Draw hampers Real chance

MADRID: Real Madrid spurned the chance to replace Barcelona at the top of the Spanish first division on Sunday firing blanks in a 0-0 draw against Osasuna in Pamplona.

Barcelona had dropped two points as they lost their 100 per cent home record with a 1-1 draw against Villarreal on Saturday but Real could not capitalise and stay two points behind the champions in second. It was only the third time Real had failed to score this season -- the other occasions being a 1-0 loss at Barcelona and a 0-0 draw with Sporting Gijon -- and it was a golden opportunity missed.

Real coach Manuel Pellegrini was without Kaka as the Brazilian recovered from a groin injury. Rafael van der Vaart coninued as the attacking midfielder behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain. With Pepe out injured for the season, Ezequiel Garay joined Raul Albiol in central defence although they were largely untroubled until the 41st minute when a Javad Nekounam header stirred goalkeeper Iker Casillas into action. Higuain had Real's best chance in the 65th minute but a strong hand from Ricardo Lopez denied the Argentine.

Osasuna have now held champions Barcelona (1-1) and Real at their Reyno de Navarra Stadium and beat them both last season in the final two games of the campaign. Osasuna needed to beat Real on the final day of last season to stay in the league but this season they are comfortably in mid-table lying 12th.

Real Mallorca moved above Sevilla into fourth place with a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao as they maintained their perfect home record with an eighth successive home victory. Julio Alvarez scored the Mallorca opener in the 49th before Aritz Aduriz netted another after 67 minutes.

New Almeria coach Juanma Lillo enjoyed a winning start as his side clinched a 1-0 win over relegation rivals Xerez. Substitute Jose Ortiz Bernal netted an 89th minute winner just three minutes after coming on.

Almeria moved three points above the relegation zone while basement boys Xerez slid towards relegation lying eight points from safety with just one win all season. Malaga were left frustrated as they twice surrendered the lead to be pegged back 2-2 at Sporting Gijon and stay third from bottom.

Deportivo La Coruna missed the chance to move level on points with Sevilla, who lost 2-1 at Atletico Madrid on Saturday, with a 0-0 draw at Real Zaragoza.