had jeered him, the Blues (15-6-7) moved into third place as Demba Ba scored in the 28th minute. Tottenham (15-6-6), one point back in fourth, hosts fifth-place Arsenal (13-6-8) on Sunday in the north London derby.

Luis Suarez scored three times in Liverpool's 4-0 win over Wigan, taking over the Premier League scoring lead with 21 goals, two ahead of Manchester United's Robin van Persie.

Last-place Queens Park Rangers (3-14-11) won 2-1 at Southampton to improve its survival hopes. It trails Wigan and Aston Villa by four points and Reading by three.

American goalkeeper Tim Howard's league game-played streak ended at 210 when he missed Everton's 3-1 win over Reading because of a back injury sustained in Tuesday's FA Cup win over Oldham. Howard's streak ended two games shy of the team record set by goalkeeper Neville Southall from 1987-93.


MILAN (AP) -- AC Milan moved past Lazio into third place in Serie A -- the final berth for next season's Champions League -- getting two goals from Giampaolo Pazzini in a 3-0 home victory over the Roman club, which has not won at San Siro since 1989.

Lazio's Antonio Candreva was given a red card by referee Nicola Rizzoli in the 15th minute for taking down Stephan El Shaarawy at the edge of the penalty area.

Pazzini tapped the ball into an empty net in the 40th minute after goalkeeper Federico Marchetti spilled a shot, Kevin-Prince Boateng doubled the lead four minutes later after Marchetti parried Pazzini's header following a corner kick, and Pazzini completed the scoring in the 60th with a long-range shot.

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