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Real Madrid squander chance to replace Barcelona at top

Real Madrid squandered their chance to bump Barcelona from the top spot of the Spanish league Sunday. Barcelona had dropped two points with a 1-1 draw against Villarreal Saturday, but Real failed to capitalise producing instead a 0-0 draw at Osasuna.


AFP - Real Madrid spurned the chance to replace Barcelona at the top of the Spanish first division on Sunday as they fired blanks in a frustrating 0-0 draw at Osasuna.

Barcelona had dropped two points as they lost their 100-percent home record with a 1-1 draw against Villarreal on Saturday, but Real could not capitalize and stay two points behind the champions in second.

It was only the second time Real had failed to score in the league this season - the other occasions being a 1-0 loss at Barcelona and a 0-0 draw with Sporting Gijon.

"We did everything we could but just couldn't score," said Brazilian Marcelo. "Osasuna's back-line was well-organised and made it very difficult for us to get through.

"We planned to be up at the top with Barcelona but it wasn't possible. Now we have to rest and think about the next game."

Real coach Manuel Pellegrini was without Kaka as the Brazilian recovered from a groin injury so Rafael van der Vaart coninued as the attacking midfielder behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain.

With Pepe out injured for the season, Argentine Ezequiel Garay joined Raul Albiol in central defence although they were largely untroubled until the 41st minute when a Javad Nekounam header stirred goalkeeper Iker Casillas into action.

Higuain, with five goals in his last three matches, had Real's best chance on 65 minutes but goalkeeper Ricardo Lopez denied the Argentine. Real replaced Higuain with captain Raul in a last throw of the dice but it was to no avail.

While Barcelona have a last 16 Kings Cup match against Sevilla on Tuesday, Real can rest up as they have already been eliminated by minnows Alcorcon.

Osasuna have now held champions Barcelona (1-1) and Real at their Reyno de Navarra stadium and beat them both last season in the final two games of the campaign.

Real Mallorca are Real's next opponents and they moved above Sevilla into fourth place with a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao as they maintained their perfect home record with an eighth successive home victory.

"We are fourth but we face Real Madrid on their patch in the next league game and it will be difficult to get points there," said Mallorca coach Gregorio Manzano.

Julio Alvarez scored the Mallorca opener on 49 minutes to open the scoring before Aritz Aduriz netted his eighth goal of the season against old club Bilbao after 67 minutes.

Mallorca are now in the final Champions League spot and turn their attention to the Kings Cup as they travel to Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday.

New Almeria coach Juanma Lillo enjoyed a winning start as his side clinched a crucial 1-0 win over relegation rivals Xerez.

Substitute Jose Ortiz Bernal netted an 89th minute winner just three minutes after coming on to gift Lillo a debut win after taking over from axed Mexican Hugo Sanchez.

"I am not bothered about the fact that it was my debut but more that we won the match. That was the most important thing," said Lillo.

"The three points help us make a good leap in the table and see things a bit differently."

Almeria move three points above the relegation zone while basement boys Xerez slide towards relegation lying eight points from safety with just one win all season.

Struggling Malaga were left frustrated as they twice surrendered the lead to be pegged back 2-2 at Sporting Gijon and stay third from bottom.

At the other end of the table Deportivo La Coruna missed the chance to move level on points with fourth-placed Sevilla, who lost 2-1 at Atletico Madrid on Saturday, with a 0-0 draw at Real Zaragoza.

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