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Barcelona closes in on Real Madrid in Spanish league

Barcelona closes in on Real Madrid in Spanish league

FC Barcelona closed to within four points of Real Madrid in the Spanish league, picking up a 4-1 win over Villarreal on Sunday while the defending champions lost to Valencia 3-2.
Bojan Krkic scored two second-half goals and set up the other two for Barcelona.
Madrid, which had been trying to maintain its seven-point lead at the top of the standings, lost at home when Javier Arizmendi scored in the 89th minute.
Arizmendi outran Fabio Cannavaro to a long ball and then got around the Madrid defender before sliding his shot past goalkeeper Iker Casillas inside the far post.
"The truth is lately we're paying for our errors, which aren't many, but we're directly paying with goals," Madrid coach Bernd Schuster said. "It's not always necessary to risk so much to create an opportunity."
Madrid still leads the league with 62 points, followed by Barcelona with 58. Villarreal, which beat last-place Levante 2-1 on Guillermo Franco's 83rd-minute goal, is third with 56 points.
David Villa scored two goals, one from the penalty spot, for Valencia, which also reached the Copa del Rey final by beating Barcelona.
Villa gave the visitors the lead in the 34th from a Madrid turnover, but Raul Gonzalez headed in an equalizer in the 35th.
Raul scored his 15th goal by tipping Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez's short pass at the penalty spot in the 56th and volleying it past Valencia goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand.
Hildebrand made up for that miss 10 minutes later when he dove to catch Sergio Ramos' header on the goal line.
Cannavaro then pushed David Silva inside the area and Villa took the penalty, catching Casillas going the other way in the 67th.
Hildebrand twice stopped shots from substitute Gonzalo Higuain _ first from a header, then on the rebound _ in the 80th, and Raul Albiol cleared an angled shot from the Argentine forward off the line with three minutes left.
The Germany goalkeeper then swiped Raul's point-blank header over the bar a minute into injury time.
Valencia defender Carlos Marchena was taken to the hospital after being hit in the head by Guti's 29th-minute free kick. The Spain international laid on the field for several minutes before being stretchered off with what appeared to be concussion.
With Barcelona already leading 2-1, Krkic pounced on a loose ball in the box in the 61st minute and rolled it under goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo. The 17-year-old striker tapped in Samuel Eto'o's pass at the far post for his seventh of the season in the 84th.
Andres Iniesta and Eto'o also scored for Barcelona, while Jonathan Sesma added a penalty for Valladolid.
"We know the quality of Barcelona and you don't have to do grand things to win," Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard said.
Atletico Madrid beat Sevilla 2-1 Saturday to improve to 50 points and extend its lead in fourth place _ the final Champions League qualifying spot _ to three points over Racing Santander, which moved into fifth after beating 10-man Recreativo Huelva 2-0.
Sevilla and Espanyol, which lost at Murcia 4-0, both have 45 points.
Krkic set up Eto'o at the far post with a cross in the 24th. It was the Cameroon striker's 11th goal of the season.
Five minutes later, Joseba Llorente drew a penalty from Liliam Thurman as Valladolid equalized. But Iniesta swerved back to reach Krkic's flick-on in the 47th before hitting under the out-of-position Asenjo.
Valladolid hit the post twice after Iniesta's goal, and Eto'o missed an empty goal in the 70th.
Krkic nearly scored an earlier goal for Barcelona, which played without the injured Ronaldinho for the third straight league game, but his angled shot was cleared off the line.
Asenjo also denied Iniesta in the 21st before stopping Yaya Toure's redirection from the ensuing corner.
Mattias Fernandez's low roller from outside the area caught goalkeeper Vladan Kujovic out of position in the 28th as Villarreal took the lead against Levante.
Miguel Angel then headed in the equalizer before Franco sidestepped in the box to score.
Substitute Sergio Orterman and Euzebiusz Smolarek maintained Racing's European aspirations with goals in the final nine minutes. Recreativo defender Martin Caceres was sent off for a poor tackle _ his second booking _ in the 64th.
Ivan Alonso scored two goals _ including a penalty _ while Abel Gomez and substitute Ricardo Perez managed the others as Murcia snapped a six-match losing streak.
Also Sunday, Alvaro Negredo's 89th-minute goal allowed ninth-ranked Almeria to draw 1-1 with Zaragoza and Mark Gonzalez scored to lead Real Betis past Osasuna 1-0.
Joseba Etxeberria's goal gave Athletic Bilbao a 1-0 win over Getafe, which ended a 12-game unbeaten streak in all competitions. Both teams have 39 points.