Barcelona's lead over Real Madrid at the top of the Primera Division is down to five points after they were held 1-1 by Sevilla in a thrilling contest at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan. La Liga's reigning champions extended their unbeaten sequence to 27 matches but this slip-up, combined with Real's victory over Hercules yesterday, has made the title race a little closer.

Andres Iniesta found Dani Alves all alone in the area as he beat the offside trap with a glorious chipped pass and the Brazil full-back squared unselfishly for substitute Bojan Krkic to slide the ball into the empty net.

However, Barcelona, having dominated the first half found themselves back to square one as Sevilla levelled four minutes into the second period. Alvaro Negredo beat Alves to the ball on the edge of the box, moved diagonally towards the byline, taking Victor Valdes with him, and chipped an exquisite cross back over for Jesus Navas, who headed into the empty net to draw the game at 1-1.

Castro penalty earns draw
Nine-man Sporting Gijon claimed a remarkable late draw against Villarreal thanks to an injury-time penalty from Diego Castro.

Villarreal looked set to put their poor recent domestic form behind them as they took a 29th-minute lead through free-scoring striker Giuseppe Rossi before then seeing Sporting lose defenders Jose Angel and Rafael Sastre to red cards.

However, there was a late twist in the tale as struggling Sporting claimed a dramatic last-gasp equaliser from Castro, who showed remarkable composure and self-assurance in the circumstances to chip his penalty down the centre of the goal.

The result means Villarreal missed the chance to move to within one point of third-placed Valencia at the top of the standings, and leaves the Yellow Submarine with just one win from their last seven league games.

Espanyol dominate
Espanyol returned to winning ways in the Primera Division this evening with a 2-0 win at home to ten-man Deportivo La Coruna to climb to fifth in the table.

The Barcelona-based side had lost six of their last seven league matches and were unable to find a way past Deportivo early on, but their task was made easier when Pablo Alvarez was shown a second yellow card minutes before half-time.

The home team dominated after that and took the points thanks to fine goals from Ivan Alonso and Joan Verdu in the final 30 minutes and moved two points above Athletic Bilbao with the win, with the Basque side away to Getafe tomorrow night.

Real Mallorca's unlikely push for Europe suffered another setback as they were held 1-1 by in-form Levante. Juanlu put the hosts in front seven minutes before half-time, but Ivan Ramis' superb free-kick drew Mallorca level early in the second half.

Malaga boosted their hopes of Primera Division survival with a plucky win at Real Sociedad this evening. The Andalusians rode their luck at times, but took all three points thanks to a goal in each half from Duda and Salomon Rondon.

Although they remain bottom of the table with ten rounds of the championship remaining, Manuel Pellegrini's side are now level on points with both Almeria and Hercules.

Osasuna double quick
Ten-man Osasuna gave their hopes of survival another boost as they followed up last week's away win over Malaga with their first victory over northern rivals Racing Santander since 2005 today.

Two first-half goals in five minutes from Kike Sola and Javad Nekounam set Osasuna on their way and Fernando Soriano made it 3-0 in the 49th minute.

Racing pulled a goal back almost immediately through Markus Rosenberg and the Cantabrian side received a further boost 15 minutes from time when Osasuna midfielder Soriano was sent off after picking up a second caution.