The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Brilliant Figo free-kick wins day for Real

Madrid: A brilliantly-struck injury-time free kick from Luis Figo allowed Real Madrid to grab their first league win in four games as they took a 3-2 victory over Rayo Vallecano Saturday.

Rayo had looked on course to claim a well-earned point against the European champions after they twice levelled to cancel out strikes from Brazilian stars Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos.

But Figoís free-kick allowed Real to edge their first league win away from the Santiago Bernabeu since last March and catapulted them into third place in the table, a point ahead of Barcelona who sneaked a 1-0 win at home to Villarreal.

Unbeaten Real Sociedad retained their three-point lead at the top despite being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Deportivo La Coruna, after second-placed Valencia also drew 1-1 at home to Real Betis.

Betis took the lead with a superb 20m free-kick from Brazilian midfielder Marcos Assuncao on 70 minutes, but Argentine playmaker Pablo Aimar equalised with a fine diving header nine minutes from time.

Yugoslav striker Darko Kovacevic notched his seventh goal of the season for Sociedad when he put them into the lead with a powerful far post header. But Deportivo equalised just before halftime when Albert Luque slotted home with the outside of his foot after midfielder Fran and Dutch striker Roy Makaay had prised open the Sociedad defence.

Figo made the goal with a superb defence-splitting pass which fell into the path of the advancing Ronaldo. His former Barcelona teammate swooped on to the ball, steadied himself and then fired a first-time shot high into the corner. It was the Brazilianís first goal for Real since he grabbed a double on his debut against Alaves more than a month ago.

Interís first defeat

Serie A leaders Inter Milan suffered their first league defeat of the season when they were beaten 1-2 by Udinese Saturday.

The result adds extra spice to Sundayís clash in Turin between third-placed Juventus and second-placed AC Milan who trail Inter by three points.

But sixth-placed AS Roma missed out on a chance to close the gap on the leading trio as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Piacenza.

Inter had the perfect start when Christian Vieri put them ahead in the third minute with a firm header from a Domenico Morfeo cross. But Inter were unable to dominate midfield and Udinese probed their defence with a series of lively attacks.

The 58,000 San Siro crowd was silenced in the 25th minute when Udineseís Danish international midfielder Martin Jorgensen equalised with a 25m drive into the top corner.

The visitors were forced to substitute Colombian right-back Gonzalo Martinezin in the 31st minute after a dreadful challenge from Morfeo. Inter were more positive after the break and almost went back in front after four minutes when Turkish midfielder Emre struck the post with a low drive.

Hector Cuperís side camped in the Udinese half but were caught on the break in the 54th minute, Roberto Muzziís low shot taking a slight deflection off Inter defender Francesco Coco and beating Francesco Toldoís desperate dive. Udinese went close again when German striker Carsten Jancker fired the ball across the face of goal but Jorgensen was unable to get a touch.

Cuper brought on Argentine striker Hernan Crespo and Inter enjoyed some intense pressure but their headlong attacks were not enough to trouble Udinese keeper Morgan De Sanctis. It was not until deep into injury time that Inter came close to an equaliser but Vieri shot straight at De Sanctis.

Roma will be kicking themselves after only managing a point at struggling Piacenza. Fabio Capelloís side took the lead in the 26th minute when Antonio Cassano stabbed the ball home at the back post after Christian Panucci had headed down a Cafu corner.

Piacenza striker Dario Hubner then missed a penalty, firing wide after Gianni Guigou had barged down Piacenza midfielder Enzo Maresca. Francesco Totti, who produced some delightful touches throughout, hit the post with a superb chip after a neat exchange with Cassano and then Cassano missed a clear opportunity as Roma dominated.

But the Romans, who have a crucial Champions League match against AEK Athens Tuesday, were made to pay for their lack of incisiveness in front of goal when Maresca equalised with a free kick in the 74th minute.

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