Real Madrid ended a turbulent week with a morale-boosting 1-0 home win over Real Zaragoza to move within two points of leaders Sevilla in the Primera Liga on Sunday.
Talk of rejuvenating the squad, David Beckham’s decision to leave at the end of the season and coach Fabio Capello’s decision to discard him dominated the build up to the match.
But a relatively young side rose to the occasion by putting in a spirited performance, with Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy scoring the only goal just before the break.
Real are third on 35 points, level with second-placed Barcelona who were thumped 3-1 at city rivals Espanyol on Saturday but have a game in hand.
Leaders Sevilla lost their 100 percent home record, and the chance to extend their lead at the top, when they lost 2-1 to struggling Real Mallorca.
Mallorca had suffered five straight defeats in all competitions and, against the run of the play, fell behind to a first-half penalty from Mali striker Frederic Kanoute.
But the visitors levelled when Jose Carlos Nunes volleyed in from a corner just after halftime and Argentine Maxi Lopez struck the winner after a mix-up in the home defence.
Valencia are fourth with 33 points following their 3-0 win over local rivals Levante on Saturday. Two goals from Fernando Torres helped Atletico Madrid climb to fifth on 32 points after a 3-1 win at Celta Vigo.
There was an air of expectation at the Bernabeu as Real’s new youngsters Fernando Gago and Gonzalo Higuain took centre stage. Michel Salgado and Sergio Ramos were suspended but none of them seemed to be missed as Real dominated from the start.
Raul limped off with a muscle injury after 15 minutes to be replaced by Robinho but Real continued to pressurise.
After sustained pressure, the breakthrough finally came five minutes before halftime when Higuain controlled Robinho’s deep cross and fired low across goal for Van Nistelrooy to score.
As Zaragoza tried to get back into the game in the second half Real exploited the space. Substitute Ruben de la Red drew a sharp save from Cesar in a one-on-one after 68 minutes.
The visitors came closest to scoring when Gerard Pique’s header from a corner late on came back off the bar.
Emotions boiled over after the final whistle when Capello twice made a rude gesture towards some fans as he left the pitch.
Roma’s draw is Inter’s gain
Rome: Inter Milan’s grip on the Serie A title tightened considerably on Sunday after closest rivals Roma were held to a 1-1 draw at Messina.
Roma were in command after Brazilian winger Mancini had broken the deadlock with a low drive in the 39th minute.
But a series of missed chances came back to haunt them when Chivu conceded an 89th-minute penalty by needlessly clattering into Arturo Di Napoli.
Alessandro Parisi tucked away the spot-kick before being sent off for a second yellow card.
A draw left Roma in second place on 42 points, nine behind Inter at the halfway stage of the season. Palermo are four points behind Roma in third place after defeating Udinese 2-0 in Sicily.
Lazio and Catania share the fourth and final Champions league spot on 26 points, but both sides were kicking themselves after throwing away leads and ending up on a disappointing note.
Lazio drew 1-1 to Siena and Catania lost 2-1 to Chievo.
Also, AC Milan continued their ascent with an unconvincing 3-1 home win over Reggina.
Milan surged ahead with goals from Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf before Rolando’s Banchi’s rasping 25-yard shot reopened the contest for the visiting Calabrians. Reggina were enjoying their best spell of the match when Alberto Gilardino finished off a swift counter-attack with an angled shot to ease Milan's jitters.
Cristiano Doni scored twice as Atalanta thumped Livorno 5-1 in Bergamo. The result cost Livorno coach Daniele Arrigoni his job as the Tuscany club extended their winless streak to seven matches.
Newcastle stun Tottenham
London: An injury-hit Newcastle United stunned Tottenham Hotspur with a 3-2 victory in a pulsating Premier League match at White Hart Lane.
United were under siege for most of the game but hit back to equalise twice before flu-stricken midfielder Nicky Butt grabbed an unlikely winner.
In Sunday's other action Andy Johnson headed a late equaliser for Everton in a 1-1 home draw with Reading.
Tottenham overwhelmed Newcastle's inexperienced defence early on and took the lead after 13 minutes when Jermain Defoe slid into stab home Steed Malbranque’s low cross.
Newcastle replied immediately with full back Paul Huntington scoring his first goal for the club. Dimitar Berbatov restored Tottenham’s lead in the 53rd minute and Spurs should have wrapped up the points before Martins smashed a ferocious equaliser in the 71st.
A minute later the impressive Martins slid a neat pass in to Butt who shot across Robinson to give Newcastle a memorable victory.