Barcelona one point from title after Espanyol win

Mighty Barcelona moved to within a point of a third successive Spanish league title with a 2-0 win over Espanyol in the Catalan derby.

Updated: May 09, 2011, 08:18 AM IST

Barcelona: Mighty Barcelona moved to within a point of a third successive Spanish league title with a 2-0 win over Espanyol in the Catalan derby.

Goals from Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique took Barcelona to 91 points, eight ahead of Real Madrid, who stayed alive in the title race with a 6-2 win over Sevilla on Saturday.

Barcelona, who have a superior head-to-head record over Real, will be crowned champions if they avoid defeat against Levante on Wednesday.

A Real failure to see off Getafe on Tuesday will also be enough for the championship celebrations to start.

"The later that Barca win the title, the better," said Cristiano Ronaldo who scored four times in Real`s demolition of Sevilla to take his season`s league tally to 33, two better than Barca star Lionel Messi.

Barca started slowly on Sunday, appearing to suffer a hangover from their Champions League semi-final against Real where they came out on top in a tumultuous double header.

Espanyol were still in the hunt for a place in the Europa League despite a dismal run which had seen them win just once in six games.

It became seven as Barca slowly cranked up their customary passing game and started to find cracks in the defence.

Pedro Rodriguez tested keeper Carlos Kameni with a strike from 20 yards and then Iniesta had a shot from the edge of the area before he made the break through.
The Spain international jockeyed his man, making space for himself, and then fired passed Kameni.

Any hopes of an Espanyol comeback suffered a blow at the start of the second half when poor defending at a corner allowed Pique to steal in and head home at the near post.

"We had an excellent first half although after the first goal we relaxed a bit," said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

"In general terms it was a good game against a side who always cause us problems. The league is now very close and it is down to us."

Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino was satisfied his side did their best.

"I am proud of the performance and the way the team tried their hardest. Although the result was bad we have to take positives from the game," he said.

Valencia are strong favourites to finish third following a 0-0 stalemate between Mallorca and Villarreal.

A brace from Roberto Soldado and a Jonas Goncalves goal gave Valencia a 3-0 win over Real Sociedad and now they are five points clear after a lethargic performance from Villarreal on Sunday.

Mallorca started the brighter but Giuseppe Rossi hit the post on the counter attack. After the break Nilmar for Villarreal and Pierre Webo for the home side had shots well saved before the game petered out into a draw.
Villarreal coach Juan Carlos Garrido blamed his side`s sluggish performance on tiredness after playing in the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday.

"We had little time to recover and it was clear in the second half that we were not at our best but the team battled well against a side who were very motivated," he said.

"We can say that we have got a point which takes us closer to a place in the Champions League although obviously a win would have been better."

Athletic Bilbao moved up to fifth in the table with a 3-2 win over Levante but Atletico Madrid crashed 3-0 at home against a rejuvenated Malaga who recorded their fourth successive win.

Almeria`s survival dream came to an end as a 2-0 win for Getafe gave them only their third victory of the year and took them out of the relegation zone.

Hercules` future is also looking bleak as they are now six points from safety following a 3-2 defeat at home by Racing Santander.

Bureau Report