Sevilla go top as rivals falter

Sevilla edged Sporting Gijon in a seven-goal thriller to assume leadership of La Liga this evening. The result moved Manolo Jiminez's side one point clear of previous pacesetters Atletico Madrid, who lost at Valladolid.

Sevilla required every ounce of their resilience to recover a two-goal deficit in front of their own fans. A quick-fire brace from Mate Bilic had put Sporting 2-0 up inside 20 minutes, and he completed his hat-trick on the stroke of half-time to equalise after Ernesto Chevanton, Fredi Kanoute and Enzo Maresca had turned the game in the hosts' favour.

Mali striker Kanoute then scored the only goal of the second half on the hour mark to seal a 4-3 victory.

Pereira denies Barça
Pep Guardiola continues to wait for his first league win in charge of Barcelona, after his title hopefuls threw two vital points away in a 1-1 home draw with Racing Santander today. Lionel Messi broke the deadlock with a 70th-minute penalty, but Barça failed to take advantage and Jonathan Pereira equalised six minutes later to deny the hosts victory.

One point from six is a poor start for Guardiola, who will expect better when Barcelona begin their UEFA Champions League tilt at home to Portuguese giants Sporting on Tuesday. Atletico Madrid are also in Champions League action on Tuesday at PSV Eindhoven - their first game in the competition since the 1996/97 season - but their preparations were spoiled by a 2-1 defeat at ten-man Valladolid.

Guardiola was clearly unhappy with the opening 1-0 defeat by Numancia, and showed he is not afraid to make big decisions by dropping France forward Thierry Henry. Bojan, Andres Iniesta and Messi all started on the substitutes' bench, probably due to their midweek international exertions, making way for Sergi Busquets, 20, and 21-year-old forward Pedro Rodriguez. Gerard Pique, recruited from Manchester United in the summer, also made his debut in defence.

Daniel Alves came agonisingly close to his first Barcelona goal, with his chip hitting the crossbar in the first minute of the second half. But Messi, recently criticised by his hero Diego Maradona for being too greedy, opened the scoring from the penalty spot. However, Pereira restored parity soon after, deflecting in a drilled free-kick to prompt jeers at Camp Nou.

Ten men take three points
Atletico Madrid were without striker Diego Forlan and defender Jonny Heitinga, and Valladolid took full advantage of their opponents' weakened side by scoring after just three minutes through Vivar Dorado.

Valladolid had Pedro Lopez sent off for two bookable offences on 21 minutes, but they still went two goals up seven minutes later through a penalty. Substitute Kun Aguero pulled one back for Atletico, but the hosts bravely held on.

Champions Real Madrid go in search of their first win of the campaign against new boys Numancia at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday. Los Merengues lost 2-1 at Deportivo La Coruna a fortnight ago and come up against a Nuamancia team full of confidence after beating Barcelona.