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Barca attack picking up steam

Barcelona 5 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Mar 13, 2011

Barca struggle, Villarreal held

La Liga leaders Barcelona struggled to break down Sevilla and dropped two valuable points as they were held to a 1-1 draw having gone ahead.

•  Saturday's round up

Bojan had opened the scoring after Dani Alves calmly slipped the ball to the side to allow the 20-year-old to slot into the empty net. Lionel Messi then hit the bar with a header before being injured in a collision with goalkeeper Javi Varas, but recovered to appear for the second half.

However, Sevilla levelled the scores within five minutes as Alvaro Negredo's cross found Jesus Navas on hand to nod home. Barcelona hit the bar again through Andres Iniesta, who also had a shot cleared off the line, but Sevilla hung on to deny them and allow Real Madrid to close the gap to five points.

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 freescoring striker Giuseppe Rossi before then seeing Sporting lose defenders Jose Angel (65 minutes) and Rafael Sastre (90) 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 spot-kick down the centre of the goal.

Real Mallorca's unlikely push for Europe suffered another setback as they were held 1-1 at 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. The visitors rode their luck in the closing stages, though, as Vicente Iborra was denied by the crossbar and goalkeeper Dudu Aouate pulled off a fantastic save from Jefferson Montero.

Espanyol returned to winning ways with a 2-0 win at home to 10-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 half an hour and moved above Athletic Bilbao with the win, with the Basque side away to Getafe.

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, with a 3-1 success.

Two goals in five first-half 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 a second caution.

Osasuna were not to be denied though and they held on to record back-to-back victories for the first time in over a year, having last week claimed a first away victory since January 2010.

Malaga boosted their hopes of survival with a plucky win 2-0 at Real Sociedad.

The Andalusians rode their luck at times, but took all three points thanks to a goal in each half from Duda and Salomon Rondon. And although they remain bottom of the table with 10 rounds of the championship remaining, Manuel Pellegrini's side are now level on points with both Almeria and Hercules, and just two adrift of 17th-placed Sporting Gijon.

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