Spanish giants Barca, Real press for close finish

MADRID - A clinical finish from defender Marcelo, pictured gave Real Madrid a 1-0 win at relegation-threatened Recreativo Huelva in the Primera Liga on Saturday and trimmed the gap to leaders Barcelona back to six points.

MADRID - A clinical finish from defender Marcelo, pictured gave Real Madrid a 1-0 win at relegation-threatened Recreativo Huelva in the Primera Liga on Saturday and trimmed the gap to leaders Barcelona back to six points.

Barca had put pressure on the champions with a 1-0 win at Getafe earlier in the day, a sixth straight victory that moved them to 78 points with seven matches remaining and put them a step closer to the Spanish title.

Lionel Messi struck his 20th league goal at Coliseum stadium.

The Argentine picked up Xavi's pass, skipped around a group of defenders and struck a deflected shot past goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic.

The home side hardly threatened the Barca goal and Pep Guardiola's side had several other clear scoring chances but were denied by superb saves.

The Serbian keeper first stopped Thierry Henry after five minutes, kept out Gerard Pique's acrobatic volley and palmed away a curled Messi effort shortly before halftime.

Guardiola deployed free-scoring forwards Messi, Henry and Eto'o against 14th-placed Getafe.

In Huelva, Real struggled to break through the Recre defences in the first half, although captain Raul struck a post just after the half hour and Sergio Ramos sliced the rebound over the bar.

Recre carved out a couple of chances and Real keeper Iker Casillas was forced into two sharp saves in quick succession midway through the first period.

But Brazilian Marcelo put one past keeper Asier Riesgo just after the break.

There was a blow for Real in added time when midfielder Wesley Sneijder was carried off with a muscle strain.

Atletico Madrid won 3-0 at home to struggling Numancia and moved up to fourth place, above Valencia on goal difference, thanks to goals from midfielder Ever Banega, striker Diego Forlan and winger Simao Sabrosa. - Reuter

X