Villarreal holds Barcelona to 1-1 in La Liga

Updated: 04 January 2010 13:50 IST

Spanish league leader Barcelona allowed itself to be caught by Real Madrid after being held to 1-1 by Villarreal on Saturday.

Madrid:

Spanish league leader Barcelona allowed itself to be caught by Real Madrid after being held to 1-1 by Villarreal on Saturday.

Barcelona leads with 40 points, three more than Real Madrid, which meets Osasuna on Sunday.

Valencia, a 1-0 winner against Espanyol, has 32 points and Sevilla 30 after losing to Atletico Madrid 2-1 as the league resumed after the winter break.

After Thierry Henry's first-time volley struck the crossbar, Pedro Rodriguez knocked in the rebound in the seventh minute for Barcelona at Camp Nou.

But David Fuster judged his run perfectly to tap in Ruben "Cani" Garcia's looping cross at the far post for the equalizer in the 51st minute.

"We knew this was the worst team for us to play at the start of the year, we all know Barcelona has won everything ... and we're very happy with the draw," Fuster said. "I think our goal in the second half did them a lot of damage."

With Lionel Messi resting in the stands, Barcelona's attack was led by Rodriguez, Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Despite the early goal, Villarreal settled into its passing game and Barcelona did not dominate possession. Villarreal midfielder Marcos Senna was particularly effective at breaking down the host's attacks.

Fuster appeared to have beaten goalkeeper Victor Valdes when he met Cani's cross from the right but his header sent the ball bouncing over the crossbar.

Diego Lopez saved Henry's close-range header at the far post in the 24th and Rodriguez nearly scored again soon after when he slid in at the far post, just missing the France striker's low cross.

Referee Gonzalo Vazquez, tough throughout, booked Villarreal's Ivan Marcano for diving in the area just before halftime, although replays showed Daniel Alves appeared to drag the midfielder down.

Andres Iniesta replaced Jonathan dos Santos in midfield in the 58th and nearly scored within minutes with a powerful shot that Lopez blocked.

Bojan Krkic replaced Rodriguez in the 86th.

Giuseppe Rossi nearly snatched a win for the visitor in the 87th but Carlos Puyol cleared the striker's shot off the line.

In Madrid, Atletico and Sevilla struggled to be fluid in a high-tempo game.

With the home side's Sergio Aguero sidelined due to injury, youth team regular Ibrahim Balde played in attack alongside Diego Forlan.

In the 25th, Forlan shot just wide after Jose Antonio Reyes burst out of defense to set him up. Forlan missed again early in the second half with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Renato put Sevilla ahead in the 44th, heading in from Diego Perotti's corner.

At the start of the second half Forlan showed his lack of form again when he misjudged a run into the area, although when the ball bounced off goalkeeper Andres Palop it then rebounded off retreating defender Ivica Gragutinovic into the net.

Sevilla's Aldo Duscher was sent off 20 minutes from the end following his second yellow card, for a two-footed challenge. Atletico struggled to make the numerical advantage count until Antonio Lopez met Simao Sabrosa's cross four minutes into injury time to secure the side's fourth win of the season.

At its Mestalla Stadium, Valencia dominated possession despite missing injured midfielders David Silva and Pablo Hernandez. Espanyol was overpowered in midfield for much of the game and was particularly vulnerable down its left flank.

The host had a string of half-chances in the opening minutes. Juan Manuel Mata's cross in the 14th minute found Miguel Brito, although the defender fluffed his shot. Moments later, Ever Banega fed David Villa down the right and the striker's shot hit the side-netting.

However, though Valencia controlled the game for long spells, its attack lacked bite and struggled to create clear chances.

Espanyol broke in the 31st against the run of play, leading to a shot from Javier Marquez that goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez blocked.

Villa appeared certain to score early in the second half when he controlled a long pass, went past two defenders and shot, forcing Carlos Kameni to make an excellent save. The goalkeeper thwarted Villa again moments later, saving with his leg.

However, as the clock ticked down, Valencia's defense looked increasingly unsettled by Espanyol's occasional counterattacks.

Facundo Roncaglia shot just wide in the 63rd and Luis Garcia also came close 10 minutes later, leaving his shot too late and allowing Sanchez to save.

Nicola Zigic went on as a substitute in the 63rd minute and headed in Joaquin Sanchez's long cross from the right in injury time.

Also on Sunday, it's: Sporting Gijon vs. Malaga; Getafe vs. Valladolid; Racing Santander vs. Tenerife; Almeria vs. Xerez; Zaragoza vs. Deportivo La Coruna and Mallorca vs. Athletic Bilbao.

Topics : Football Bayern Munchen
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