Barcelona crashes against Villarreal in Spanish League

Associated Press

Madrid, January 10:

FC Barcelona slumped to a 3-0 defeat against Villarreal and its lead in the Spanish league was cut to seven points on Sunday. Uruguay’s Diego Forlan scored twice in the 18th-round match to inflict Barcelona’s second loss of the season, and encourage immediate pursuers Real Madrid and Valencia that they can still overtake coach Frank Rijkaard’s team in the title race. Madrid downed crosstown rival Atletico 3-0, courtesy of two goals by Ronaldo and another by Santiago Solari, while defending champion Valencia beat Levante 2-1 on Saturday.

Madrid handed Atletico its first loss at home this season and continued the unblemished start of new coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo. The Brazilian led the 29-time Spanish league champ to victory over Real Sociedad in his debut on Wednesday - a six-minute encounter which completed a match abandoned in December because of a bomb scare.

Barcelona had 42 points, seven more than Madrid and Valencia. Both teams have an identical goal difference but Madrid won their only head-to-head encounter this season in October. Espanyol was fourth with 33 points. Sevilla was another point back.

In Sunday’s other games, Fredson Camara scored twice with headers to help Espanyol over Osasuna 4-1. Elsewhere, Japan striker Yoshito Okubo scored and also had an assist on his debut for Mallorca in a 2-2 draw with Deportivo La Coruna, while Zaragoza downed Real Betis 1-0. Other results were: Real Sociedad 0, Albacete 2; and Racing Santander 2, Malaga 1.

Italian Serie A

ROME: Palermo held defending league champion AC Milan to a goalless draw, dropping Milan four points behind leaders Juventus. Juve, which saw its lead cut to two by Thursday’s draw at Parma, restored its advantage beating Livorno 4-2 on a pair of goals by Mauro German Camo-renesi and clinched the so-called “Winter title” with one round to go.

Juventus increased its point total to 43 points after 18 matches. Udinese held third place with 34 points by beating Cagliari 2-0 while Inter Milan scored three goals in the final two minutes plus injury time to rally for a 3-2 home win over Sampdoria at San Siro. For Inter it was its third straight victory and gave it undisputed control of fourth place, 13 points behind Juve.

In other matches, Vicenzo Montella scored twice to claim a share of the league scoring lead with Inter’s Adriano with 14 and lead AS Roma over last-placed Atalanta 2-1.

Elsewhere, Lazio downed Fiorentina 3-2; a first-half goal by Alberto Gilardino gave Parma a 1-0 win; Bologna beat Chievo Verona 3-1; Lecce and Reggina drew 1-1; and Messina beat Brescia 2-0.