Barcelona beats Villarreal in Spanish League

Juan Manuel Pena scored an own-goal in the first half and deflected Deco’s strike after the interval on Sunday to help FC Barcelona beat Villarreal 2-0 in the Spanish league.

The win at Villarreal was Barcelona’s seventh straight in the league and ninth overall. It also ended Villarreal’s 13-game unbeaten streak in the league and Champions League and completed a good week for Ronaldinho, who was voted European player of the year on Monday.

Surprising Osasuna kept up the pressure on the leaders with a 2-1 win at Malaga. Striker Achille Webo and winger Valdo Lopes scored first-half goals.

Osasuna’s win was its 10th in 14 games and keeps the team behind Barcelona on goal difference—each with 31 points.

Also, it was: Espanyol 1, Valencia 3; Sevilla 0, Deportivo La Coruna 2; Cadiz 1, Zaragoza 2; Alaves 0, Mallorca 3; and Racing Santander 2, Real Sociedad 2.

Celta is in third points, five points behind the leaders.
Real Madrid and Valencia are next with 25 points, while Villarreal, Deportivo and Sevilla have 23.

On Saturday, Ronaldo scored and David Beckham was ejected in Real Madrid’s 1-0 win over neighbour Getafe, leading to coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo’s dismissal the following day.

Barcelona, which had scored 28 goals in its previous eight games, relied more on grit than flair to overcome Villarreal in an abrasive encounter in which Pena played an unlucky role.

The visitors took the lead in the 24th minute when the Bolivia international inadvertently deflected the rebound after goalkeeper Sebastian Viera had only parried Ronaldinho’s curling, bouncing free kick.

Pena then helped with Barcelona’s second goal in the 63rd minute when Deco’s fierce drive from outside the area hit him and flew past Viera.

Barcelona’s Mexican defender Rafael Marquez was ejected in the 88th minute after receiving a second yellow card.

The Catalan team was playing its first game without Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez, who tore a cruciate knee ligament on Friday and will be sidelined for six months. His teammates took the field in T-shirts carrying the message “Cheer up. We’re with you” in Catalan.

Xavi’s replacement, Thiago Motta, was carried off on a stretcher in the 71st minute after making a tackle which earned him a yellow card. Motta missed most of last season with a knee injury.

Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard was absent from the game with the flu.

Osasuna’s Webo collected a back-header by fellow striker Savo Milosevic and ran on to steer the ball home for his team’s opening goal in the 23rd minute.

Malaga midfielder Nacho Perez leveled in the 37th, but Valdo scored the winning goal four minutes later with a header from Milosevic’s cross from the left.

Valencia gained its third straight win and moved up to fifth place.

Miguel Angel Angulo opened the scoring in the 15th minute at Espanyol’s Lluis Companys Olympic stadium after receiving a short pass from Vicente Rodriguez.

David Villa doubled the lead with his ninth goal of the season in the 43rd after a pass from Vicente was deflected into his path by Espanyol goalkeeper Carlos Kameni. Pablo Aimar added a third on the hour when he seized on a pass from Villa and shot past Kameni following a counterattack.

Espanyol reduced the deficit three minutes later through midfielder Ferran Corominas.

Valencia captain David Albelda was then ejected for a foul on forward Luis Garcia.

Sevilla’s eight-game winning run came to an end against Deportivo, which took the lead in the 25th minute through Diego Tristan’s twice-taken penalty.

In ensuing protests, Sevilla midfielder Enzo Maresca was ejected for sarcastically applauding the referee.

Midfielder Victor Sanchez added Deportivo’s second goal direct from a free kick just before halftime.

Sevilla was reduced to nine men when Brazilian defender Daniel Alves was also sent off in the 67th minute, shortly before substitute Sebastian Taborda missed another penalty.

Deportivo’s win marked a happy return for its coach Joaquin Caparros, who joined the club in the off-season after spending five years with Sevilla.

Zaragoza eased the pressure on coach Victor Munoz by beating Cadiz and gaining its second victory of the season.

Enrique Ortiz headed home for Cadiz in the 16th only for midfielder Ruben “Cani” Gracia and Brazilian striker Ewerthon to score twice in three minutes midway through the second half.

Mallorca continued its recent improvement with an emphatic victory at Alaves courtesy of a goal in each half by striker Victor Casadesus and another by Italian defender Mark Iuliano.

Lowly Racing Santander staged a second-half comeback to draw with Real Sociedad. Midfielder Alvaro Novo and striker Oscar De Paula scored for Sociedad in the 21st and 51st minutes. Santander rallied through substitute Antonito Ramiro in the 68th and an own goal by midfielder Mikel Alonso in the 88th.

Sociedad substitute Gari Uranga was ejected in the 80th.

Also on Saturday, Celta Vigo downed lowly Real Betis 2-1, and Athletic Bilbao drew 1-1 with Atletico Madrid. - Sapa-AP