Madrid: Barcelona are on course for a third
successive league title after a 1-0 win at Villarreal moved
the double champions eight points clear of bitter rivals Real
Madrid in the title race with just eight games left.
Spanish World Cup winner Gerard Pique scored a 67th
minute winner as Barcelona capitalised on Real`s surprise 1-0
home loss to unfashionable Sporting Gijon yesterday, which
ended coach Jose Mourinho`s infamous 150 game league home
Barcelona needed a heroic late save from goalkeeper
Victor Valdes to clinch all three points and take a huge step
towards the 2010/11 league title.
"It is an important step towards the title," said Pique.
"We just have to keep on going now. Real Madrid will never
give up but we have everything in our hands."
Madrid host Barcelona on the weekend April 16/17 at the
Santiago Bernabeu, but Mourinho openly admitted that the title
race was virtually over after his side surrendered their 100
percent home record with a 1-0 loss against Gijon.
Miguel de las Cuevas stunned Real with a 78th minute
winner as Mourinho lost his first home league match in over
nine years with his last league home loss back in February
2002 when his FC Porto side lost 3-2 at home to Beira Mar.
"Luck is a part of football and our opponents had it all,
while we didn`t have any," said Mourinho
"We had Cristiano (Ronaldo), Marcelo, (Karim) Benzema and
Xabi (Alonso) missing and had to play a bit more direct
tonight. We had lots of goalscoring chances from two or three
metres but they just didn`t go in."
The return of Argentine international forward Gonzalo
Higuain, out of action with a back problem since late
November, was the only positive on a terrible night for Real,
who must pick themselves up for Tuesday`s Champions League
quarter-final first leg against Tottenham Hotspur at the
The Gijon loss was a real boon for Barcelona, who started
Lionel Messi started on the bench with coach Pep Guardiola not
taking any chances on his leg injury ahead of the Champions
League quarter-final first leg at home to Shakhtar Donetsk on
Italian striker Giuseppe Rossi had two chances early on
but was foiled by the heroics of Barca goalkeeper Valdes.
With several new faces starting, Barcelona were a shadow
of themselves and did not create a major chance until two
minutes before half-time.
Teenage midfielder Thiago Alcantara, 19, fed David Villa
and the Spain striker was about to shoot only for the alert
Jose Catala to save the day with a last ditch challenge.
Barcelona picked up their game in the second half and
Villa showed great control to turn his man but his snapshot
fizzed wide of the post.
Messi came on for Seydou Keita on 52 minutes to lift
Barcelona, but the inspiration came from Pique who controlled
a cross on his chest before volleying home the winner.
Valdes pulled off a wonder save in stoppage time to stop
Santi Cazorla`s thumping drive and the goalkeeper was
congratulated by his celebrating team mates after the final
Villarreal`s second home defeat of the season sees them
fall to fourth, three points behind Valencia who beat Getafe
4-2 on Saturday.
Valencia striker Roberto Soldado bagged a second half
quadruple to down his old club Getafe as Valencia came from a
goal down to win 4-2 on Saturday and move above Villarreal
Manu del Moral had put Getafe into a 12th minute lead but
Soldado, who joined Valencia from Getafe for 10 million euros
in the summer, had a sensational second half scoring a
20-minute hat-trick (46, 64, 66) before adding his fourth on