Deportivo and Real Sociedad suffer slip-ups in title chase

MADRID: Real Madrid took full advantage of slip-ups by Spanish First Division title rivals Deportivo Coruna and Real Sociedad with a 3-1 win at Sevilla on Sunday that allowed them to extend their lead at the top of the table to four points. 

Deportivo crashed to a comprehensive 3-0 defeat away to an impressive Real Mallorca, while Sociedad lost out 2-1 to a cagey, but determined Barcelona at the Nou Camp. 

The results mean that Real top the table for another week on 64 points, four ahead of Deportivo and Sociedad, while Valencia are a further seven points behind. 

Valencia reclaimed the last Champions League spot thanks to a comfortable 3-0 win over a sorry-looking Alaves at the Mestalla. Celta Vigo dropped to fifth after they were held to a goalless draw at home to Valladolid. 

MID-AIR DUEL: Barcelona's Javier Saviola (left) and Real Sociedad's Bjorn Kvarme battles for the ball during a Spanish First Division match at Nou Camp on Sunday. Barcelona won 2-1.-AFPpic

At the other end of the table, Recreativo Huelva moved out of the relegation zone for the first time this season when they swept to a morale-boosting 5-0 victory over nine-man Villarreal. 

Rayo Vallecano remain anchored to the bottom following their 3-0 defeat at home to an improving Espanyol, while Alaves and Osasuna accompany the Madrid-based side in the other two relegation places. 

It was Sevilla who enjoyed the best chances in the opening minutes at the Estadio Olimpico, with midfielder Francisco Gallardo making a series of threatening runs on the left and defender Pablo Alfaro going close with a powerful diving header. 

But Real, who ensured their place in the semi-finals of the Champions League with a 6-5 aggregate victory over Manchester United on Wednesday, gradually found their rhythm and took the lead midway through the half. 

Fernando Hierro exchanged passes with Ronaldo on the edge of the area, before slipping the ball to Zinedine Zidane who chipped a deft cross over to the far post for Ivan Helguera to head in unopposed. 

Sevilla refused to buckle, though, and claimed a deserved equaliser when Gallardo headed in at the far post on 40 minutes after Jose Antonio Reyes produced a carbon copy of Zidane’s earlier cross. 

But the home side could not maintain their effort after the break and Zidane put Real back into the lead on 54 minutes. 

Midfielder Guti, who impressed throughout, chipped over the Sevilla defence into Zidane’s path and the Frenchman clipped under goalkeeper Antonio Notario into the far corner. 

Out-of-favour striker Fernando Morientes, who had replaced Ronaldo in the second half, scored the third when he poked home three minutes from time after good work by Esteban Cambiasso on the right. 

Barcelona claimed their first win in four games and did arch-rivals Real Madrid a favour in the process with their win over Sociedad. 

Argentine striker Javier Saviola scored the Catalans’ first when he pounced on a measured through ball from compatriot Juan Roman Riquelme, rounded goalkeeper Sander Westerveld and guided home into the open net on 13 minutes. 

Patrick Kluivert added a second nine minutes later when he fired in a powerful near post header after a fine cross from fellow Dutch international Marc Overmars. 

Sociedad pulled one back nine minutes from time when Turkish striker Nihat Kahveci netted with a deflected free-kick, but the Basque side were unable to turn the game around and slipped to their eighth league defeat at the Nou Camp in as many years. – Reuters 

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