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Madrid loses, Barca opens up gap at top
by Ian Plenderleith, November 17th, 2008 7AM

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[SPAIN] Only Barcelona out of the top four teams won in La Liga at the weekend, allowing the Catalan club to open up a three-point gap at the top. Real Madrid lost, 1-0, at Valladolid, which recovered nicely from last week's 6-0 hiding at Barcelona. The league-leader itself won on the road at Recreativo Huelva thanks to an inspired showing from Lionel Messi. Valencia was beaten at home again, while Villarreal dropped points by conceding a late equalizer (2-2) at Malaga.

Valladolid's Uruguayan midfielder Nestor Cannobio scored with a sweet left-footed drive to give his team a 1-0 home win over Real Madrid, its first league defeat since the season's opening day, but coming at the end of a week when it was knocked out of the Copa del Rey by third division Irun. To compound its misery, Real had Argentine defender Gabriel Heinze red-carded two minutes from time, and is now five points adrift of Barcelona.

"We were unlucky," said under-pressure coach Bernd Schuster. "It's very disappointing to lose a match we didn't think we would lose. They never created any scoring opportunities other than their goal. We had chances to score a goal or two, but our hard work bore no fruit." Despite Spanish media forecasts Schuster's on his way out, Real's players continued to back the coach, with Heinze saying, "It's a bad patch, but there is a lot of talent and attitude here. United we can make this project work."

Barcelona stretched its lead to three points after winning at Recreativo Huelva on second-half goals from MVP Messi, with a powerful finish, and substitute Seydou Keita, who latched onto a poorly hit Samuel Eto'o shot. The win allowed it to pull away from still undefeated Villarreal, which let a 2-1 lead slip at Malaga when Helder Rosario leveled in the final minute. NJ-raised Giuseppe Rossi, with his fifth of the season and fourth in consecutive games, had put Villarreal in front early on. Its other goal came from Joseba Llorente (his sixth of the campaign) after Duda had equalized for Malaga. With Rossi and Llorente both in rich form, there was no place on the roster for Jozy Altidore.

Valencia hung on to third place thanks to Madrid's defeat, but lost its second successive game at home, 3-2 to surging Sporting Gijon, which has won five out of its last six games after losing the season's opening five fixtures. Sevilla caught up on points with both Real and Valencia, and sits in fifth place after a 2-0 win at Getafe. Diego Forlan netted a brace in Atletico Madrid's 4-1 home win over Deportivo La Coruna, moving it up to sixth, but still six points adrift of the leading five teams.

There was a double as well for Sergio Garcia as Real Betis Sevilla beat Racing Santander 3-1, while Numancia won the weekend's most dramatic game, in the 94th minute at Espanyol in a seven-goal game. Defender Carlos Bellvis came off the bench to score his first of the season and make the score 4-3, keeping his side out of the relegation zone. Within the bottom three, Athletic Bilbao beat last-placed Osasuna 2-0.

Goals scored: 35 in 10 games (3.5 per game)

 



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