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Valencia Miss Chance To Move Into Top Four

David Villa turned from hero to villain as Valencia missed the chance to reclaim their place in the top four of the Primera Liga with a 1-1 draw at Deportivo La Coruna.

Spain striker Villa put the visitors ahead after 25 minutes, but, in a bad-tempered game, was sent off in the 76th minute for what looked an innocuous challenge on Depor keeper Daniel Aranzubia. Adrian Piscu levelled three minutes later, meaning Villarreal, who beat Sporting Gijon on Saturday, claimed fourth at the end of the weekend’s fixtures.

Malaga moved into the top six with an impressive 3-1 win at Real Valladolid. Albert Luque gave the Andalusians the lead after just seven minutes, before Apono doubled Malaga’s advantage with a penalty just short of the half-hour mark. Pedro Oldoni gave Valladolid a lifeline with six minutes left, but Nacho sealed a fine win for Malaga when he lobbed home a third in the closing stages.

Almeria came from behind with 10 men to rescue a point against Recreativo Huelva in a cagey 1-1 draw at the Estadio Nuevo Colombino. The visitors were faced with an uphill struggle when Albert Crusat was shown a straight red card for a late challenge on Iago Bouzon midway through the first half, and the home side seemed destined to take the points when Javier Camunas netted just before the hour mark.

But Bouzon was penalised for an untidy challenge inside the box on Pablo Piatti and Alvaro Negredo stepped up to equalise from the spot 14 minutes from time.

Real Mallorca’s hopes of Primera Liga survival were boosted by a dramatic late 1-0 win at home to 10-man Racing Santander. Racing had defender Ezequiel Garay sent off after 49 minutes, but defended bravely until the islanders won an 89th-minute penalty and Jose Manuel Jurado slotted home the rebound after his original effort was saved by Tono.

Osasuna continued their climb towards safety with a 2-0 victory over fellow-strugglers Numancia at the Reyna de Navarro. First-half goals from Jaroslav Plasil and Masoud Shojaei inflicted a sixth straight defeat on the Soria-based outfit, leaving them at the foot of the Primera Liga table.

Much-vaunted striker Fernando Llorente made a goalscoring return to the Athletic Bilbao ranks to earn his side a 1-1 draw against Getafe. Roberto Soldado put Getafe ahead in the 16th minute with his fifth goal in his last four appearances. However, Llorente’s 40th-minute equaliser and fine all-round performance showed what a valuable asset to Joaquin Caparros’ team he is.

On Saturday, 10-man Barcelona saw their lead at the top of La Liga cut to seven points as they were shocked by city rivals Espanyol while Real Madrid ran riot against Real Betis.

Barca’s lead stood at 12 points before last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Betis, but that has been nearly halved after Espanyol ran out surprise 2-1 winners at the Nou Camp on Saturday. Former Barca player Ivan De La Pena did the damage with goals in the 50th and 54th minutes after Seydou Keita was sent off seven minutes before the break. Yaya Toure puled one back two minutes after the hour mark, but there was no comeback from the leaders this time.

There were no such problems for Madrid, who crushed Betis 6-1 at the Bernabeu, all seven goals coming in the first half. Captain Raul and Klaas Jan Huntelaar both netting braces for Madrid to add to further efforts from team-mates Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Ramos. Ricardo Oliveira had pulled a goal back for Betis, but it was nowhere near enough to deny rampant Madrid a ninth successive league win under new coach Juande Ramos.

Sevilla maintained their push for a Champions League place with a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid. The match seemed destined for a goalless draw until Jesus Navas struck three minutes from time for Sevilla, who remain nine points behind Madrid.

Villarreal climbed back into the top four after coming from behind to beat Sporting Gijon 2-1 at El Madrigal. The Yellow Submarine got off to the worst possible start when Mate Bilic gave the visitors a shock lead inside the first minute but Giuseppe Rossi responded with an equaliser almost immediately. Joan Capdevila struck what turned out to be the decisive goal shortly before half-time.