La Liga

Spanish La Liga Roundup, Oct. 31

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MADRID (AP)

Gonzalo Higuain scored two goals Saturday to give 10-man Real Madrid a much-needed 2-0 win over Getafe that also trimmed Barcelona's lead at the top of the Spanish league to one point after the defending champions drew 1-1 at Osasuna. Higuain put Madrid ahead 1-0 in the 53rd minute, chesting down Marcelo's pass from the left and taking his time before shooting. He scored his second three minutes later, running on to Karim Benzema's pass and shooting low past goalkeeper Oscar Ustari. Madrid defender Raul Albiol was sent off in the 27th minute. It was an improved performance by Madrid after Tuesday's humiliating 4-0 loss to third-division club Alcorcon in the first leg of the fourth round of the Copa del Rey, a result that brought speculation that coach Manuel Pellegrini was about to be fired. "For me, it was very important to give the Bernabeu a game played with spirit," said Pellegrini. "From a spiritual point of view, I was looking for a game like this." Barcelona defender Gerard Pique scored an injury-time own-goal on a cross from Javier Camunas for Osasuna to steal a point. Seydou Keita broke the stalemate in the 71st after a swift passing move by Barcelona around the area saw the Malian control Carles Puyol's cross from the right and score from close range his sixth goal of the season. "Both teams had chances," Camunas said. "When Barcelona went ahead it looked like they were comfortable ... But you have to have faith." Barcelona leads with 23 points. Madrid has 22. Sevilla is third with 19 after a 2-0 victory at 19th-place Xerez. Atletico Madrid lost 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao to remain near the bottom of the standings. Madrid's preparations for the game were overshadowed by speculation over the future of Pellegrini following a run that also included losses to AC Milan and Sevilla. Against Getafe, midfielder Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez was left out of the lineup after a reported altercation he had with the Chilean coach during the Alcorcon game. Xabi Alonso and Lassana Diarra played in central midfield. With Cristiano Ronaldo recovering from injury and Raul Gonzalez on the bench, Higuain and Benzema led the attack and Kaka was in support. In the 27th, referee Mateu Lahoz sent Albiol off for pulling Roberto Soldado down on the edge of the area. Despite the numerical advantage, Getafe's right flank looked vulnerable and Madrid started exploiting it. Higuain nearly managed a hat trick when a counterattack put him clear again and his shot hit the post. Barcelona went into its game off the back of a 6-1 victory against Zaragoza in the league and a 2-0 win over Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey. However, the European champions didn't look their fluent selves in the first half at Reyno de Navarra stadium. Osasuna pressured the midfield, leaving playmaker Xavi Hernandez struggling to link with his forwards. The hosts carved out chances in the first half. In the 11th, Osasuna's Carlos Aranda was put clear but missed from close range. In the second half, Barcelona started to take control and Leo Messi threatened as he saw more of the ball. At Capin stadium, Sevilla lacked the quality that has made it a league contender this season and was kept at bay until the 42nd. Spain striker Alvaro Negredo did well to control a long pass before heading over goalkeeper Renan Brito. Luis Fabiano scored the second in the 89th. Atletico coach Quique Sanchez Flores took charge of first league game since replacing Abel Resino, and his team was unlucky not to equalize with Athletic. In an intense game at San Mames, both sides enjoyed chances in the first half with Atletico's Maxi Rodriguez hitting the post in the 13th. Athletic went ahead through Javier Martinez's header in the 19th. In the second half, Atletico enjoyed plenty of possession although its forwards failed to convert a series of chances. Both Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero struck the post with long-range efforts, and Forlan also had a low shot pushed round the post by goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz. With only one win in eight league games, this is the worst start to a season for Atletico since 1953-54. On Sunday, it's: Villarreal vs. Tenerife; Espanyol vs. Valladolid; Mallorca vs. Racing Santander; Zaragoza vs. Almeria; Malaga vs. Valencia and Deportivo La Coruna vs. Sporting Gijon.

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