Villarreal, Atletico slip in Primera Liga

February 18th, 2008 - 2:05 pm ICT by admin  

Madrid, Feb 18 (DPA) Champions League hopefuls Villarreal and Atletico Madrid have slipped up at home, letting down their fans again, and leaving the battle for third and fourth place wide open. Villarreal were held to a 0-0 draw by well-drilled Racing Santander, Atletico were beaten 1-2 by 12th placed Athletic Bilbao later Sunday.

These results leave Villarreal in third place, with 43 points from 24 games. Atletico stay fourth with 41. In fifth place are Espanyol, another team in poor home form.

Espanyol crashed 2-4 at home Saturday to lively Sevilla, who thus move up to sixth - now with hopes of snatching a Champions League berth again.

Villarreal should have gone ahead against Santander with a late penalty, but Giuseppe Rossi surprisingly put his spot-kick wide.

Santander defender Ezequiel Garay - who has allegedly already signed for Barcelona for next season - then hit the Villarreal crossbar with a header.

“We just can’t continue,” Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini told the media, “to give away points at home.”

The Villarreal draw gave Atletico Madrid the chance to snatch third place by beating Bilbao in Sunday’s late match.

Atletico made the perfect start, Sergio Aguero heading them in front after just five minutes.

But Atletico never do things the easy way, and they allowed the Basques to turn the result around just before half time, with quick fire goals from youngsters Markel Susaeta and Fernando Llorente.

Ten minutes into the second half Atletico midfielder Raul Garcia picked up a second yellow card - and the hosts characteristically fell to pieces without him.

Surprise package Almeria moved up to seventh spot Sunday - their highest placing ever - with a 1-0 win over lowly Murcia. The only goal was headed in just before half time by Real Madrid reject Alvaro Negredo, Almeria’s player of the season. Santander, for their part, remain eighth after the draw in Villarreal.

In ninth place now are Valencia, who played out a scrappy 0-0 draw away to 13th-placed Getafe later Sunday.

The clash between former Barcelona Dream Team associates Michael Laudrup and Ronald Koeman was a bad-tempered affair, in which Valencia star striker David Villa was sent off in the 55th minute for a spiteful foul on Ruben de la Red.

Getafe pressed strongly towards the end but failed to break down a solid Valencia defence.

Zaragoza are 10th after a Saturday defeat 1-2 against second-placed Barcelona, Mallorca are 11th after a late 1-1 draw in Valladolid.

Betis are now 14th (seventh from the bottom) after a shocking 2-1 win over leaders Real Madrid Saturday. They are level on 28 points with Valladolid and Recreativo Huelva, who beat Deportivo Coruna 3-2 in a pulsating clash.

Osasuna are fourth from bottom, on 26, after throwing away an early lead to lose 2-1 away to bottom side Levante.

Deportivo are third from bottom, on 24 points, after their late defeat in Huelva. Then come Murcia on 23 and Levante - revitalized but still deeply troubled - on 16.

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