Real Madrid moved seven
points clear at the top of La Liga with a comfortable 3-1 win
over bottom side Real Zaragoza as Barcelona could only draw 0-0
at lowly Villarreal on Saturday.
The league leaders recovered quickly from their midweek
King's Cup quarter-final exit to arch-rivals Barca and it was
Pep Guardiola's victors who seemed to suffer a hangover.
Barca's pursuit of a fourth consecutive league title is now
an even tougher task as they seek to catch Jose Mourinho's men
after yet another poor showing on the road where five draws and
one defeat has taken it's toll.
The European and Spanish champions were down to the bare
bones at the Madrigal with Pedro a late addition to their
growing injury list that includes the striker David Villa and
midfielder Andres Iniesta.
Lionel Messi lobbed just wide during a stale first half as
Barca lacked their usual zip against a side who started the day
in 17th place having won their first game in 11 attempts last
Barca threw men forward near the end, fielding Alexis
Sanchez as a substitute despite him playing with a shoulder
injury, but they could not beat home keeper Diego Lopez.
The Spanish international denied Messi in a one-on-one in
the closing minutes and with the goal gaping, Fabregas booted
the rebound high over the bar to complete a bad night for the
"The league isn't over yet, there is still a long way to
go," World Player-of-the-Year Messi told reporters.
"We just lacked a bit of luck tonight. We didn't play as
well as we can do, but we created chances and all we lacked was
Angel Lafita gave Zaragoza a surprise early lead at the
Bernabeu after a quickly-taken free-kick in the 11th minute but
thoughts of a first win since mid-October quickly disappeared.
Brazilian Kaka squeezed a low shot under Roberto to level in
the 32nd minute and Cristiano Ronaldo tapped in his 24th league
goal of the campaign at the start of the second half.
The lively Mesut Ozil netted with a fierce drive after a
slick passing move in the 56th and the whistles from home fans
against Mourinho from last weekend, appeared long forgotten.
Manolo Jimenez's side remain six points adrift at the foot
of the standings with 12 points, and are without a win in 13
Espanyol are fifth with 31 points and Athletic Bilbao sixth
on 29 after both won earlier on Saturday.
Espanyol recovered from a shock midweek King's Cup
quarter-final exit against tiny third-tier side Mirandes to beat
10-man Real Mallorca 1-0 at home.
Vladimir Weiss capitalised on an error from Mallorca's
Israeli goalkeeper Dudu Aouate to put the Catalans in front
after 18 minutes, but they failed to make the extra man count
when Aouate was harshly sent off just after the break.
Spain striker Fernando Llorente scored a hat-trick as cup
semi-finalists Bilbao came from behind to win 3-2 in a pulsating
encounter at Rayo Vallecano.
The powerful front-man nodded in the equaliser, controlled a
long ball and turned his marker to put them 2-1 up, and headed
the winner for his 11th league goal this season.
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