Euro Zone: Villa's class wasted as Valencia fail at the last

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The Independent Football

David Villa's incredible season continued for Valencia on Saturday night but his 10th goal in 12 league games only earned his team a point after defender Saltor Bruno gifted Mallorca a late equaliser.

Villa, who admitted this week that he had "not closed any doors on a move away from Spain" put Valencia ahead on 47 minutes. The Spain centre-forward has until now favoured staying in La Liga but last summer he saw moves to Real Madrid and Barcelona collapse and now says: "It's a short career and I have to make the most of it".

Having seen Real Madrid buy Karim Benzema and Barcelona purchase Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Villa knows a move to either club next summer is unlikely. If his ambitions are to extend beyond Valencia he may have to look beyond Spain and once again his cool head in front of goal was let down by others all around him losing theirs.

Villa's goal should have been one of many as Valencia laid siege to Mallorca's goal at the Mestalla but the difference stayed at one and with five minutes left Bruno headed up in the air instead of out of his own six-yard box and then inexplicably gave away a penalty leaning all over Gonzalo Castro. Borja Valero scored the spot kick and Valencia's misery was compounded when another Premier League target David Silva went home on crutches with a injury to his left knee that will keep him out for the rest of the year.

It was the chasing pack's big chance to close the gap on at least one of the big two but like Valencia, Seville dropped points at home. They finished their 2-2 draw with Malaga with five forwards on the pitch but they could not come back to win after trailing 2-0 at half time.

Malaga have lost only one of their last eight games in the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium and they went ahead through Fernandez Fernando and Sergio Duda punishing Seville for glaring misses from Alvaro Negredo and Luis Fabiano.

"El Fabuloso" Fabiano made amends in the second half scoring twice but Malaga held on to prevent the win that would have seen Seville go top for 24 hours. Their disappointment was eased by news that Valencia had been equally as wasteful.

In Italy, leaders Internazionale left it late yesterday in seeing off Fiorentina at San Siro, Diego Milito's penalty five minutes from time securing a 1-0 victory. Inter thought they had gone ahead early in the second half when Walter Samuel's header was controversially ruled out for shirt tugging. Alberto Gilardino hit the post in Fiorentina's only real chance and Inter striker Samuel Eto'o continued his erratic form by wasting a good chance to seal victory.

"I have just one duty – to be honest. I don't need to win anything, not the championship, not the Champions League," the Inter coach Jose Mourinho said afterwards when asked if his side must now focus more on the Champions League rather than Serie A.

Attempting to stay on Inter's heels, Juventus slipped up losing 2-0 at Cagliari despite dominating for long periods, Nene and Alessandro Matri getting the home side's goals. Those two results saw Inter open up an eight-point cushion at the summit, but that was reduced to seven when Milan triumphed 2-0 at lowly Catania in the evening kick-off to leapfrog Juventus into second. Klaas Jan Huntelaar was the hero for the Rossoneri with two goals on the stroke of full-time to deny their second-bottom hosts.

In France Paris Saint-Germain were in inspired form beating table-toppers Auxerre 1-0 but the victory was spoiled by goalkeeper Gregory Coupet breaking his leg in the second half.

Everyone's talking about...

Diamonds are a Real Madrid reserve-team full-back's best friend and when Dutch defender Royston Drenthe lost a €5,000 diamond stud earring in training last week he was not about to zoom off in his 4x4 Audi Q5 before spending 40 minutes looking for it. The earring, possibly already in a groundsman's pocket at this point, was lost somewhere on one of the training pitches at Real Madrid's massive Valdebebas complex. Despite combing the area, Drenthe's gem was never recovered.

Players of the year

France Football named it's top 10 candidates for the Balon d'Or European Footballer of the Year to be announced tomorrow with seven of the short-list either now playing for, or having left in the summer, Real Madrid or Barcelona. Lionel Messi is expected to win the award with fellow Barca treble-winner Xavi Hernandez likely to be placed third. Real Madrid's former Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo should take second place. Didier Drogba, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney from the Premier League complete the top 10.