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Sevilla beats Villarreal to stay third in Spain

FREDERIC Kanoute came off the bench to score a 66th-minute winner as Sevilla rallied from a goal down to beat Villarreal 3-2 and stay third in the Spanish league yesterday.

The Mali striker darted into the area to head home Adriano's cross five minutes after Brazil striker Luis Fabiano had notched his second of the night, also scored from an Adriano cross.

Sevilla moved on to 22 points, a point clear of Valencia, which had earlier beaten Zaragoza 3-1 thanks to first-half goals by Juanma Mata, David Villa and Pablo Hernandez.

Barcelona leads with 26 points while Real Madrid has 25 after both clubs won on Saturday.

Also yesterday, Sporting Gijon and Athletic Bilbao both continued their strong starts with victories that left them with 16 points.

Fabiano opened the scoring for Sevilla in the ninth minute at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, controlling Sergio Sanchez's low cross before rolling the ball under keeper Diego Lopez.

Robert Pires continued his impressive season by volleying past Andres Palop to equalize just before the half hour mark after a well-crafted exchange with Sebastian Eguren.

Pires then helped put Villarreal ahead in the 59th minute. The Frenchman's cross into the middle was kicked clear by Palop, only for the ball to land at the feet of David Fuster, who fired home.

Fabiano equalised two minutes later by sending his header over the outstretched Lopez, who was also helpless when Kanoute met a quickly taken corner for the winner.

"We suffered a lot but we pulled out a result that is important for us to stay near the top," Fabiano said. "Sevilla has to maintain this level if it wants to fight for the league."

Villarreal's frustrating season continued as it dropped to 16th with nine points.

First-half goals steered Valencia at Mestalla stadium with Zaragoza's defense thinking Villa had touched Hernandez's long-ball from an offside position before it ran to Mata, who surged through to beat goalkeeper Javier Vallejo with a low shot inside the near post in the 17th.

Villa scored his league-leading eighth goal in the 40th minute after Hernandez broke down the right before crossing for the unmarked Spain striker to score at the far post.

Villa returned the favor a minute later after a complete breakdown in the Zaragoza defense allowed three Valencia players to go clear on Vallejo, who was helpless to stop Hernandez.

Vallejo had better luck in the 56th minute when he stopped Hernandez at point-blank range and Zaragoza pulled a goal back nine minutes later when Abel Aguilar scored from Marko Babic's rebound.

But Valencia kept up the pressure in the closing stages and Vallejo managed to tip Albelda's header away and then deal with another effort from Hernandez in the 74th minute.

Meanwhile, Mate Bilic scored in the third minute as Sporting edged Espanyol 1-0.

Bilbao's Carlos Gurpegui headed home from a free kick in the 31st minute and Andoni Iraola converted a 75th minute penalty in a 2-0 win over Racing Santander that put pressure on coach Juan Carlos Mandia with his team lying 17th the standings.

"I hope to be coaching Racing for many more rounds and I won't quit," Mandia said after an eighth straight game without a win.

Also, Almeria beat Osasuna 2-0 following an own-goal by Jose "Josetxo" Romero in the second minute and Kalu Uche's 90th-minute strike. Xerez hung on for a 0-0 draw at Valladolid after David Prieto was red-carded in the 47th.

Defending champion Barcelona beat Mallorca 4-2, while Madrid held on for a 3-2 derby win over Atletico Madrid on Saturday, when Deportivo La Coruna jumped to fifth with 19 points thanks to a 2-0 win at Getafe. Malaga rallied for a 2-2 draw at Tenerife.


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