Barca held but stay top
Spanish champions draw against Valencia as Raul Gonzalez inspires Real win.
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2009 23:09 GMT

Stalemate for Barca's Lionel Messi at the Mestalla Stadium [AFP]
Defending champions Barcelona were denied a record seventh straight win to the season when they were held to a 0-0 draw at Valencia.

Rivals Real Madrid bounced back from their first defeat of the season with a convincing 4-2 defeat of Valladolid, closing the gap on the Spanish leaders.

Barca's lead has been cut to just a one-point advantage over their rivals with 19 points.

Earlier, Deportivo La Coruna beat Sevilla 1-0 to join their Andalucian opponents on 15 points after a fifth win in six games. Valencia have 12 points.

Juan Rodriguez jumped on Fernando Navarro's weak clearance to rocket a right-footed shot from outside the area into the top of goal off the inside of the near post in the 38th minute and snap Sevilla's five-game winning streak.

Double trouble

Madrid captain Raul Gonzalez, playing in his record 711th game for the club, deflected Esteban Granero's centred pass into goal with the side of his left foot in the 14th minute, and ran on to Marcelo's skipping pass four minutes later to send a right-footed shot beyond Jacobo Sanz for 2-0.

Valladolid struck back through Nauzet Aleman in the 29th, before Marcelo restored the two-goal lead with a powerful long-range shot to close the first half.

Marcos Garcia brought Valladolid back to within a goal in the 53rd, then substitute Gonzalo Higuain secured victory for Madrid – who were playing without injured star Cristiano Ronaldo - with a precise lob in the 79th.

Valencia had the better chances against Barcelona and nearly went ahead in the opening minute through Pablo Hernandez but couldn't convert their many chances with leading striker David Villa out to injury.

Pedro Rodriguez's chance from inside the area in the 65th deflected wide as Barcelona came alive in the second half but couldn't finish off.

Real Madrid's captain Raul Gonzalez enjoys a triumphant performance [AFP]
Real win

Present and past galacticos - including Zinedine Zidane - were among the 79,000 spectators at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, as Ronaldo missed a second straight game to an ankle injury.

But a flying start was forgotten after Aleman scored by curling over the defensive wall and in off the near post.

"At 2-1 we lost our fear and we created occasions,'' Valladolid coach Jose Luis Mendilibar said.

"But to win at the Bernabeu isn't easy.''

Marcelo, who had earlier provided Raul's third goal of the season, cut across the field in the 46th before unleashing a right-footed shot past Sanz.

"I liked the first half a lot. We dominated,'' Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini said.

"We made two errors on the goals.''

Garcia received a pass from Diego Costa and curled a shot beyond Casillas to keep Valladolid in the contest.

Kaka and Higuain, both having just returned from South America World Cup qualifiers, came on in the 72nd before Higuain ensured the three points after getting the ball from Xavi Alonso down the right and chipping over Sanz.

Madrid's defence, which had allowed both goals from set plays in a 2-1 loss at Sevilla, was still unsettled and had to clear a chance from Costa off the goal line with five minutes to play.

Tactical stalemate

La Liga fixtures

Saturday October 17

 Deportivo 1-0 Sevilla
 Real Madrid 4-2 Valladolid
 Valencia 0-0 Barcelona

Sunday October 18

 At Bilbao v Sporting Gijon
 Espanyol v Tenerife
 Malaga v Almeria
 Mallorca v Getafe
 Osasuna v Atletico Madrid
 Zaragoza v Racing S'tander
 Xerez v Villarreal

At Mestalla Stadium, Hernandez shot straight at goalkeeper Victor Valdes from a clear break.

End-to-end pace thrilled the crowd with Valencia dominating the first half through David Silva, Juanma Mata and Pablo Hernandez.

But Mata and Hernandez collided in the 25th while going for Silva's centring pass to bungle a good chance, while Mata skied another in the 32nd.

Cesar Sanchez came out to block Andres Iniesta's angled shot in the 35th as Barcelona's possession game failed to yield clear chances until the second half when Lionel Messi finally threatened by forcing Sanchez into a save in the 61st.

Silva volleyed straight into the arms of Valdes from inside the box in the 71st. Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who left Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the bench, watched his team's perfect start end as Sanchez saved from Toure in the 88th.

Sevilla were without striker Luis Fabiano, who was left out after returning from international duty with Brazil, at El Roazor Stadium.

Baras kept Deportivo from going into half-time with a two-goal advantage, saving with one arm Ivan "Riki'' Sanchez's point-blank header at the near post.

Deportivo goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia tipped a drive from Alvaro Negredo over the bar in the 50th as Sevilla, riding a 2-1 win over Real Madrid in the last round, pressed for an equaliser.

Julien Escude and Renato both missed later chances.

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