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Krkic nets twice as Barca maintains Spanish lead

BOJAN Krkic scored his first league goals of the season on Sunday to give Barcelona a 2-0 win at Almeria that maintained its six-point lead over closest rival Real Madrid.

Krkic, a surprise starting choice ahead of Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry, was perfectly placed in the 53rd minute to receive Lionel Messi's low curler as it came off the post to the left, the teenage striker controlling the ball before slotting home.

He followed up by capping an impressive four-man passing display three minutes later with a shot that deflected off defender Santiago Acasiete past goalkeeper Diego Alves.

Alves had made reaction saves on Seydou Keita and Gerard Pique in the first half but couldn't stop Krkic as Almeria coach Hugo Sanchez lost for the first time in the league at the Juegos Mediterraneos stadium.

The victory gave Barcelona 66 points after 27 games, with Spanish champion Madrid in second place on 60 after winning 5-2 at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday. Madrid put a record Champions League defeat at Liverpool behind it as it chases its third straight title.

The race for Spain's Champions League places was the focus on Sunday when European hopefuls met.

Antonio Lopez's 83rd-minute header helped Atletico Madrid rally from a two-goal deficit for a 3-2 victory over 10-man Villarreal to get in reach of the top-four. Third-place Sevilla rallied for a 2-2 draw at Malaga, which missed a chance to settle into the last Champions League place.

Atletico striker Diego Forlan, who had a third-minute penalty saved, equalized with his 19th of the season in the 83rd after Sergio Aguero had begun the rally in the 54th by knocking in a drive from Forlan that had hit the post.

Javi Venta had found Villarreal teammate Matias Fernandez alone in front in the 19th for a goal from a quick counterattack, and goalkeeper Diego Lopez helped at the other end by making a handful of spectacular saves in the first half. Ruben "Cani" Garcia scored Villarreal's second goal in the 53rd before Aguero started the comeback.

Venta was sent off in the 65th, allowing Atletico, which was knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday, to rally from a two-goal deficit at the Vicente Calderon for the second straight league match after coming from behind to beat Barcelona.


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