Deportivo's Brazilian midfielder Juca rises above the Villarreal defence [AFP]

Villarreal fell two points behind rivals Valencia in the chase for a Champions League spot, crashing to a second successive league defeat in Spain's Primera Division on Sunday.

Alberto Lopo's second-half goal lead Deportivo La Coruna to a 1-0 win over Villarreal, sealing three vital points for Depor, who move out of the relegation zone.

Villarreal's second defeat in a row following last weekend's 1-0 reverse at home to promoted Levante leaves them in fourth position, two points behind Valencia who won 2-1 at Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

In the late game Real Madrid recovered from the second-minute dismissal of goalkeeper Iker Casillas to secure a battling 1-0 win at Espanyol to cut Barcelona's lead at the top to five points

Slow start

After a dull first half, Lopo pushed home a ball flicked on by teammate Juan Rodriguez for Deportivo's 60th-minute winner at Riazor stadium.

Villarreal's top scorer, Giuseppe Rossi, was out with the flu, and Deportivo had little trouble stifling the visitors' attack to claim their first victory in six games.

In Sunday's other games, Getafe went ahead at La Rosaleda stadium when Malaga goalkeeper Francesc Arnau attempted to clear a cross in the eighth minute but only succeeded in punching it into forward Nicolas Fedor, with the ball then crossing the line.

Adrian Colunga doubled Getafe's lead in the 24th minute. But Baptista grabbed one back for Malaga from the penalty spot in the 80th after Ivan Marcano had handled in the area, and Rondon split the points with a goal in the fifth minute of injury time.

Results & fixtures

Saturday February 12

 Atl Madrid 1-2 Valencia
 Santander 3-2 Sevilla
 Gijon 1-1 Barcelona

Sunday February 13

Hercules 2-1 Zaragoza
 Levante 1-0 Almeria
 Malaga 2-2 Getafe
 Sociedad 1-0 Osasuna
 Deportivo 1-0 Villarreal
 Espanyol 0-1 Real Madrid

Monday February 14

Mallorca v Athl Bilbao

"I hope (the result) helps us change the dynamic and shows us the way to win,'' said Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini, whose team is now winless in six games to stay in last place.

Late comeback

Hercules staged a late comeback to record a 2-1 win over Zaragoza, scoring twice in the final ten minutes to turn the game on its head.

Zargoza, one point above the bottom three, led thanks to a fourth-minute goal from Braulio Rodriguez, but Francisco Farinos equalised in the 80th minute and veteran French striker David Trezeguet scored a late winner.

Hercules, the only team to beat league leaders Barcelona in the league this season, move three points clear of the relegation zone.

In other matches on Sunday, promoted Real Sociedad moved up to ninth above Atletico thanks to a 1-0 home win over Osasuna, who had Damia Abella sent off late on for a second yellow card.

Levante, who also came up from the second division at the end of last season, beat Almeria 1-0 to climb to 15th.

Barca have 62 points from 23 matches, with Real on 57. Valencia are 10 points adrift on 47 and Villarreal have 45.

Source: Agencies