MADRID (AP) Barcelona stumbled for the second consecutive week but it still gained ground at the top of the Spanish league.
A day after being held to a 2-2 home draw against Celta Vigo – giving its nearest challengers a chance to move closer – the Catalan club saw its advantage at the top strengthen after second-place Valencia lost 1-0 to 10-man Getafe on Sunday.
Valencia had a chance to cut Barcelona’s lead to two points, but it left the match against midtable Getafe five points behind after conceding a second-half goal by Markel Bergara.
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Atletico Madrid gained ground on Saturday by defeating Real Sociedad 2-1, but fourth-place Real Madrid missed its chance after drawing 0-0 at Athletic Bilbao. Fifth-place Sevilla won to get within eight points of the lead.
Valencia hadn’t lost in 16 games in all competitions this season, and hadn’t been held scoreless since a 0-0 draw against Atletico Madrid in the third round. It had won nine straight before a league draw against Barcelona last weekend.
”We have to move on and try to starting winning again as soon as possible,” Valencia midfielder Dani Parejo said.
Valencia played with an extra man from the 25th minute at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez as Mauro Arambarri was sent off for a foul that prompted his second yellow card in a four-minute span. The Uruguay midfielder had been shown his first card in the 21st after another foul.
”We are thrilled to be able to win against a team which had been playing so well,” Bergara said. ”We knew it was going to be extremely difficult, and to win after going down a man so early, it makes us very happy.”
Valencia struggled to create significant scoring opportunities despite the extra player, while Getafe kept threatening on counterattacks.
Bergara netted the winner with a shot from outside the area in the 66th. The ball changed direction after hitting a defender, fooling Valencia goalkeeper Neto.
Valencia nearly equalized less than 10 minutes later when Parejo struck the post with a free-kick shot that was barely redirected by Getafe goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
Guaita also made a great save on a long-range shot by Carlos Soler in injury time.
It was the third straight home win for Getafe, which moved to eighth in the standings with 19 points.
Real Betis lost 1-0 at Las Palmas to extend its winless streak to six games in all competitions.
The defeat came only a few days after Betis’ demoralizing elimination to second-division Cadiz in the Copa del Rey.
Forward Jonathan Calleri scored a 19th-minute winner for Las Palmas, which snapped a five-game winless run.
It hadn’t won in the league since the fourth round. It remained in the relegation zone despite the win.
Betis was in 11th place.
Leganes scored three goals in the final 20 minutes to defeat Villarreal 3-1 and halt a four-game losing streak.
The southern Madrid club moved from 11th to seventh in the standings, only one point behind sixth-place Villarreal.
The last league win for Leganes had been against Athletic Bilbao in October, although it recently had two Copa del Rey victories against second-division club Valladolid in the Round of 32.
Daniel ”Raba” Rabaseda put Villarreal ahead in the 60th at Butarque Stadium, but the hosts recovered with goals by Diego Rico in the 72nd, Nabil El Zhar in the 81st and Gabriel Pires in injury time.
Leganes had scored only once in its last four league games.
EIBAR WINS AGAIN
Eibar comfortably defeated Espanyol 3-1 for its third straight win in the league.
The result moved the Basque Country club to 13th place. It has 17 points, one more than Espanyol.
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