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Barcelona title hopes hit by away blow

VALENCIA, Spain — Barcelona’s bid to win back their Spanish league title from Real Madrid suffered another setback with a 1-1 draw away to struggling Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Real lead second-placed Barcelona by six points ahead of Sunday’s late match at home to Villarreal.

Frank Rijkaard’s Barca have won just three times away from the Nou Camp this season, and could ill afford to concede a second-half equalizer against Bilbao.

The visitors had been boosted by the return to the starting line-up of Argentina forward Lionel Messi following five weeks out with a thigh injury, while midfielder Deco ended speculation about his future by signing a new long-term contract in midweek.

And Barcelona made a strong start as Portugal star Deco supplied Bojan Krkic with a pass from which the teenager slotted the opening goal in the 35th minute.

However, the Basque side earned a point in the 79th minute as French defender Lilian Thuram appeared to clip substitute Joseba Garmendia’s cross as he covered the onrushing Fernando Llorente, deflecting the ball past goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

Ronald Koeman’s poor run of results at Valencia continued as unfashionable Almeria won 1-0 at the Mestalla earlier on Sunday.

The Dutch coach’s three-month tenure is looking increasingly insecure after his side extended their winless league run to nine matches, having registered a morale-boosting Kings Cup quarterfinal victory over Atletico Madrid in midweek.

Koeman played forward Javier Arizmendi at right-back, and the Spaniard failed to clear a cross that fell to Felipe Melo to score a 21st-minute winner.

Valencia held fourth place in La Liga when Quique Sanchez Flores was sacked, but now languish in 11th — just five points above the relegation zone.

Almeria, by contrast, climbed up to eighth place with the victory, level with Sevilla on 29 points.

I am not going to run away after a few months, said Koeman. The club is in a crisis but now is not the time to look for someone to blame.

If you lose at home you know that the coach comes in for criticizm. I accept that and will continue to work hard. I am calm but concerned.

Fourth-placed Atletico also suffered a shock defeat, the club’s third in a week, losing 1-0 away to Mallorca as Juan Arango netted the only goal in the 21st minute.

Espanyol failed to move above Atletico into fourth after losing 2-1 at home to lowly Real Betis.

Alberto Rivera put the visitors ahead on the strike of half-time but Luis Garcia leveled six minutes after the break, while Edu netted the winner in the 89th minute.

In Sunday’s other matches, Racing Santander netted a last-gasp equalizer to draw 2-2 at home to Real Zaragoza, bottom club Levante won 3-2 at Murcia, Getafe won 2-1 at Recreativo and second-bottom Deportivo La Coruna notched a much-needed 3-1 win at home to Valladolid. E-mail to a friend

Barcelona title hopes hit by away blow – found here.


January 27, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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