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Barcelona return to the top

December 05, 2005 10:11 IST

A 2-0 victory by Barcelona at Villarreal, their seventh consecutive league win, moved the champions back to the top of the Primera Liga on Sunday.

The Catalans have 31 points, the same as Osasuna who beat Malaga 2-1, but are first on goal difference.

Both of Barca's goals were a touch lucky with the first, on 23 minutes, an own goal by Villarreal defender Juan Manuel Pena after keeper Sebastian Viera parried Ronaldinho's free kick against him and into the net.

Deco's shot in the 63rd minute deflected off Pena's shoulder to fool Viera. It was Villarreal's first defeat in 10 league outings.

Barca had Mexico defender Rafael Marquez sent off two minutes from time.

The visitors did not appear to miss injured midfielder Xavi or coach Frank Rijkaard who was absent with illness.

Rijkaard's number two Henk Ten Cate said: "We have a great squad, with a lot of quality. Our style of play is always the same and I believe we are now more mature then we were last year."

Javier Aguirre's Osasuna continue to defy the odds and took the lead against Malaga when Cameroon striker Pierre Webo scored with a well-taken solo effort in the 23rd minute.

Malaga's Paco Esteban sprang the offside trap and squared for Nacho to equalise in the 37th minute, before visiting midfielder Valdo sealed the win with a header four minutes before the break.

LUXEMBURGO SACKED

Third-placed Celta Vigo have 26 points after sending Real Betis to the foot of the table with a 2-1 home victory on Saturday, when Real Madrid scraped a 1-0 win over Getafe in the Bernabeu to go fourth on 25 points.

Real's goal came from the boot of Brazil striker Ronaldo, and they survived the sending off of England captain David Beckham, early in the second half.

But the victory was not enough to save Brazilian coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo who was sacked on Sunday to be replaced by youth team coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro on a caretaker basis.

An improving Valencia moved up to 25 points, the same as Real, but go fifth on goal difference.

Valencia's early dominance saw them take the lead through midfielder Miguel Angel Angulo after 15 minutes and Spain striker David Villa added a typical poacher's strike two minutes before the break.

Argentine playmaker Pablo Aimar scored the third in the 61st minute after Villa had sped clear and laid the ball off.

Espanyol pulled back a goal through Ferran Corominas two minutes later but not even the dismissal of Valencia's David Albelda 13 minutes from time was enough to put the home side back in contention.

Villarreal are sixth while Deportivo Coruna moved up to seventh after beating nine-man Sevilla 2-0. All three sides have 23 points.

Mark Elkington
Source:
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