Villarreal reclaim second spot in Liga


Madrid : Villarreal reclaimed second place in the Spanish Liga with a 2-1 win at bottom team Recreativo Huelva.

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Villarreal won Sunday with first-half goals by midfielders Santi Cazorla and Ariel Ibagaza – and thanks to Huelva’s lack of bite in attack.

Cazorla gave Villarreal the lead in the 27th minute with a long, fierce drive, which took a wicked deflection off defender Cesar Arzo. Just before half-time, Ibagaza made it 2-0 with a classy free-kick.

Adrian Colunga pulled a goal back for Huelva from the penalty spot, after Pascal Cygan had clumsily pulled down Marco Ruben seven minutes from time. But the goal came too late to save Huelva, who have just seven points from 13 games.

Villarreal now have 28, four fewer than leaders Barcelona, who convincingly thrashed Sevilla 3-0 Saturday.

Valencia moved up to third later Sunday with a heart-stopping, 3-2 win over luckless Betis – their first home win in three attempts.

Euro 2008 top scorer David Villa gave Valencia the lead in the 11th minute with a cracking left-foot volley on a centre from Edu.

Ten minutes later, young Juan Mata made it 2-0 with his promising left foot. But the fragile Edu limped off soon after, and the hosts lost their rhythm.

Betis came out for the second half breathing fire. Juanma Gomez pulled a goal back in the 57th minute. Eight minutes later, Achille Emana made it 2-2 from the penalty spot.

Valencia were against the ropes and in trouble, down to 10 men because of the harsh sending-off of Carlos Marchena in the penalty scuffle.

In the 74th minute, however, veteran Ruben Baraja made it 3-2 by heading in a perfect free-kick from Manuel Fernandes, and Valencia managed to cling on to the final lead.

The colourful win leaves Valencia one point ahead of Real Madrid, who crashed 3-1 on Saturday in Getafe.

Real are two points ahead of Sevilla, their next opponents.

Atletico Madrid moved up to sixth by thrashing Racing Santander 4-1 in Sunday’s late game.

Mohamed Tchite gave Santander a shock lead from the penalty spot, but Simao Sabrosa quickly levelled, and Sergio Aguero made it 2-1. Santander had defender Cesar Navas sent off, and Diego Forlan took advantange to score two late goals.

Osasuna are second from bottom, just one point above Huelva. Then come Numancia, who crashed 2-0 at Athletic Bilbao on two goals from new Spain striker Fernando Llorente.

Bilbao are now joint fourth from bottom, level on 12 points with Espanyol, who lost 1-0 at home to revitalised Sporting Gijon. The latest defeat was soon followed by the sack for Espanyol coach Bartolome Marquez.