La Liga Roundup, Feb. 14

Barcelona suffered its first league defeat of the season on Sunday,

losing 2-1 to Atletico Madrid to blow the title race wide open.

Atletico’s Jose Antonio Reyes dribbled past two men before

sending a long pass through for Diego Forlan, who shot first time

past Victor Valdes in the 10th minute.

Simao Sabrosa scored Atletico’s second when he curled a

freekick into the right-hand corner of the net in the 23rd minute,

while Zlatan Ibrahimovic volleyed in unmarked at the far post from

a Barcelona corner just four minutes later.

Barcelona remains top, on 55 points from 22 matches, but Real

Madrid, which beat Xerez 3-0 on Saturday, is only two points

behind. Atletico is 11th on 27 points.

“Atletico played a good game, above all in defense,” said

Valdes. “In this stadium, it’s always difficult for us.”

Earlier Sunday, Luis Fabiano scored the winner as Sevilla

beat Osasuna 1-0.

In the 35th minute Diego Capel raced down the left wing, cut

inside and crossed for the Brazil striker to score with a powerful

low header.

Sevilla has 39 points and replaces Mallorca in fourth

position.

With several first-choice defenders unavailable due to

supension and injuries, Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola played

Jeffren Suarez and Maxwell as full backs with Gabriel Milito and

Carles Puyol in central defense.

Atletico went into the game at its Calderon Stadium on the

back of having reached the Copa del Rey final in midweek.

“We were playing the best team in the world,” said Sabrosa.

“We knew exactly what we had to do in terms of tactics.”

In a frenetic game, Barcelona tested the Atletico defense in

the opening minute, Lionel Messi looping a ball through for

Ibrahimovic which goalkeeper David de Gea only just managed to

control.

Midfielder Seydou Keita suffered a muscle strain almost

immediately and Pedro Rodriguez replaced him in the eighth minute.

Barcelona technical secretary Txiki Beguiristain said the player

could be out for up to four weeks.

Barcelona enjoyed more of the possession, although it rarely

settled into its quick passing game due to Atletico’s pressure. The

hosts looked dangerous on the break, with Sergio Aguero outstanding

alongside Forlan in attack.

The Argentina forward looked certain to score when he was put

through in the 18th minute although he chose to pass to Forlan

instead and Puyol intercepted. Aguero had another chance when he

forced a save from Valdes with an effort from inside the area that

rebounded off Ibrahimovic. He then had a shot saved again after

being sent through by Tomas Ujfalusi.

Ibrahimovic tested De Gea moments later, drawing a save after

jigging past his marker and shooting low.

Aguero continued to torment Barcelona throughout the second

half and Puyol had to make a last ditch tackle on him as the

striker charged into the penalty area.

In the 79th minute, Barcelona striker Bojan Krkic replaced

Xavi Hernandez, who had been unusually subdued.

With the clock ticking down, Messi shot wide and his team’s

hopes of an equalizer vanished.

“I don’t have too many complaints to make about the team,”

Guardiola said. He added that Barcelona lost “partly because we

weren’t always well positioned when we lost the ball – we weren’t

always quite right – but partly also because of the way Atletico

Madrid played.”

Regarding the title race, the coach said: “It depends on

(Real Madrid) but it also depends on us if they are now two points

away.”

Sevilla reached the final of the Copa del Rey in midweek

after eliminating Getafe and the home side lacked energy at its

Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Osasuna looked like equalizing several times, with Walter

Pandiani heading just wide in the 18th minute and Andres Palop

having to save in the 28th when Javier Camunas shot from wide on

the left.

Sevilla hit back when Capel fed Luis Fabiano in the 20th,

Ricardo Lopez saving the Brazil forward’s shot.

Lopez had to save again moments later when Renato had a low

shot after being set up by Frederic Kanoute.

In the 55th minute, Sevilla’s Alvaro Negredo replaced the

limping Kanoute in attack and Diego Perotti came on for Capel in

the 83rd.

Jose Maria Callejon scored one goal and set up another as

Espanyol beat 10-man Deportivo La Coruna 2-0.

In the 39th, Callejon dribbled down the right and crossed for

Joan Verdu to tap in at the near post.

Callejon then made some space at the edge of the area on the

hour mark and fired home. He dedicated the goal to Daniel Jarque,

his former teammate and captain who died last year after suffering

a heart attack.

The result lifts Espanyol into 11th place on 26 points. La

Coruna remains sixth on 35 points.

Malaga beat Racing Santander 3-0 with goals from Weligton,

Salvador Caicedo and Victor Obinna. Santander’s Mohamed Tchite was

sent off in the 79th minute for dissent.

Almeria’s Fernando Soriano scored an injury-time goal to draw

2-2 with Getafe and Valladolid drew 1-1 with Zaragoza.

Also, Sporting Gijon and Valencia drew 1-1 and Villarreal

beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1.

At the Cornella-El Prat Stadium, La Coruna’s Ivan Perez came

close twice in the first half, driving wide in the eighth minute

before shooting over in the 33rd when trying to surprise goalkeeper

Carlos Kameni, before Verdu struck.

Espanyol’s Ivan Alonso had the ball in the net in the 57th

minute, only to have the strike ruled out for offside.

La Coruna’s Antonio Tomas was dismissed in the 55th minute

for elbowing Francisco Chica in the face, shortly before Callejon

scored Espanyol’s second.

However, La Coruna had a clear chance to score when Rodolfo

Bodipo was put through with only the ‘keeper to beat, but Kameni

anticipated his shot.

On Monday it’s Tenerife vs. Mallorca.