Barcelona, Real Madrid record wins
MADRID: Real Madrid edged Valencia 3-2 to stay with Spanish leader Barcelona, which marked their last domestic game of 2009 with a 1-0 win over crosstown rival Espanyol on Saturday.
Ezequiel Garay headed Xabi Alonso's free kick into goal in the 83rd minute for Madrid's winner that came only three minutes after Joaquin Sanchez equalised for Valencia for the second time. Gonzalo Higuain scored twice while David Villa struck his league-leading 12th goal to cancel out the Argentina striker's 54th-minute opener.
Madrid stayed within five points of Barcelona, who couldn't have asked for a better sending off for their Club World Cup date against Mexico's Atlante on Wednesday as the European champion goes for their sixth major trophy since May on the heels of a sixth straight victory.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic beat goalkeeper Carlos Karmeni with a 39th-minute penalty shot into the top corner after Xavi Hernandez was fouled. Ibrahimovic's 11th league goal sent Espanyol crashing to their fourth straight defeat in the 151st meeting between the teams. Barcelona lead with 39 points, although they have played one game more than Madrid (34). Valencia stayed third with 28, Sevilla have 27 and Deportivo La Coruna 25.
Earlier, Mikel San Jose and Markel Susaeta scored second-half goals to lead Athletic Bilbao to a 2-1 win at Zaragoza. Carlos Diogo scored for Zaragoza, who have lost three straight, in injury-time. Athletic have 23 points and Zaragoza are 17th with 12 points, one behind Espanyol.
Lionel Messi watched from the sidelines with an ankle injury, but took to the field to display his Golden Ball award to the near 85,000 fans before kickoff. Barcelona broke through after the 38th, when Xavi dropped inside the area after slight contact with Jose Baena as the two dueled for a cross. Ibrahimovic tested Kameni again in the 49th before Espanyol finally began to create occassions, with Javier Marquez and Ivan Alonso getting the visitors' best by the 63rd.