Gonzalo keeps Real in hunt

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MADRID, November 14- Real Madrid remain top of the Primera Liga after Gonzalo Higuain scored the only goal of a hard fought battle filled with tension against Sporting Gijon on Sunday.

With Barcelona overtaking them on the top of the table on Saturday after a 3-1 win over Villarreal the onus was on Real Madrid to respond against Sporting.

And the atmosphere had already been stoked up after Sporting coach Manolo Preciado reacted angrily to quotes from his Real counterpart Jose Mourinho suggesting that his side had not put up a fight when they played Barcelona.

Real struggled to find their composure as they were constantly being put under pressure from the Sporting players.

Higuain hit the post with a cross early on but Real caused little danger in the first half while Sporting were a threat on the break down the wings through Diego Castro and Nacho Novo.

After the break it looked as though Real were not going to find a way through but as the game wore on it began to open up for both sides.

Higuain should have scored with just keeper Juan Pablo to beat and Sporting’s Gaston Sangoy saw a shot go a whisker past the post. But with nine minutes to go substitute Karim Benzema headed a Sergio Ramos cross which was parried by the keeper to Higuain, who tucked the ball home from close range.

In the final minute Alberto Botia was given a straight red for a late challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo.

A last ditch Alvaro Negredo goal gave 10-man Sevilla a 2-1 win over bottom side Real Zaragoza to move them up into a Champions League place.

Sevilla’s away form has been their Achilles’ heel so far this season and they travelled to Zaragoza on the back of three straight defeats including their last, a 5-0 thrashing by Barcelona, at the Nou Camp.

They went ahead when Luis Fabiano slotted home from Frederic Kanoute’s defence splitting pass. After the break Nicolas Bertolo headed home a Gabi Fernandez corner but in the dying moments a defensive error by Jiri Jarosik allowed in substitute Negredo who made no mistake in front of goal.

Espanyol dropped down to fifth after they drew 0-0 with Racing Santander and could be overtaken by Valencia who face Getafe later.

The visitors were playing well but a foul by Javi Lopez on Domingo Cisma saw Racing awarded a penalty.

Keeper Carlos Kameni excellently saved Ariel Gerardo’s spot-kick and then turned into the hero for Espanyol in the second half, making several important interventions, notably blocking from Markus Rosenberg when he was through on goal.

Hercules brought Real Sociedad’s good run to an end as they won 2-1 with goals from David Trezeguet and Royston Drenthe turning the game around after Antoine Griezmann put the visitors into a deserved lead.

Deportivo la Coruna drew 0-0 with Real Mallorca while Malaga came out on top 1-0 in the relegation battle with Levante.

Barcelona forward Leo Messi scored a brace as the champions beat Villarreal 3-1 in an exhibition of attacking football from both teams on Saturday night.

For the first time Messi has scored in seven consecutive games and was the difference between the sides with David Villa scoring the other goal and Brazilian Nilmar getting on the scoresheet for Villarreal.

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