Mourinho home joy as Real close gap on Barca

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Madrid, Feb 20 (AFP) Portuguese coach Jose Mourinhocelebrated nine years unbeaten in the league on home soil ashis Real Madrid team defeated Levante 2-0 at the SantiagoBernabeu to close to within two points of league leadersBarcelona.

First half goals from French forward Karim Benzema andPortuguese centre-back Ricardo Carvalho yesterday helped Realmake it a perfect 12 home league wins and keep the pressure onBarcelona in the title race.

It also meant Mourinho extended his personal unbeatenhome league run with FC Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Realto nine years with his last league home defeat back onFebruary 23, 2002 when his Porto side lost 3-2 to Beira Mar.

Barcelona, beaten 2-1 by Arsenal in their midweekChampions League match, will hope to respond with a home winover Atletic Bilbao on Sunday to restore their five-point leadat the summit.

"We don''t depend on ourselves and really the pressure ison us in second, not on the team at the top," Mourinho said.

"I don''t know if I will watch Barcelona v Athletic (Bilbao) onSunday. We are travelling (to Lyon) on Monday so perhaps Iwill eat out with the family."

Mourinho rested Mesut Ozil, Xabi Alonso, and EmmanuelAdebayor with Tuesday''s Champions League match in Lyon inmind, but his side were still too strong for a Levante sidethey had thrashed 8-0 in the Kings Cup.

"We gave a rest to (Mesut) Ozil and Xabi (Alonso).

Everyone knows they will play against Lyon, who have had 24hours more rest than us," added Mourinho.

With just six minutes gone Argentine di Maria dribbledpast three defenders before crossing to give Benzema an easytap-in for only his third league goal of the season.

Di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo all went closebefore Madrid got their second from a set-piece five minutesbefore the break.

Ronaldo floated in a cross from the left and compatriotCarvalho volleyed home from close range as Levante got theirback line all wrong.

Levante, two points above the bottom three, had won theirlast three league outings but hardly troubled stand-in Realgoalkeeper Antonio Adan, deputising for the suspended IkerCasillas, with the 23-year-old having a comfortable game onhis Real home league debut.

German international midfielder Sami Khedira had thechance to make it 3-0 early in the second half but didn''t geta good connection on his shot and goalkeeper Gustavo Munuasaved. MORE (AFP) PM

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