Valencia play despite unexpected death

Associated Press

Madrid, January 17:

Defending champion Valencia played its Spanish league match on Sunday despite the sudden death of a player’s eight-month-old daughter, and leader FC Barcelona needed a late goal from Samuel Eto’o to edge Real Sociedad 1-0.

Spanish soccer federation officials considered postponing the match at Osasuna, but referee Gonzalez Vazquez decided to play despite the death of Valencia defender Marco Caneira’s infant daughter.

Caneira, 25, did not play in the match, which started eight minutes late and ended in a 0-0 draw. The Portugal international was reportedly flown back to Valencia to be with his family.

At the Camp Nou, Eto’o made up for an early missed penalty by heading in the match-winning goal in the 80th minute. The Cameroon international hit the post with a penalty kick in the third minute, but his late header off a corner kept the Catalan powerhouse firmly in first place with 45 points, seven more than Real Madrid, which beat Zaragoza 3-1. Valencia is next with 36 points.

Sociedad played with 10 men after midfielder Xabier Prieto was ejected in the 62nd minute.

Also on Sunday, it was: Levante 2, Villarreal 4; Albacete 0, Racing Santander 0; Real Betis 2, Mallorca 0; Deportivo La Coruna 1, Numancia 1; and Athletic Bilbao 1, Espanyol 1. Raul Gonzalez, Ronaldo and Michael Owen scored for Madrid, which won for the third straight time under Vanderlei Luxemburgo.

Italian Serie A

ROME: Goals by Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka helped defending champion AC Milan beat third-place Udinese 3-1, lifting the Milan powerhouse within two points of league leader Juventus.

The Turin team was held to a 1-1 draw in a late match at Cagliari when a header by Gianfranco Zola in the closing minutes evened a 54th-minute goal by Juventus’ Emerson. Juve has 44 points.

Emerson scored with a short-range header off a cross by Pavel Nedved in one of the few offensive actions of the visiting team. Antonio Langella was denied a goal by consecutive great saves from Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon before the winning header by Zola.

Elsewhere, Vincenzo Montella scored two goals to rally AS Roma to a 2-2 draw at Chievo Verona.

Two goals by Luca Toni earned Palermo a 3-1 win at Lazio, and Parma missed two penalty kicks and needed an injury-time goal by Alberto Gilardino to defeat Lecce 2-1. Parma got its first goal from Australia midfielder Mark Bresciano.

Also, Sampdoria was held to a 0-0 draw by Bologna at Genoa; Livorno beat Messina 3-1, and lowly Atalanta and Siena settled for 1-1 at Bergamo.

English Premiership

LONDON: Tim Cahill’s late goal lifted Everton to a 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough, moving the Toffies to within three points of Manchester United. Boudewijn Zenden gave ‘Boro a 1-0 first-half lead.

With the Premier League title nearly conceded to Chelsea, the race for the next five spots has become the focus.

Chelsea padded its first-place lead to 10 points on Saturday with a 2-0 win at Tottenham. Arsenal, following a 1-0 loss at Bolton, has 48 points, followed by Manchester United with 47, Everton with 44, Liverpool with 37 and Middlesbrough with 36.

Fulham got an injury-time goal from Papa Bouba Diop to beat West Brom-wich Albion 1-0. The Baggies stayed on the bottom with 13 points, topped by Southampton with 15 and Norwich with 16. Fulham moved up to 25 points and into 15th place, just above Blackburn.