Lacklustre Real lose further ground to Barca
A lacklustre Real Madrid lost further
ground to Barcelona at the top of the table when they were held to a 0-0
draw at Villarreal in the Primera Liga on Sunday.
The home side, who had lost their previous three league games, dominated
the encounter against Real who appeared to have their minds on next
week's decisive Champions League clash against AS Roma.
The result means that Real are now nine points behind Barca, easy 4-0
winners over Malaga on Saturday, and level with Espanyol, who claimed a
valuable 1-0 victory away to Real Zaragoza earlier on Sunday.
Espanyol striker Raul Tamudo marked his return from a month-long injury
lay-off by scoring the winner on the half hour when he clipped in on the
half-volley after controlling a fine cross from fellow forward Dani.
Last season's champions Valencia are a further point behind in fourth
after a flattering 1-0 win at Albacete on Saturday.
Sevilla bounced back from their 4-1 defeat at Osasuna last week and
moved into fifth place when they continued their fine run of form at
home with a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao.
Deportivo Coruna hung on to their eight-year unbeaten record at Racing
Santander by the skin of their teeth when a last-gasp strike from
Uruguayan centre-forward Walter Pandiani earned them a 2-2 draw.
Real Madrid headed to Villarreal without a string of first-choice
players as they kept one eye on Wednesday's match against Roma.
Zinedine Zidane remained in Madrid to receive treatment on a back injury.
Raul and Roberto Carlos spent the game on the bench.
Although it was Villarreal who dominated the early exchanges it was
Real's Michael Owen who created the first clear chance of the game
midway through the first half.
The England striker darted into the area, went past two defenders and
then slipped a neat pass through to the unmarked Ronaldo, but the
Brazilian took too long over his shot and was closed down by the defence.
England team mate David Beckham hit the bar with a trademark free kick
from two metres outside the area on the half hour, but Real never looked
comfortable against their more organised opponents.
New signing Luciano Figueroa combined well with fellow Argentine Juan
Roman Riquelme on several occasions as the two created problems for the
Real defence and forward Antonio Guayre sliced wide 10 minutes before
The home side continued to dominate in the second half and Real had
keeper Iker Casillas to thank for keeping them in the game when he
blocked a sharp volley from young midfielder Santi Cazorla after some
fine work from Riquelme.
Beckham and Ronaldo were taken off midway through the half but Real
continued to stutter and Villarreal thought they had grabbed the win 11
minutes from time when Figueroa had the ball in the net only to find the
goal was disallowed for a borderline offside.
Real Mallorca produced the fightback of the day when they scored three
goals in the final 10 minutes to claim a 3-2 win at home to fellow
strugglers Numancia, a result that lifted them off the bottom of the