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Sun 3 Feb 2008 07:26 AM

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Almeria stun Real to give Barca hope

Almeria has caused the biggest upset of the Spanish season with a 2-0 win over Real Madrid.

Almeria caused the biggest upset of the Spanish season with a sensational 2-0 win over reigning champions Real Madrid on Saturday to inject some much-needed spice into the title race.Real could have gone 12 points clear of Barcelona at the summit with victory at Almeria but the La Liga newcomers, only founded in 1989, enjoyed the biggest result in their history.

Barcelona, who reached the semi-finals of the Kings Cup in midweek, can now cut Real's lead to six points with a home win over Osasuna on Sunday.

Madrid coach Bernd Schuster warned his team not to get complacent after opening up a nine-point cushion but his words fell on deaf ears as goals from Juanito and Alvaro Negredo condemned Real to their third defeat of the season.

"Almeria showed how good they are and if you don't score it is always difficult," explained Schuster.

"The other day I heard someone smart saying how the league was poor because of our points advantage over the rest but this shows the strength of the Spanish league and why it is the most competitive in the world."

The shock loss ended Real's sequence of eight successive league wins and was their first defeat since their 2-0 reverse against Sevilla in November last year.

For Almeria it was a fourth straight win and they climb to seventh just one point off the UEFA Cup spots.

Mahamadou Diarra, back in Spain following Mali's exit from the African Nations Cup, returned to the Real starting line-up with Gago suspended.

Dutch forward Ruud van Nistelrooy shrugged off a bout of gastroenteritis to lead the front-line and his strike partner Raul almost put Real ahead after five minutes when he went close with a delicate chip.

However, it was Almeria who took a shock lead after 15 minutes with Real failing to defend a set-piece properly and Juanito pounced to open the scoring.

Ten minutes later Almeria were fortunate not to have goalkeeper Diego Alves sent off for a blatant body check on Sergio Ramos metres outside of the penalty area.

Real's goalkeeper Iker Casillas was furious that Ramos only received a yellow card and his protests led to him receiving the same punishment.

Things got worse for Real two minutes after the restart when Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro was adjudged to have fouled Negredo in the penalty area.

The in-form striker picked himself up to convert the penalty sending Casillas the wrong way for his seventh goal of the season.

Real had a glorious chance to get back into the match but Almeria held on for a historic win.

In Saturday's late match Deportivo La Coruna moved out of the bottom three with a 1-0 win at fellow strugglers Real Betis.

Pablo Amo scored the only goal as Deportivo climbed out of the relegation zone at Real Murcia's expense.

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