Barcelona in lead after Real held by Athletico Madrid

March 8th, 2009 - 2:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, March 8 (DPA) Barcelona are now six points ahead in the Spanish Liga after Real Madrid were held 1-1 by lively crosstown rivals Atletico Madrid.
Barca Saturday defeated Athletic Bilbao and now are six points ahead of Real. Barca’s first win in four games leaves them with 63 points from 26 games, six more than Real.

Barca coach Josep Guardiola, true to form, refused to get carried away with the win.

“It is just one game,” he said. “We have corrected the things that we were not doing well, but we might lose again and create doubts.”

Guardiola singled out Samuel Eto’o for special praise. The Cameroon striker was keen to score after going a month without a goal, but was twice denied by the woodwork.

“He will score against Olympique Lyon,” said Guardiola, referring to Tuesday’s Champions League round of 16 showdown against the French champions.

Young midfieler Sergio Busquets, who headed in Barca’s first goal, said that “we really had to win tonight.”

The game in the Camp Nou was a dress rehearsal for the May 13 King’s Cup final between the two teams, to be played in Valencia.

In the 17th minute Bilbao playmaker Fran Yeste missed a clear chance to put the visitors ahead. Just 30 seconds later, Xavi sent over a perfect free-kick for Busquets to score his first league goal.

In the 32nd minute Barca were given a dubious penalty for a supposed foul by Carlos Gurpegui on Andres Iniesta. Lionel Messi made no mistake from the spot, with his trusty left foot.

The one-way traffic continued into the second half. Man-of-the- match Iniesta hit the Bilbao post; Eto’o hit the woodwork twice; Thierry Henry came close to making it 3-0 three times.

The downside for Barca was that captain Carles Puyol twisted his ankle and will be out for around three weeks.

In Madrid, meanwhile, Real were prevented by Atletico from scoring their 11th straight league win.

In fact, Atletico should have beaten Real for the first time since 1999 - and would have done so had they been sharper in front of goal.

Atletico coach Abel Resino said that “we leave the Bernabeu with the taste of defeat… We shouldn’t have missed so many chances.”

Real counterpart Juande Ramos said that “we have our morale intact, and will continue to battle for the league,” while Real sporting director Pedja Mijatovic claimed that “it was a fair draw.”

In the 39th minute Diego Forlan deservedly put Atletico ahead with a fierce right-foot drive, after Sergio Aguero had broken free down the left.

As so often in the past 10 years, Atletico wasted good chances to bury Real. And in the 57th minute Klaas Jan Huntelaar made it 1-1 from an offside position after being set up by substitute Gonzalo Higuain.

Atletico left the Bernabeu complaining about the referee, after a good penalty claim by Aguero against Sergio Ramos had been turned down.

Later Saturday, Villarreal consolidated themselves in fourth place with a tight 1-0 home win over luckless Espanyol. The only goal was headed in by Villarreal defender Fabricio Fuentes, in the 20th minute.

Espanyol dominated the second half but Luis Garcia missed a penalty for them in the 66th minute.

Villarreal are now just two points behind third-placed Sevilla and five points ahead of fifth-placed Atletico. Espanyol, in contrast, stay second from bottom and in massive danger.

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