Little Numancia, firmly rooted to the foot
of the Spanish first division, stunned mighty Barcelona by holding the
leaders and Champions League contenders to a 1-1 draw.
Howevr, the result meant that Barcelona were still able to increase
their lead over bitter rivals Real Madrid to eight points after Real
slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Deportivo La Coruna.
On an icy pitch, which had been cleared of 80 lorry loads of snow in the
run-up to the match, Barca struggled to impose their slinky passing game
and were behind just before half-time.
Juanlu scored with an acrobatic effort past goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
However, Barca were back on level terms just after the restart when
Xavi's corner was met by Mexican defender Rafael Marquez who got ahead
of two defenders to score.
Playing without Michel Salgado, Ivan Helguera, flu-stricken Raul and
Ronaldo, with an injured foot, Real Madrid were trailing after just
eight minutes at Deportivo.
A cross from the right by Sergio fell for Luque who beat goalkeeper Iker
Casillas. Five minutes later, it was 2-0 to Deportivo when Francisco
Pavon put through his own goal.
Deportivo could have added to their total but Real were indebted to
Casillas who kept the score down with a string of fine saves.
To add to their problems, Real also saw Zinedine Zidane limp off after
28 minutes with a right knee injury.
Barcelona-based Espanyol continued to press their claims to compete in
Europe next season when they beat struggling Albacete 2-1.
Espanyol coach Miguel Angel Lotina was confident enough of beating their
visitors to the Montjuic Olympic stadium that he employed three men up
front from the outset.
His decision was justified after just four minutes when Maxi Rodriguez
opened the scoring by hammering home a Dani Garcia cross for his 10th
goal of the season.
Raul Tamudo put Espanyol further ahead after 22 minutes, finding the net
after Albacete keeper Raul Valbuena could only push away a Daniel Jarque
Espanyol nearly went three up when their Brazilian Fredson hit the post
just before half time.
Albacete got one back after 54 minutes when Antonio Pacheco waltzed past
the Espanyol defenders before scoring but the goal served to shake
Espanyol out of their post-break complacency and they shut up shop for
the rest of the game.
Espanyol move up to fourth ahead of Sunday's games.
Levante came from behind to halt their recent slide and get a useful 2-1
away win at Real Mallorca.
After a torrid first half, both sides stepped up a gear after the break.
Mallorca drew first blood when Luis Garcia drilled the ball past Levante
goalkeeper Juan Luis Mora from right on the penalty spot
Former Barcelona striker Sergio Garcia then equalised for Levante 13
minutes later, after some good work down the right wing by the
ever-dangerous Ivorian winger Felix Ettien.
Ettien was again the service provider for Jofre Gonzalez, another Barca
old boy, to head home Levante's winner ten minutes from time.
Mark Iuliano nearly equalised for Mallorca on the whistle but Mora just
managed to turn away the rasping shot for a corner.
The loss leaves Mallorca deep in relegation trouble, second from bottom.