Eurozone: Perez defends Mourinho after attack on La Liga bias towards Barça

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Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw at Seville in La Liga last night to hand rivals Real Madrid a glimmer of hope in the title race. Jesús Navas scored the equaliser for the hosts just after half-time to leave Barça five points ahead of Real.

Lionel Messi found the net for Barcelona with a free-kick in the eighth minute but it was ruled out for an alleged infringement. Seville had a penalty appeal turned down when Didier Zokora's shirt appeared to have been tugged by Daniel Alves, before Barça took the lead in the 30th minute. Alves slipped the ball through to striker Bojan, who slotted home.

Messi then struck the crossbar with a header before seeing his set-piece saved. Seville's riposte arrived in the 49th minute, Alvaro Negredo chipping forward for Navas to level the score.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez earlier launched a passionate defence of his club's manager, Jose Mourinho, after he criticised the La Liga fixture list, saying the schedule worked in favour of their rivals Barcelona.

"Class is also earned by denouncing irregular behaviour both on or off the pitch," said Perez. "It is an example of true Madridismo to defend Real Madrid from what we believe to be unjust, irregular or arbitrary. And that is exactly what Jose Mourinho does. What Jose Mourinho says is also an example of Madridismo," added Perez.

The comments came as Real kept up the pressure on Barcelona with a 2-0 win over Hercules on Saturday. Karim Benzema scored both goals to extend his fine recent form to 10 goals in nine games. "Benzema is a great player," said fellow forward Emmanuel Adebayor. "I hope he also does this well against Lyons [in Wednesday's Champions League round of 16 second-leg tie].

In Serie A, the leaders Milan, who were knocked out of the Champions League by Tottenham Hotspur last week, continued their stuttering form as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Bari yesterday.

Gergely Rudolf put the visitors ahead in the 39th minute before Milan displayed more urgency in the second half. Although Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off for a second booking, Milan recovered in dramatic fashion, substitute Antonio Cassano scoring the equaliser.