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Barca held at lowly Sporting

Barcelona's record run of 16 consecutive La Liga victories came to an end at El Molinon on Saturday night as the Spanish league leaders were held to a 1-1 draw by Sporting Gijon.

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Poor defending from Gerard Pique and Gabriel Milito let Gijon striker David Barral in to score in the 16th minute and the relegation-threatened side had to withstand a barrage of Barcelona attacks for the rest of the match.

Barcelona were finally rewarded for their almost complete domination when David Villa scored with a brilliant chip with ten minutes remaining against his former club. Pedro hit the post late on but Sporting held on the deny Pep Guardiola's side all three points.

The defeat gives second-placed Real Madrid a chance to cut Barca's lead to five points with a win at Espanyol on Sunday.

Sporting had lost 1-0 at the Nou Camp earlier this season, but were later accused by Madrid coach Jose Mourinho of facilitating a Barcelona victory by resting eight first-team players for that clash.

Sporting coach Manolo Preciado defended himself vehemently against those accusations, claiming he sent out the team he thought had the best chance of getting a result at the Nou Camp. Just maybe, however, Preciado will have felt he had a point to prove in this match.

Joaquin Sanchez scored both goals as Valencia hit back from going a goal down early on to win 2-1 against Atletico Madrid, whose miserable start to 2011 shows no sign of abating.

Atletico had lost their previous four matches without managing a single goal to leave coach Quique Sanchez Flores under increasing pressure, but they gained an early advantage on Saturday evening when Jose Antonio Reyes put them ahead after just three minutes.

However, the Rojiblancos could not keep hold of the lead and Valencia drew level just before the break through Joaquin.

Diego Forlan then missed a penalty for Atletico at the start of the second half before Valencia claimed all three points when captain Joaquin netted their winner four minutes from time.

Manuel Arana capitalised on a howler by Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop to claim an injury-time winner for Racing Santander as they made a perfect start to Marcelino Garcia Toral's tenure with a 3-2 victory.

Arana lobbed the ball into an empty net after Palop had needlessly charged out of the penalty area in a thrilling match at El Sardinero.

Christian Fernandez had an unforgettable game, scoring the opener before conceding a penalty - which, luckily for him, was missed - and then getting sent off for a bad challenge - all before half-time.

Ivan Rakitic's own goal made it 2-0 to Racing before Christian's red card with Sevilla pulling one back through Federico Fazio.

The visitors levelled through Luis Fabiano's 83rd-minute penalty and appeared to be the only likely winners before Arana's late intervention.

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