Barcelona now boast an eight-point lead over Real Madrid after winning 1-0 at Villarreal in response to their rivals’ 1-0 loss to Sporting Gijón, Madrid coach José Mourinho’s first defeat in a home league fixture in 151 matches.
Titleholders Barcelona had to wait to make the breakthrough at Villarreal but got the goal they wanted on 66 minutes when Gerard Piqué lashed the ball high into the net following a corner. That gave Josep Guardiola’s men a huge boost in the Liga title race, with Madrid undone by a 79th-minute Miguel de las Cuevas strike from the edge of the area in their game.
Missing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Kaká and Marcelo through injury, with Xabi Alonso also out through suspension, Mourinho’s troops were unable to stave off defeat. The result thus ended the Portuguese tactician’s astonishing nine-year run, his previous home league reverse having come when his FC Porto side were beaten 3-2 by Beira-Mar on 23 February 2002.
As for Villarreal, their loss to Barcelona meant they fell three points behind third-placed Valencia, who prevailed 4-2 at Getafe thanks to four goals from Roberto Soldado.