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Villarreal keep up pressure

Under-strength Villarreal moved into second place in the table with a 2-1 victory over bottom-placed Recreativo Huelva who have now lost four games on the trot.

Despite missing seven players including influential midfielder Marcos Senna, Villarreal had just enough to overcome a Recreativo side who are in danger of losing touch with the teams above them.

Villarreal were fortunate to go ahead when Santi Cazorla's shot from outside the area went in off a defender after 26 minutes. There were good chances for both sides before Ariel Ibagaza doubled the lead with a well-struck free-kick.

With seven minutes to go Recre pulled a goal back through a penalty converted by Adrian Colunga after Pascal Cygan brought down Marco Ruben but it was to be only a consolation.

Deportivo la Coruna moved into a UEFA Cup place after beating Almeria with Joan Verdu scoring the only goal of the game.

Almeria were on the back foot after the sending off of Alvaro Negredo for elbowing Albert Lopo and they were lucky to survive a penalty which Verdu hit against the post but it was Verdu who made amends with 15 minutes to go.

Valladolid continued their good form which has seen them beat Real Madrid and Villarreal in the last fortnight with a convincing 3-0 win over Mallorca.

Garcia Calvo gave them the lead after 28 minutes after the keeper could only parry a Pedro Leon shot.

Valladolid keeper Sergio Asenjo kept the Mallorca attack at bay with some solid blocks before the home side won with goals from Vivar Dorado and Henok Goitom on target.

At the other end of the table, Athletic Bilbao moved out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 win over fellow strugglers Numancia.

Fernando Llorente scored both goals, a header after just six minutes and then a strike on the half-hour mark, against a Numancia side who lacked a finishing touch.

The gloss was taken off Bilbao's win though with a late sending-off for defender Xabier Etxeitia for his second bookable offence.

Espanyol meanwhile lost 1-0 at home to Sporting Gijon and hosts' coach Bartolomeo Marquez's job is now hanging in the balance with the team on the edge of the relegation zone.

They fell to a fine first-half strike by Carmelo Gonzalez.

A flurry of late goals saw Malaga beat Osasuna 4-2 after the visitors had initially come back from a two-goal deficit.

Antonio Apono and Nabil Baha gave Malaga the lead after the break before Osasuna levelled through Javad Nekounam and Miguel Flano but Malaga battled forward once again and won the game with strikes from Albert Luque and Eliseu Pereira.

Late Sunday, Valencia take on Real Betis needing a win to reinforce their own championship ambitions.

Valencia have lost ground after straight losses to Racing Santander and Sporting Gijon while Betis team have won their last three games away from home.

In the late game, Atletico Madrid welcome back fans to the Calderon after playing behind closed doors for their Champions League game in mid-week due to a UEFA punishment. They play a Racing Santander side who are also in the battle for a place in Europe next season.

Saturday, Barcelona extended their lead at the top as a fine brace from Lionel Messi helped them to a 3-0 victory in Sevilla, while Real Madrid lost 3-1 at Getafe.

In a high-tempo match, Samuel Eto'o gave Barcelona the lead after 20 minutes but it was Messi who stole the show in the second half. He ran onto a ball from midfield and volleyed into the corner from 25 yards to extend Barca's lead after 78 minutes and then he completed his brace in injury time, rounding the keeper before slotting home.

Sevilla's night was made worse by the controversial dismissal of Luis Fabiano for elbowing Sergio Busquets.

Barca coach Pep Guardiola was pleased at the way Barca stepped up a gear in the second half.

“These are important points against a very strong rival. In the first half we were sloppy and took a lot of risks but after the break we were a lot better and more organised.”

Sun 30 November, 2008
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