Real Madrid survives scare at Mallorca
Leader Real Madrid survived a scare ahead of its Copa del Rey clash against Barcelona as it came from behind to win 2-1 at Mallorca in the Spanish league on Saturday.
Madrid's seventh straight away victory in league play extended its advantage over second-place Barcelona to eight points before the defending champion hosts Real Betis on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho's team almost got caught looking ahead to this season's fourth clasico as Mallorca went ahead through Tomer Hemed's 39th-minute header.
Halftime substitute Gonzalo Higuain snapped Madrid out of its lackluster effort with an equalizer in the 72nd, and forward Jose Callejon netted the winner with a goal in the 84th as Mallorca's effort waned.
Mallorca coach Joaquin Caparros could not have asked much more from his side, which gave a valiant defensive effort but fell at the end to the visitors' superior talent.
Callejon entered Madrid's starting 11 in place of the injured Angel Di Maria alongside Karim Benzema and league scoring leader Cristiano Ronaldo.
Mallorca, which held Madrid to a scoreless draw in Mourinho's league debut last season, started well. The Balearic Island club kept Madrid far from its area with a well balanced defense anchored by center back Jose ''Chico'' Flores while showing flashes of scoring intent.
Victor Casadesus produced Mallorca's first scare in the 10th when he flicked on a pass from Hemed with the back of his heel, sending the ball across the front of Iker Casillas' goalline.
Hemed almost caught Madrid on the counterattack in the 28th, but the Israeli striker reached Madrid's area out of gas and shot wide.
Madrid didn't create a shot on goal until the 37th minute when Benzema fired weakly into the hands of goalkeeper Dudu Aouate.
Two minutes later Mallorca pulled ahead through Hemed's team-high sixth goal of the season and his first score not from the penalty spot. He slid into the area and turned Gonzalo ''Chori'' Castro's cross by a diving Casillas into the left corner with a bouncing header.
Behind in the score, Madrid played its best football of the first half.
Defender Sergio Ramos powered a header off the post in the 45th, and Lass Diarra flashed a long strike wide before the halftime whistle.
Mourinho sent on Higuain for Lass at the start of the second half with Kaka substituting defender Alvaro Arbeloa soon after to add more firepower.
The changes, however, didn't change the flow of play until Higuain netted Madrid's equalizer in the 72nd when he deftly shot by Aouate after Mesut Oezil had played him through deep in Mallorca's area.
Having conceded the leveler, Mallorca wilted and Ronaldo came close moments later when his long strike rattled the crossbar.
Mallorca tried to resist, but Callejon blasted in a rebound from the edge of the area after Aouate had made back-to-back stops to keep out Higuain and Benzema.
Madrid hosts Barcelona on Wednesday in the first leg of the Copa quarterfinals.