MADRID: Villarreal beat Recreativo Huelva 2-1 for its first Spanish league win in four games on Thursday and revived their hopes of an appearance in European competition next season.

Villarreal fell behind at El Madrigal Stadium to a first-minute goal by Javi Camunas but then fought back through scores from Joseba Llorente and Ruben “Cani” Gracia to rise into fifth place.

Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid’s European chances suffered a blow when they crashed 5-1 at Racing Santander and slipped to seventh place. Christian Fernandez, Ezequiel Garay and Mohamed Tchite all scored for Santander before halftime, with Atletico’s Diego Forlan converting a second-half penalty before Pedro Munitis and Nikola Zigic added goals for the home team.

Also, Espanyol continued their recent improvement with a 3-0 win at fellow struggler Sporting Gijon, while Mallorca beat Valladolid 2-0.

After 32 games with six to play, Barcelona lead the league with 81 points, while Madrid have 75. Sevilla follow with 57, two more than Valencia. Villarreal were next

with 52, Malaga on 50, and Atletico and Deportivo La Coruna on 49. Recreativo, who began the game with only one point from six games, stunned Villarreal when midfielder Camunas seized on a loose ball and fired home after 55 seconds.

Villarreal, recently eliminated from the Champions League quarter-finals by

Arsenal, equalised in the

39th minute through striker Llorente’s deft chip from

the edge of the area. The goal was Villarreal’s first in four league games.

Midfielder Cani brought Villarreal victory with an angled shot in the 67th which was adjudged to have crossed the line despite Recreativo players’ angry protests.

Barcelona beat third-placed Sevilla 4-0 on Wednesday, a day after Madrid edged Getafe 3-2. This week’s other results were: Osasuna 2, Malaga 3; Deportivo 2, Almeria 0; and Real Betis 1, Valencia 2.

Italian Cup

ROME: Serie A leaders Inter Milan were knocked out of the Italian Cup on Thursday when a 1-0 semi-final second leg win over Sampdoria fell short of overturning a 3-0 deficit from the teams’ first meeting.

In the May 13 final in Rome, Sampdoria will face Lazio who completed a 4-2 aggregate win over Juventus on Wednesday. It will be Sampdoria’s first cup final appearance since 1994 where they defeated Ancona while, for Inter, defeat meant their run of four successive final spots came to an end. Inter were champions in 2005 and 2006 and runners-up in 2007 and 2008. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the only goal of the second leg with a superb 27th-minute volley although the Swedish international was unfortunate not have celebrated a second when he saw a 37th-minute lob come back off the post.