Tue, Apr 24, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Sevilla cut Barca's lead to one point

BARCA BLUES The Andalusian side put four goals past Athletic Bilbao to maintain their hopes of winning three trophies this season as Barcelona slipped up

AFP , MADRID

Barcelona's Deco, left, duels for the ball with Villareal's Marcos Antonio Senna during their Spanish League match at El Madrigal stadium in Villareal, Spain, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AP

The see-saw season at the top of the Spanish first division continued with league leaders Barcelona going down 2-0 at Villarreal on Sunday.

Barcelona saw their lead at the top of La Liga cut back to one point after Sevilla beat Athletic Bilbao 4-1 earlier on Sunday while Real Madrid are just one point further back in third after beating Valencia 2-1 on Saturday.

The man who will have to take the blame for both of Villarreal's goals is Barcelona defender and former French international Lilian Thuram who, in this game at least, confirmed his critics' view that he is now too slow for top class soccer.

Against the run of play, Barcelona having had much the better of the first half, Robert Pires opened the scoring after 56 minutes, running free after Thuram had failed to properly execute Barca's off-side trap.

Barcelona continued to press but Thuram failed to contain Villarreal's Diego Forlan on one of the home side's counter-attacks and Marcos Garcia was left with a clear shot on goal five minutes before the end.

Ronaldinho nearly got a consolation goal for Barca in injury time but his shot hit the cross bar and their defeat leaves La Liga wide open with seven games to play.

Sevilla had thrashed Athletic Bilbao earlier on Sunday to keep up the pressure on Barca and continue their pursuit of an unprecedented treble.

"It's going to be a frantic end to the season," commented Sevilla coach Juande Ramos.

In addition to challenging for their first La Liga crown since 1946, Sevilla are also in the Spanish Cup and UEFA Cup semi-finals.

"We don't have any order of priority, we can only take one game at a time," Ramos said.

After Luis Fabiano had hit the post with a penalty in the first half, Sevilla sprang to life after the break.

Fabiano made up for his miss quickly after the break when he provided a superb defense-splitting pass for Sevilla's Russian striker Aleksander Kerzhakov to score from 15m after 49 minutes.

Antonio Puerta and Ernesto Chevanton added further goals for Sevilla before Franciso Yeste got one back for Athletic with a header after 74 minutes.

However, Sevilla were not finished and Fabiano got himself among the goalscorers eight minutes from time.

Two goals in three minutes by Brazilian striker Ewerton gave Real Zaragoza a 2-0 win over struggling Celta Vigo on Sunday and moved them up to fourth place.

Celta had the best of the early chances in the sweltering temperatures, twice going close through another Brazilian striker Nene, but Ewerton's arrival after 68 minutes changed the course of the game.

"It was like playing in an inferno," reflected Zaragoza coach Victor Fernandez, commenting about the heat.

"We lacked any sort of individual inspiration and it was an even game until Ewerton came on, but he was like a breath of fresh air," Fernandez said.

After 72 minutes, Ewerton unleashed a stunning right foot thunderbolt from outside the area to break the deadlock and then used his left foot to score Zaragoza's second.

Celta stay one place above the relegation zone despite the loss but are now only ahead of Levante on goal difference after the Valencia-based side drew 1-1 with Getafe.

Levante's Ghanaian winger Riga Mustapha stabbed a loose ball home in a goal mouth scramble after just four minutes but Getafe equalized just before the hour through David Belenguer.

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