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Suddenly it looks like a race in La Liga
by Paul Kennedy, February 23rd, 2009 7AM



[SPAIN] Barcelona lost for the first time since opening day when city rival Espanyol beat 10-man Barca, 2-1, at the Camp Nou Stadium on Saturday on a pair of goals by former Barca midfielder Ivan de la Pena. Barca's lead over Real Madrid, which was 12 points a week ago, is down to seven.

Barcelona lost Seydou Keita to a red card for a late challenge in the 38th minute, and de la Pena made his former club pay with two goals -- the first one a header and the second on a lob -- four minutes apart in the second half.

The only goal Barca was muster was Yaya Toure's free kick in the 62nd minute. The win snapped Espanyol's 14-game winless streak and moved it out of last place.

"No one said this would be easy," Guardiola said. "But we are still in a good position and tomorrow we will pick ourselves up and we'll get everyone back on track."

Real Madrid beat Real Betis, 6-1. Dutchman Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Raul scored two goals apiece, while Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Ramos also scored. All the goals came in the first half.

La Liga's surprise this season is Malaga, which moved into fifth place with a 3-1 away win at Real Valladolid on Sunday.

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