Barcelona: Nilmar`s ninth goal of the season gave Villarreal a 1-0 win over struggling Sevilla in the Spanish league, and 10-man Espanyol beat Sporting Gijon 1-0.
Villarreal forward Guiseppe Rossi threaded a pass through the defense and Nilmar did the rest, maneuvering around goalkeeper Andres Palop with one touch to gain the angle to slot the ball home in the 30th minute yesterday.
Villarreal remains in third place, five points behind second-place Real Madrid. Sevilla has lost four straight in all competitions and fell to ninth place.
Sevilla failed to threaten Diego Lopez`s goal in the first half, with Villarreal having the best of the few scoring chances.
Before Nilmar`s goal, the Brazil striker missed with a left-footed shot after linking up with Santiago Cazorla, who also tested Palop with a strike from inside the area.
Sevilla manager Gregorio Manzano sent on striker Alvaro Negredo and winger Diego Capel early in the second half to try and hit back. But it was teammate Frederic Kanoute who forced a diving save from Lopez with a 70th-minute header.
Lopez again blocked an attempt by Sevilla left back Fernando Navarro with less than 10 minutes to play to ensure the win.
Espanyol extended its perfect record at Prat-Cornella stadium to move four points clear of fifth-place Valencia.
After a drab first half, Espanyol was reduced to 10 men in the 52nd when defender Raul Baena was shown his second yellow card.
But Luis Garcia broke the deadlock in the 70th. Pablo Osvaldo put the Espanyol forward through and Garcia fired low into the net.
"The important thing is that the team continued looking for the win throughout the first and second half," Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino said. "We didn`t change our philosophy in any moment despite playing with 10 (men)."
Earlier yesterday, Pedro Rios scored twice to lead Getafe to a 3-0 win over Mallorca, and Malaga downed Racing Santander 4-1 after a brace by Jose Rondon.