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Barca drew Sevilla 1-1 but miss to trim Real's lead

While the result maintained Barcelona's unbeaten start to 2008, Madrid will increase its advantage to eight points on Sunday if it beats Valladolid at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium for an 11th straight league win.
By HT Correspondent | AP, Madrid
UPDATED ON FEB 11, 2008 06:27 PM IST

FC Barcelona drew Sevilla 1-1 thanks to Xavi Hernandez's 75th-minute equalizer but missed the chance to trim Real Madrid's lead in the Spanish league on Saturday.


Diego Capel opened the scoring in the 35th minute for Sevilla, which had midfielder Seydou Keita ejected in the 77th for a second yellow card.


Elsewhere, Guille Franco's injury-time goal helped Villarreal edge lowly Murcia 1-0.


The Mexico striker hit a low shot from what appeared to be an offside position to move Villarreal up to third and boost its hopes of appearing in next season's Champions League by finishing in the top four.


Deportivo La Coruna's recent improvement came to a halt when it drew 1-1 with visiting Getafe.


Madrid leads the league with 53 points, while Barcelona has 48, six more than Villarreal, which will be overtaken by Espanyol if it beats Recreativo Huelva on Sunday.


Also on Sunday, it's: Racing Santander vs. Atletico Madrid; Osasuna vs. Zaragoza; Athletic Bilbao vs. Levante; Mallorca vs. Almeria; and Valencia vs. Real Betis.


Barcelona, which also finished 1-1 at Sevilla last month to help end the home side's Copa del Rey title defense, lacked a host of players through injury and international duty.


Captain Carles Puyol, strikers Samuel Eto'o and Bojan Krkic, midfielders Deco and Yaya Toure, together with defender Gianluca Zambrotta were all absentees.


Coach Frank Rijkaard still left Ronaldinho on the bench, preferring Giovani Dos Santos to partner Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi in attack.


Keita and striker Frederic Kanoute returned to Sevilla following Mali's elimination from the African Cup of Nations. After a quiet start, the home side burst into life just before the half-hour mark, forcing Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes into several good saves.


Shortly afterward, Valdes couldn't stop Capel when he ran in at the far post and stretched to meet Jesus Navas' low cross from the right.


Sevilla had more opportunities to increase its lead before halftime, with striker Luis Fabiano firing narrowly wide and Keita heading over the bar.


Rijkaard introduced Ronaldinho _ together with Rafael Marquez _ at the start of the second half, although Barcelona's problems looked set to increase when Henry limped off in the 58th with what appeared to be a left thigh strain.


Instead, the visitors grew stronger and Messi's pass to Xavi provided the Spain midfielder with the chance to equalize with a low shot which Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop failed to hold. The goal was Xavi's second goal in two games.


Sevilla stayed in seventh place with 33 points. Villarreal, lacking Spain left back Angel Lopez among six injured players, made little impact in the first half at Murcia's Nueva Condomina stadium.


The visitors continued to struggle after halftime until Franco's goal brought his team its first win in three games and piled problems on relegation-threatened Murcia, which went winless for a fifth game.


Deportivo also remains in trouble following a draw, which added to supporters' fears that the 2000 champion could return to the second division after 17 years.


The host, which had won its previous two matches, took the lead just before halftime when Getafe central defender Mario Alvarez deflected Pablo Amo's header into his own net.


However, Nigerian substitute Ikechukwu Uche, who had returned from the African Cup only on Thursday, equalized for Getafe with a powerful shot in the 69th.


Getafe continued its inconsistent form in the league this season. By contrast, the team recently reached its second straight Copa del Rey semifinals and plays AEK Athens in the last 32 of the UEFA Cup on Wednesday.

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