Barcelo, Real register unconvincing wins

Madrid, Feb 8: FC Barcelo equalled a club record of 28 games unbeaten to move three points clear at the top of La Liga with a hard-fought 2-0 win at Levante on Sunday while Real Madrid stched a 2-1 win at Grada to stay in the title hunt.

Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid remain four points behind the leaders in third thanks to Luka Modric's stunning strike five minutes from time to stch a 2-1 win at Grada.

Meanwhile, the pressure continues to build on Valencia boss Gary Neville after his winless La Liga streak stretched to nine games with a 1-0 defeat at fellow strugglers Real Betis.

Barca were far from their best in coach Luis Enrique's 100th game in charge, but David varro's first-half own goal and Luis Suarez's strike in stoppage time was enough to secure a 10th consecutive win in all competitions.

The European champions now lead Atletico Madrid by three points and have a game in hand on both Atletico and Real.

Barca needed a slice of luck to open the scoring on 21 minutes as Jordi Alba burst down the left and his ball into the box was deflected into his own net by varro.

Levante remain rooted to the foot of the table, but deserved to be at least level at the break as they outplayed the Catalans in the latter stages of the first-half.

Jose Luis Morales came closest to equalising when his low effort came back off the post eight minutes before the break.

However, Barca took the sting out of the game in the second-half and sealed the points with the last move of the match as Lionel Messi picked out an unmarked Suarez to fire home his 36th goal of the season.

Real were also very fortute to remain in the title hunt as they were domited in large spells by Grada and were rescued by Modric's fantastic late strike into the top corner from 20 yards.

Karim Benzema continued his fine form since French compatriot Zidane took charge last month as he converted Dani Carvajal's cross for his seventh goal in five games after half an hour.

Grada's fine build-up play lacked a cutting edge before half-time, but they got a break to level on the hour mark as Modric crashed into the referee, sparking a counter-attack which ended with Youssef El Arabi slotting home the equaliser.

Real looked jaded and off-form throughout, with Cristiano Roldo particularly anonymous, but their best player on the night, Modric, salvaged the three points when he fired home his first goal of the season five minutes from time.

At the other end of the table, Valencia remain just four points above the relegation zone as Neville failed to produce the reaction he hoped for following a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Barcelo in the Copa del Rey in midweek. IANS

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