Real Madrid 1 - 0 Valencia

Real Madrid missed endless chances but still prevailed 1-0 over Valencia in La Liga thanks to a third-minute goal from Gonzalo Higuain.

In the second game on Saturday, Espanyol take on in-form Atletico Madrid. Follow that match by clicking the LIVE link below the picture.

Real Madrid 1-0 Valencia

An early Gonzalo Higuain goal was enough for Real Madrid to beat Valencia 1-0 as the Spanish champions moved, temporarily at least, up into fourth place in La Liga.

Real's Argentine forward scored the only goal in an often thrilling and frantic game. In truth the home side should have finished the game six or seven goals to the good, but a series of horrendous misses from their forward line meant the scoreline was kept respectable for Valencia.

The visitors' task was made more difficult in the second-half following the dismissal of their captain Marchena for a foul, and second yellow card, on Arjen Robben. It was a cruel blow: Marchena scarcely made contact with the diving Dutchman, yet Robben flew to the ground with enough vigour to convince the referee that the skipper had to go.

Playing the first match of the weekend gave Juande Ramos's side the chance to reduce the 12-point deficit on Barcelona at the top of the table. Their defeat in 'El Clasico' last weekend meant that the champions started the weekend in sixth place, four points behind Valencia in second.

For Unai Emery's side, the game was a chance to put their own pressure on the league leaders and they travelled to the capital in high spirits having beaten Real in their last league meeting at the Bernabeu.

It was Real, however, who dominated the early exchanges, and most of the crowd had yet to take their seats before Higuain got his team off to the perfect start in the third minute.

The Argentine collected a pass from the brilliant Robben and let fly, just inside the area, with an unstoppable shot which Renan could do nothing about.

Madrid's Dutchman was in sparkling form, creating chance after chance. Indeed, the former Chelsea favourite should have put his team into the lead twice soon after Higuain's opener. But Renan saved smartly to thwart the first attempt before a second opportunity saw Robben hesitate and the Valencia defence recover.

A Van der Vaart curler onto the post saw Madrid edge closer to a second goal before, gradually, the visitors came back into the game.

Valencia's own flying winger, Joaquin, provided a series of killer passes into the Madrid box only for David Villa to launch the best high into the Bernabeu stand behid the goal.

And it was Villa again who had his team's next promising chance but for Iker Casillas to save smartly low to his right.

The second-half took on a similar pattern with Real looking for an early second goal. But it was Casillas who had to look sharp to deny a powerful Baraja header from six yards after five minutes.

It was a wonderful save but better was to come from Renan shortly afterwards, as he showed tremenduos reflexes to prevent Higuain from rolling the ball into an empty net at the other end.

The miss seemed to dent Higuain's confidence as the striker launched a series of excellent chances wide, high and off the crossbar.

It was towards the final stages that Valencia were reduced to ten men with Marchena's dismissal, and it already looked as if the match was beyond them.

Yet despite the reduction the visitors finished strongly, albeit not strongly enough to deny Madrid their valuable three points. The win puts a halt to their losing league run and moves them to within nine points of Barcelona.