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Barcelona, Real stay on course in Spain

SAMUEL Eto'o gave Spanish leader Barcelona a 1-0 win at Real Valladolid and Gonzalo Higuain kept Real Madrid in touch in second place as the champion beat Malaga 1-0 away in the Primera Liga on Saturday.

Barcelona has 72 points with nine games left to play, and remains six ahead of Real.

After an aggressive start from Valladolid, Cameroon striker Eto'o played a slick one-two with Xavi and lobbed the goalkeeper for his 26th league goal of the season just before the break.

Coach Pep Guardiola only used Lionel Messi and Daniel Alves as substitutes with one eye on next week's Champions League quarterfinal at home to Bayern Munich.

Malaga put Real under pressure in similar fashion in the late game but a burst from midfield by Argentine striker Higuain saw him score the only goal just after the restart.

Sevilla is third with 57 points after a first-half Frederic Kanoute penalty earned a 1-0 win at Recreativo Huelva.

Fourth-placed Villarreal could not cope with Almeria striker Alvaro Negredo as he inspired his side to a 3-0 home win.

Youth player

The former Real Madrid youth team player netted his 17th of the league campaign after seven minutes and set up Pablo Piatti and Mane for two more before halftime.

He hit the post after the restart just before Villarreal was reduced to 10 men when Robert Pires collected his second yellow card on the hour.

In the 65th minute, after using all its substitutes, the visitors also lost Santi Cazorla to a serious leg injury that has put the Spain winger out for the rest of the season.

At the bottom, Numancia grabbed a last-minute equalizer from the penalty spot to draw 3-3 in a bizarre game at Real Betis that increased the pressure on home coach Paco Chaparro.

Betis let slip a 1-0 advantage, and then fought back from 1-2 down with 10 men to lead 3-2 with a minute to go.

But Betis goalkeeper Ricardo Pereira gave away a penalty in time added on to earn a red card, and defender Melli was unable to stop Carlos Aranda's spot kick.

Copa Del Rey finalist Athletic Bilbao ended a run of four successive defeats with a 2-1 home win over Real Mallorca.


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