Surprise package Espanyol take Atletico scalp

Madrid: Espanyol continued their impressive start to the campaign with a 3-2 win at Atletico Madrid on Saturday to move two points behind third-placed Villarreal in the Spanish first division.

A 77th-minute winner from striker Pablo Osvaldo sealed only a second away win of the season for Espanyol, who had twice been pegged back by Atletico in a pulsating match.

Espanyol took a 21st-minute lead with Luis Garcia crashing in a penalty off the crossbar after Portuguese winger Simao had handled.

Atletico equalised on the stroke of half-time with Portuguese international Tiago, on loan from Juventus, firing home after a goalmouth scramble from a corner.

Cameroon goalkeeper Carlos Kameni had a busy start to the second half as hosts Atletico pressed but Espanyol playmaker Joan Verdu fired his team into a fortunate 53rd-minute lead to stun the home fans.

Argentine Sergio “Kun” Aguero levelled again for Atletico on 65 minutes, however the visitors continued to attack and Argentine-born Osvaldo, a five-million-euro signing from Bologna in the summer, scored a terrific winner 13 minutes from time.

Espanyol, who have a perfect 18 points at home, now lie four points ahead of fifth-placed Valencia while Atletico are five points behind in sixth.

Earlier veteran Spanish international Marcos Senna celebrated becoming Villarreal`s all-time record league appearance holder with a fine opening goal as his side won 3-0 at 10-man Real Zaragoza on Saturday to close to within five points of league leaders Real Madrid.

The 34-year-old Senna, a Euro 2008 winner with Spain, made his 220th league outing for Villarreal to beat the previous best of Argentine Rodolfo Arruabarrena and scored a superb goal to boot, firing in a long distance shot in the eighth minute.

Spanish international winger Santi Cazorla, who along with Senna was left out of Spain`s World Cup winning squad, doubled Villarreal`s lead on 17 minutes and Brazilian international forward Nilmar weighed in with his eighth league goal of the season on 65 minutes.

Zaragoza had been reduced to ten men shortly before the third goal went in with Italian defender Mateo Contini sent off for a second bookable offence.

“It was fundamental to win this match,” said Villarreal coach Juan Carlos Garrido. “It was a tough place to come despite what the league table said and we knew it would test us. We were concentrated from the beginning and fortunately we got the two early goals.”

The win sees third-placed Villarreal close the gap on Barcelona and Real Madrid, four and five points ahead respectively, who face off on Monday in the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou. Zaragoza prop up the table as new coach Javier Aguirre waits for his first win in charge.

In other matches, Sevilla crashed to their second successive home defeat with Getafe coming from behind to snatch a 3-1 win at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Saturday.

Sevilla took the lead through Mali forward Frederic Kanoute on 29 minutes but two goals in as many minutes saw Getafe turn the game on its head.

Manu del Moral levelled from the penalty spot on 57 minutes after a handball from Abdoulay Konko and two minutes later Miku Flores put Getafe in front before Pedro Rios clinched the points on 74 minutes with a fine goal.

Sevilla stay down in seventh, seven points behind Villarreal, with new manager Gregorio Manzano struggling to make his mark.

The big game in Spain takes place on Monday night when champions Barcelona host league leaders Real Madrid at Camp Nou in an eagerly-anticipated first Clasico of the season.

Barcelona have won the last four meetings between the two sides on their way to winning back to back league titles, however, Real are hoping coach Jose Mourinho can bring an end to their losing streak and win his maiden Clasico.

Unbeaten Real are one point above their bitter rivals and an open attacking game is expected from two teams that have been plundering goals of late.

“We are a point ahead in the league but we won`t be settling for a point at Camp Nou,” promised Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas.

Bureau Report

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