Nightmare start for Numancia coach

Numancia coach Jose Rojo Martin "Pacheta" had a forgettable debut as his side lost 2-0 at Osasuna in a vital bottom of the table match. Goals from Jaroslav Plasil and Masoud Soleimani sealed victory for Osasuna to keep them out of the relegation zone, while Numancia are rooted to the foot of the table, four points from safety. Pacheta replaced the sacked Sergio Kresic this week and had a real baptism of fire with a relegation battle against Osasuna.

Espanyol's surprise 2-1 win at Barcelona yesterday had lifted them off the bottom at Numancia's expense, so the pressure was on. Osasuna coach Jose Antonio Camacho, a former manager with Real Madrid and Spain, said in the build-up that this was his most important match since taking charge in mid-October and the hosts had a flying start with Plasil scoring after two minutes. Soleimani grabbed a second in the first half and Numancia, who beat Barcelona 1-0 on the opening day of the season, had no response.

"The good results bring more confidence, but we are doing the same amount of work as two months ago only now we are getting a bit of luck," said Camacho.

Cup semi-finalists Real Mallorca stay third from bottom despite a last gasp 1-0 win over Racing Santander with Jose Jurado scoring an 88th-minute penalty.

Malaga were expected to be fighting for survival following their promotion last season, but are knocking on Europe's door following a 3-1 victory at Valladolid. Malaga climb to fifth with the win and are just four points behind Villarreal and the UEFA Champions League spots. "We will see what we are going to play for after the next few matches," warned Malaga coach Antonio Tapa. Malaga have tough games coming up against Barcelona, Sevilla, Real Madrid and Villarreal.

The other leading sides were in action yesterday with Real Madrid crushing Real Betis 6-1 to bolster confidence ahead of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League match with Liverpool. Barcelona's surprise 2-1 home loss to Espanyol meant Real cut Barcelona's lead at the top to seven points and all of a sudden it looks like there may be a title race on.

But the UEFA Champions League is the next task in hand and Portuguese defender Pepe hopes for another goalfest at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"Liverpool shouldn't fear us. They should respect us, just like we do them. We'll have the crowd on our side on Wednesday and we'll capitalise on that," said Pepe.

Barcelona have seen their lead cut by five points in a fortnight and defender Gerard Pique admitted the league takes priority over the UEFA Champions League where Barcelona face Lyon on Tuesday. "The Champions League has more glamour because it has the prize of the best team in Europe attached to it, however, the league is the top priority," he said.

In Sunday's late matches, Spanish international David Villa went from hero to villan as Valencia's away blues continued with a 1-1 draw at Deportivo La Coruna. Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on 24 minutes with an accomplished finish but was then sent off in the 76th minute, collecting a second booking for a late challenge on goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia.

Deportivo's Adrian Lopez punished the ten-man visitors equalising three minutes later. Valencia had lost their last five away league matches but the draw will still frustrate manager Unai Emery with his team now two points behind fourth-placed Villarreal. Getafe played out a 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao.