Real slip-up allows troubled Barcelona to play catch-up

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The Independent Online

Villarreal missed a chance to move to the top of the Spanish league for the first time in its history, settling for a 1-1 draw with Almeria yesterday.

Alvaro Negredo redirected Lopez Recarte's cross into the net in the 52nd minute to deny Villarreal victory.

Nihat Kahveci gave Villarreal the lead in the 13th, running onto Guillermo Franco's threaded pass before slipping his shot between the legs of David Cobeno.

"We all held out hope of finishing the day as leader, but you have to demonstrate that on the field," Villarreal manager Manuel Pellegrini said. "To get there you have to to win, and we couldn't do it. Though, it's still a good point that will keep us moving forward."

Villarreal improved to 28 points, one behing league-leading Real Madrid, which drew 1-1 with Murcia on Saturday. FC Barcelona is third with 27 points after its 3-0 win over Recreativo Huelva on Saturday.

Espanyol moved into fourth with 25 points after beating Osasuna 2-1, with Angel Martinez and Valmiro "Valdo" Lopez scoring for the visitors. Former Madrid striker Javier Portillo scored Osasuna's goal in the 75th.

Racing Santander jumped to 23 points with a 1-0 win over Valencia, which stayed with 24.

Goalkeeper Santiago Canizares misplayed Jorge Lopez's long range half-volley in the 70th as Racing stretched its three-year unbeaten run over Valencia.

Valencia didn't register a shot on target until the 77th.

Also Sunday, Pedro Lopez's injury time own-goal capped 10-man Atletico Madrid's 4-3 rally past Valladolid. Maxi Rodriguez's scored twice as Atletico moved to 24 points.

Substitute Andres D'Alessandro took advantage of the quick whistle in the 80th and scored from a free kick with Getafe goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri out of position as Zaragoza drew 1-1 with Getafe.

Francisco Sousa opened for Getafe in the 65th after the Zaragoza defense failed to deal with Esteban Granero's short cross.

Javi Fuego scored in the 80th and Mustapha Riga added two more as last-place Levante rallied from an early two-goal deficit for a 4-3 win over Real Betis.

Substitute Sebastian Taborda's 89th-minute header saw Deportivo La Coruna rally from a two-goal deficit to earn a 2-2 draw at Athletic Bilbao.

Also on Saturday, Mallorca beat Sevilla 2-1.

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