Barca on the brink

Osasuna jump away from the relegation zone and Barcelona move closer to getting their hands on the trophy

    Osasuna's hard work and team tactics ensured a great away win over relegation rivals Real Zaragoza [EPA] 

    Barcelona moved to within one point of their third straight Spanish Primera Division title by beating Espanyol 2-0 in Sunday's Catalan capital derby.

    Andres Iniesta opened the scoring for Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the 29th and Gerard Pique doubled the host's lead three minutes after half-time.

    Preparation time

    Barcelona can clinch their 21st title with at least a draw at Levante on Wednesday. They lead second-placed Real Madrid by eight points and holds the head-to-head advantage with three games to play.

    "We will now go to Valencia to earn (the title)," Iniesta said.

    "The important thing is to win another league (crown)."

    Wrapping up the domestic competition early would also give Barcelona extra time to prepare for the Champions League final against Manchester United on May 28.

    At the bottom of the table an impressive 3-1 away victory for Osasuna against Real Zaragoza lifted them four places up the league and away from the relegation zone. Opponents Real Zaragoza are now dangerously close to being relegated with only goal difference separating them for Deportivo in the third bottom position.

    Goals from Camunas, Sergio and Kike Sola ensured all three invaluable points went to the Pamplona team.

    Cruise control

    Second-placed Real Madrid's 6-2 thrashing of Sevilla on Saturday denied Barca the chance of winning the championship in front of their own fans, but they showed few signs of nerves as they calmly dispatched their neighbours Espanyol.

    Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola only rested Carles Puyol despite his team coming off a gruelling four-game series against Madrid.

    Without shining, Barcelona controlled possession throughout in an unusually subdued match between the cross-town rivals.

    Barcelona forward Pedro Rodriguez tested goalkeeper Carlos Kameni with a shot in the 20th, and moments later Kameni dove to deflect a dipping strike from Iniesta.

    Espanyol winger Jose Callejon broke free on right side in the 24th, and the Barcelona defence scrambled to clear his low cross for striker Pablo Osvaldo in the box.

    Iniesta's goal was an individual effort as he cut back to shake his defender and shot past Kameni with a low right-footer.

    David Villa had a good chance to make it 2-0 about 10 minutes later after trademark passing build-up by Barcelona, but the Spain striker fired wide with only the keeper to beat.

    Spanish Results 

    Saturday May 7

     Athletic Bilbao 3-2 Levante 
     Getafe 2-0 Almeria
     Hercules 2-3 Santander
     Gijon 2-2 Deportivo 
     Valencia 3-0 Sociedad Atletico Madrid 3-2 Malaga
     Sevilla 2-6 Real Madrid

    Sunday May 8

     Mallorca 0-0 Villarreal  Barcelona 2-0 Espanyol  Zaragoza 1-3 Osasuna
     

    Pique put the result beyond doubt when he beat his marker to reach Xavi Hernandez's corner at the near post.

    "We tried our best but they were able to score," said Kameni, whose team is four points out of the Europa League positions.

    "It is difficult, but we will try until the end."

    Espanyol looked to pull one back and Osvaldo drew a pair of saves from goalie Victor Valdes.

    Eric Abidal came on for Andreu Fontas in the 70th to make his second appearance since recovering from surgery to remove a liver tumor.

    Seve remembered 

    Elsewhere Villarreal who are chasing Valencia for third-place drew 0-0 at Mallorca.

    Juan Carlos Garrido's team, who were knocked out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage by Porto on Thursday, stay fourth in the standings with 61 points and three games left.

    Villarreal slipped five points behind local rivals Valencia who were 3-0 winners over Real Sociedad on Saturday but pulled seven points ahead of fifth place.

    The games began after a minute's silence in memory of Seve Ballesteros, the Spanish golfing great who died on Saturday after battling a brain tumour.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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