Barcelona leads by nine heading into clash at Real Madrid
Barcelona remains the favorite to
land its first Spanish Primera Liga title since 1999 despite seeing its
advantage over second-place Real Madrid reduced to just nine points
following the latest round of matches.
The league-leaders needed two late goals to rescue a dramatic, 3-3, home
draw against short-handed Real Betis while Real struggled for a 2-1
victory over relegation candidates Albacete at Carlos Belmonte Stadium.
The gap between the top two sides could be reduced to six points if Real
can defeat Barca in a showdown April 11 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Betis went in front on a goal by Joaquin Sanchez in the 12th minute, but
saw defender David Rivas red-carded in the 15th minute for blatantly
pulling down Barca's Deco in the penalty box.
Samuel Eto'o scored the resulting penalty kick but Betis was up two
goals by the 62nd minute thanks to Ricardo Oliveira and Sanchez.
However, Barca upped the tempo and was rewarded when Eto'o and Giovanni
van Bronckhorst scored in the final five minutes to earn their side a
Real fell behind when Pablo Redondo scored for Albacete in the ninth
minute but first-half goals by Ivan Helguera and Michael Owen proved
enough to earn Wanderley Luxemburgo's side all three points.
The race for the final two Champions League spots remains much closer
than the battle at the top.
Fourth-placed Betis is tied at 49 points with Espanyol and Sevilla,
which picked up three points Sunday and remained one point behind
Villarreal after a 3-1 win against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
Espanyol was up against an energetic Racing Santander side at El
Sardinero Stadium but still came away with a 3-1 victory to move into
Talismanic striker Raul Tamudo put the visitors in front from the
penalty spot, only to see Yossi Benayoun equalize in the 35th minute.
Daniel Jarque headed Espanyol back in the lead just prior to halftime
before Maxi Rodriguez wrapped things up in the 48th minute.
Sevilla is sixth after they overcoming last-place Numancia 1-0 at Ramon
Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
Despite dominating the game, it took the hosts 69 minutes to score the
all-important goal, which came from the boot of Brazilian midfielder
Meanwhile, Numancia look doomed as it remains anchored at the bottom of
the standings, 11 points adrift of safety.
Atletico Madrid is one place and one point behind Valencia after
thrashing relegation-haunted Mallorca, 4-0, at Vicente Calderon Stadium.
Midfielder Gonzalo Colsa opened the scoring in the 26th minute and the
prolific Fernando Torres added a second on the hour after coach Hector
Cuper's men had Sergio Ballesteros red-carded.
Salva Ballesta scored in the final five minutes to pile on the misery
for Mallorca, which finished the match with nine men as Mark Iuliano
also was ejected.
A resurgent Deportivo La Coruna team is only four points off the final
Champions League berth after securing a 1-0 triumph at Levante.
Spanish striker Diego Tristan fired in the only goal of the game in the
40th minute for his ninth strike of the season.
Malaga and Getafe tied, 1-1, at La Rosaleda Stadium - a result which
inches them further clear of the bottom four. Victoriano Nano levelled
matters 13 minutes before the break after Fernando Baiano had given the
hosts a deserved 14th-minute lead.