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October 26, 2009

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Real held goalless at Gijon

DEPLETED Real Madrid ended a disappointing week with a 0-0 draw at Sporting Gijon on Saturday, handing champion Barcelona the chance to open up a three-point lead at the top of the Primera Liga.

Real's city rival Atletico, in its first match since Friday's sacking of coach Abel Resino, had earlier conceded a farcical last-minute equalizer to draw 1-1 with nine-man Real Mallorca, and third-placed Sevilla was held 0-0 at home by Espanyol thanks to a string of superb saves by Carlos Kameni.

Manuel Pellegrini's Real side was hoping for a confidence-boosting win at a rain-drenched Molinon after last Wednesday's 2-3 Champions League loss to AC Milan.

But Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema had joined Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy on the injury list, leaving Raul as the only recognized forward, and it found it tough to break down a spirited Gijon side.

Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas had to be alert to deny forward Miguel de las Cuevas just before halftime, before Esteban Granero prompted a fine save from Juan Pablo after good work from Kaka.

Real pressed for a winner in the second period, with Xabi Alonso flashing a drive over the bar and Raul having an effort ruled out for a Kaka handball.

Tension mounted

Tempers began to fray as the tension mounted, and Mahamadou Diarra appeared to lash out at Alberto Rivera, but with Pellegrini looking an increasingly forlorn and soggy figure on the sidelines Gijon held on for a deserved point.

Barcelona, which also lost at home in the Champions League in midweek, can go three clear of arch-rival Real on 22 points with a home win over Real Zaragoza.

Atletico's miserable season took a turn for the worse a day after Resino was replaced by Quique Sanchez Flores and it was down in 14th place with only one win from eight matches. Diego Forlan missed one penalty in the first half but recovered to net another, only for teenage goalkeeper David De Gea to allow Borja Valero's tame cross-shot to deflect in off his legs in the final minute of normal time.

Espanyol's Cameroon keeper Kameni was in inspired form at the Sanchez Pizjuan, producing acrobatic saves to deny Diego Perrotti, Alvaro Negredo and Diego Capel.

Fourth-placed Deportivo la Coruna can move above Sevilla into third on 18 points with a win at Real Valladolid.


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