Kanoute keeps Sevilla in touch
Substitute Frederic Kanoute headed the winner for Sevilla who overcame a resurgent Villarreal 3-2 to keep themselves in touch with Barcelona at the top of the Spanish league on Sunday.
Villarreal proved tough competition though and responded to Luis Fabiano's opener after nine minutes with goals from Robert Pires and David Fuster. Fabiano equalised almost immediately and then Kanoute, still not fully fit and starting the game on the bench, scored a crucial winner to maintain the four-point distance from the champions.
Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez felt his team was not as sharp as they should have been after playing in the UEFA Champions League in midweek. "We can have no excuses about playing in three competitions and it is now that we have to show how strong we are. We need to be able to change the chip quickly and be concentrated," he said.
Valencia's star-studded strike force were responsible for a 3-1 victory over Real Zaragoza. Juan Mata put Valencia ahead after 17 minutes with David Villa and Pablo Hernandez also adding to the lead before half-time.
In the second half, Valencia had further chances but the only goal came from Zaragoza midfielder Abel Aguilar. "It was not a very fluid game but we were able to control it and get the win," said Valencia coach Unai Emery. The win leaves Valencia in fourth place, five points behind leaders Barcelona.
Sporting Gijon have their eyes set on a place in Europe after beating Espanyol 1-0 thanks to an early goal from Mate Bilic. Espanyol travelled to Gijon on the back of a seven-match unbeaten run but they conceded after just three minutes with Bilic deflecting a Diego Castro shot over the line.
Athletic Bilbao beat Racing Santander 2-0 to condemn the home side to their third consecutive defeat. Racing showed the greater desire and were controlling the midfield through Jose Moraton and Mehdi Lacen but crucially they lacked a cutting edge. When Carlos Gurpegui headed home against the run of play Racing's confidence quickly evaporated and they struggled to battle back.
The victory was assured for Athletic when Lacen felled Ion Velez in the area and Andoni Iraola converted the spot-kick. On Saturday, 10-man Real Madrid survived a late fightback by Atletico Madrid to win 3-2 and keep the pressure on Barcelona.
In an action-packed derby at the Calderon, Kaka gave Real the lead after just five minutes. Chances came and went for both sides but Real were more clinical with Marcelo doubling the advantage with an acute drive with his weaker right foot.
Sergio Aguero was introduced in the second half and after running through on goal was brought down by Sergio Ramos who was dismissed. However, Real went further ahead through Gonzalo Higuain after 73 minutes before Atletico launched an assault which saw Diego Forlan and Aguero both score.
Real coach Manuel Pellegrini said: "In the first half, Atletico hardly caused us any trouble and then we still had everything controlled until Ramos was sent off. We have to improve because we lack consistency but I have a good feeling about the team."
Youngster Pedro Rodriguez scored a brace as Barcelona kept up a one-point lead over Real with a 4-2 win over Real Mallorca. Barcelona went ahead through Pedro after a delightful back-heel from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Jose Nunes levelled for Mallorca, heading home at the far post from a corner but Barcelona scored twice in the run-up to half-time. Pedro scored again and then Thierry Henry grabbed his first goal after an injury-plagued start to the season.
Mallorca were unable make any real inroads after the break and substitute Lionel Messi increased Barcelona's advantage from the penalty spot. There was still time at the end for a consolation from Alhassane Keita. "It wasn't all bad," said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. "Last year nobody gave us any chance and each step that we made was met by surprise, but this year there is no room for surprises."