| Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane in a tussle for the ball with Racing Santander’s Medhi Nafti on Saturday. (Reuters)
Madrid: Deportivo La Coruna carved out a 2-1 win at home to Valencia on Saturday to bring an end to the last unbeaten record in the Primera Liga and replace the 2002 champions at the top of the table.
Reigning champions Real Madrid took advantage of Valencia’s defeat to move up to second, a classy Zinedine Zidane volley and two late goals from Raul earning them a 3-1 home win over Racing Santander despite a generally unimpressive performance.
With eight games played, Deportivo lead the standings with 21 points, followed by Real Madrid and Valencia on 19.
While Real produced only flashes of their best form against Racing at a rainswept Bernabeu, Deportivo clinched victory over Valencia with arguably their best performance of the season.
Juan Carlos Valeron hooked in their opener from close range after 14 minutes — the first goal Valencia had conceded in the league since their opening-day 1-1 draw against Valladolid.
Valencia hit back with a Mista strike after 74 minutes, the former Real Madrid B forward converting a David Albelda cross, but Diego Tristan crashed in a free kick five minutes later to give Deportivo the points.
Real Madrid, missing injured England captain David Beckham, were second best to Racing for all but the final quarter-hour, when the visitors ran out of steam.
“You have to know how to suffer in order to win,” said relieved Real coach Carlos Queiroz.
“We played with intelligence, patience and a lot of sacrifice.”
Most teams this season have come to the Bernabeu with a damage limitation exercise in mind but Racing took the game to Real from the start.
With Fernando Moran, Rodolfo Bodipo and Yossi Benayoun in eye-catching form, Racing carved the Real defence apart repeatedly, only for poor finishing to let them down.
A superbly struck free kick by Thierry Henry sent Arsenal back to the top of the Premier League on Sunday after a 1-1 draw at Charlton Athletic. Arsenal, who have 24 points, are one point ahead of Chelsea (23) with Manchester United, surprisingly beaten 1-3 at home by Fulham on Saturday, in third place with 22. Italian striker Paolo Di Canio scored for Charlton.
Their goal came just past the quarter-hour when Moran ran with the ball across the front of the Real area and picked out Benayoun in the centre who turned and fired past Iker Casillas.
A Casillas flap from a corner almost led to a second Racing goal but the Real defence scrambled the ball clear.
Racing passed the ball better than their illustrious opponents and created a string of chances but they failed to extend their lead and paid the price in the 27th when Zidane produced a precise volley from Ronaldo’s cross.
Real only threatened to take the lead with a couple of free kicks before Raul’s tap-in in the 78th minute made it 2-1.
Racing pressed forward for an equaliser only to be hit again late on, with Raul turning in after Santiago Solari’s shot had been deflected.
A superbly taken goal from Brazilian striker Amauri gave Chievo Verona a 1-0 win at Empoli on Saturday to put them level with Parma in fourth place in Serie A. Amauri’s volley from a Franco Semioli cross on the hour was all that separated the sides in a tight contest which ended with Empoli’s fifth defeat from seven games leaving them next to bottom.
Former Parma striker Enrico Chiesa grabbed a 76th-minute winner as Siena came from behind to beat Lecce 2-1.
Lecce took an early lead in the ninth minute through Uruguayan Ernesto Chevanton, who provided a clinical finish when compatriot Guillermo Giacomazzi headed the ball down to him. But Siena, in their first season in the top flight, drew level just three minutes later through Rodrigo Taddei’s acrobatic volley.
Lecce thought they had restored their lead in the 70th minute but Marco Cassetti’s header was ruled out for offside.
Chiesa’s winner was a reminder of his class — a cool left-footed finish at the end of a swift counter-attack from the Tuscan side.
Didier Drogba, French soccer’s latest scoring sensation, came off the bench to ensure Olympique Marseille took over at the top of Ligue 1 with a 2-0 win over Stade Rennes on Saturday. Marseille, who had let in seven goals in their previous two games, led 1-0 at halftime after defender Daniel van Buyten followed up a missed penalty by BrahimHemdani.