Barça held as Benfica battle back

FC Barcelona closed in on the Primera División title with a draw against Real Madrid CF while SL Benfica came from behind to win in the Portuguese Liga.

FC Barcelona were unable to overcome their great rivals Real Madrid CF despite playing nearly 70 minutes with an extra man while UEFA Champions League quarter-final opponents SL Benfica's win was overshadowed by an injury to Nuno Gomes.

FC Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid CF
Barcelona closed in on the Primera División title despite a slightly disappointing draw against ten-man Madrid at the Camp Nou. In the 22nd minute, the visitors' left-back Roberto Carlos conceded a penalty for a challenge on Mark van Bommel which Ronaldinho duly despatched. The Catalan club appeared on course to repeat the 3-0 victory they enjoyed in Madrid last November when Roberto Carlos was sent off for dissent three minutes later. However, Ronaldo, returning to the ground he called home in 1996/97, levelled the scores with a delicious solo effort on 37 minutes. Barcelona had the better of the second half without taking advantage of their numerical superiority, with Henrik Larsson failing to convert two good chances.

Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard believed the red card affected his team as much as the opposition, saying: "When a team starts working well and then there's a sending off, they need time to think about how to play because there's an extra player. Before the red card it was an open game but afterwards Madrid shut up shop and we were too hasty." Versatile defensive player Thiago Motta was taken off with a hamstring injury while will rule him out of the Benfica match, while Xavi Hernández (knee), Lionel Messi, Edmílson (both thigh), Rafael Márquez (calf) and Sylvinho (muscle strain) also missed the game.

CF Os Belenenses 1-2 SL Benfica
Benfica came from a goal down to defeat Belenenses, but the result was marred by an injury to Nuno Gomes, who is a serious doubt for Wednesday's trip to Spain. José Pedro put Belenenses ahead after nine minutes with a left-foot shot from outside the area, but Benfica quickly wrested control of the game away from their hosts despite losing Nuno Gomes to a knee injury on 17 minutes. The striker could miss his side's visit to the Camp Nou having sat out the first leg through suspension. Benfica made light of his departure, however, as Italian forward Fabrizio Miccoli collected a fine pass from Beto, evaded his marker and scored a stylish equaliser in the 22nd minute. By the half-hour mark, Benfica were in front as Georgios Karagounis struck from long range.

The Lisbon team were forced on to the defensive in the second half but still threatened on the counterattack, with left-back Léo hitting the crossbar. In addition to the worries around Nuno Gomes, Alcides has a knee injury of his own although winger Marco Ferreira should be fit after a muscle strain. Benfica's assistant coach, Bruins Slot, said: "It was a difficult game. Belenenses are very strong in midfield and up front, and they caused us problems. We played well in the first half, and reacted positively to going a goal down. In the second half our defending was very good."