Villarreal loses ground in Spanish race

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Villarreal lost 2-0 at Valladolid to remain four points off the lead in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Updated: December 04, 2007 15:41 IST
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Villarreal lost 2-0 at Valladolid to remain four points off the lead in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Third-place Villarreal, which has been enjoying the best start to a season in its history, lost to goals by strikers Joseba Llorente and Victor Fernandez for its first defeat in five games.

Llorente scored with a powerful header in the 19th minute from midfielder Sisi Gonzalez's cross. Victor poked home Jonathan Sesma's low pass in the 57th for his sixth goal of the season.

In a late game, Athletic Bilbao beat Valencia 3-0 to gain its first victory at Mestalla stadium for 20 years.

Also, Atletico Madrid rose to fourth place with a 2-0 victory at Real Betis.

Other results were: Getafe 2, Levante 1; Mallorca 1, Murcia 1; Recreativo Huelva 2, Zaragoza 1; and Deportivo La Coruna 1, Osasuna 2.

After 14 rounds, defending champion Real Madrid leads with 32 points, while FC Barcelona and Villarreal follow with 28. Atletico has 27, one more than Espanyol.

On Saturday, Madrid beat Racing Santander 3-1, Barcelona drew 1-1 at Espanyol and Sevilla lost 1-0 at Almeria.

The games were preceded by silence or somber music as a mark of respect for the Spanish civil guard who was shot and killed on Saturday in southwest France by suspected members of Basque separatist group ETA.

Valencia's recently appointed coach Ronald Koeman saw his team's fourth home defeat of the season, four days after it was eliminated from the Champions League.

Bilbao midfielder Fran Yeste scored with a curling free kick from the edge of the area in the 33rd minute, with striker Fernando Llorente adding the Basque team's second goal with a header in the 61st.

Llorente doubled his tally in injury time, prompting Valencia fans to air their frustration by whistling club president Juan Soler.

Atletico striker Diego Forlan controled Sergio Aguero's pass on his chest before rifling home to open the scoring against Betis in the 34th minute.

Midfielder Raul Garcia sealed the victory with a left-footed shot in the 90th.

Betis' defeat left it in 19th place, leading the club hours later to announce the dismissal of coach Hector Cuper, who took charge less than five months ago.

Last-place Levante lost its seventh straight away game of the season at Getafe in a match overshadowed by an accident to Levante captain Inaki Descarga.

Descarga clashed heads with Getafe's Ruben De La Red in the 41st minute, and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher and taken to a hospital in an ambulance.

The 31-year-old defender was later described by news agency Efe as being out of danger and requiring no assistance with his breathing.

Levante scored first in the 15th minute when Mustapha Riga hit home the rebound after his penalty was parried by goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri.

Getafe replied through goals in the 62nd and 90th minutes from Braulio Nobrega.

Murcia is winless in five games following its draw at Mallorca. Inigo Velez gave Murcia the lead with a 24th-minute volley, with Achille Webo leveling for the hosts in the 62nd.

Struggling Recreativo, which started its game with Zaragoza as the division's lowest scorers, scored twice before halftime to move out of the relegation zone.

Midfielder Carlos Martins scored in the 25th and 41st minutes after Diego Milito had given Zaragoza a 22nd-minute lead with his sixth goal of the season.

Osasuna ended a three-game winless streak with a narrow victory which left Deportivo in the relegation zone.

Czech Republic midfielder Jaroslav Plasil scored Osasuna's opening goal in the 47th, his first for the club.

Osasuna goalkeeper Ricardo Lopez was carried off the field on a stretcher in the 81st after colliding with a post as he made a save. His replacement, Juan Elia, was immediately beaten by Deportivo substitute Ruben Castro's header.

However, striker Eduardo "Dady" Fernandes scored Osasuna's 88th-minute winning goal from a free kick.

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