Valencia victory opens up Spanish title race
Valencia closed the gap on league leaders Barcelona
to six points after beating the reigning Spanish champions 1-0.
The hosts inflicted Barca's second league defeat in seven days with Spanish
international striker David Villa getting the only goal of the game but many
pundits will say that the Catalan club's defeat was more self-inflicted.
Villa intercepted a poor kick from Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who was just
outside his area and trying to pass to Carles Puyol, and deftly chipped it into
the net just before half time.
"I feel sorry for Victor, we are good friends when we are together in the
national side, but that's the way it goes," said Villa, who got his 15th goal of
the season on Sunday.
"We won this game in the first half and then just hung on in the second,"
admited Villa, who chose Valencia rather than the European champions Liverpool
when he moved from Real Zaragoza last summer.
Barcelona had their chances in the second half.
Valencia keeper Santiago Canizares instinctively stopped a point-blank Henrik
Larsson shot with his legs and an Edmilson header skimmed just past the post but,
despite a frantic final 15 minutes, Barca couldn't salvage a point.
"I think we were the slightly better side but we just couldn't find the net,"
Barcelona have 52 points from 23 games but Valencia are now only six points
behind after going 12 games unbeaten.
Real Madrid started the weekend in third and ended it in the same position, one
point behind Valencia, after a 2-0 win at struggling Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
Goals from Robinho and Raul Bravo maintained the Spainish giant's unbeaten
league record since the start of the year and sent the Basque side down to the
penultimate place in the Spanish first division.
"This was a Real Madrid with great personality," said coach Juan Ramon Lopez
Caro, reflecting on the fact that his team had bounced back from the 6-1 midweek
mauling at Real Zaragoza in the Spanish Cup.
One negative note for Lopez Caro was that his Uruguayan midfielder Pablo Garcia
suffered a snapped ligament in his left knee and is expected to be out for at
least six weeks.