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Updated: October 18, 2009 14:44 IST

Barcelona stays on top despite draw

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Real Madrid's Raul Gonzalez celebrates after scoring against Valladolid during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Photo: AP
AP Real Madrid's Raul Gonzalez celebrates after scoring against Valladolid during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Photo: AP

A 0-0 draw away to spirited Valencia on Saturday leaves Barcelona on top of the Spanish league but ends their run of consecutive wins.

Barca now has 19 points from seven games, just one more than second-placed Real Madrid, who beat lowly Valladolid 4-2 earlier on Saturday.

Sevilla and Deportivo Coruna are joint third on 15 points, Valencia are fifth with 12.

It was the first goalless draw between Valencia and Barca in Mestalla for 40 years and the first 0-0 draw in La Liga for Barca for two years.

Nonetheless, it was a cracking match with many chances at both ends, particularly for the hosts.

Valencia pressed Barca energetically in the first half, and Pablo Hernandez and Juan Mata came close to scoring. Barca improved after the interval but missed the physical power in attack of injury victims Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thierry Henry.

Pedro Rodriguez almost scored for Barca, David Silva forced a sharp save out of Victor Valdes.

“The draw was a fair result,” said Barca right-back Dani Alves.

“They are difficult opponents and pressed us very hard.” Earlier on Saturday Real had beaten Valladolid 4-2 in the Estadio Bernabeu.

In the absence of the injured Cristiano Ronaldo and of jet-lagged Kaka, veteran striker Raul took centre stage with two goals in the first 18 minutes.

“It was great to score again,” said the 32 year-old captain. “They made things difficult for us in the second half, but we clearly deserved to win.” Raul made it 1-0 in the 13th minute by turning in a centre from Esteban Granero with his habitual opportunism. And five minutes later he added a second, this time with his weaker right foot, on a cross from left-back Marcelo.

Feeble Valladolid looked like lambs up for slaughter, but on the half hour Nauzet Aleman reduced arrears with a classy free-kick.

As so often this season, Real were not in total control and were not playing well. But they had sufficient firepower up front to breach the brittle Valladolid defence time and again.

Just before half-time Marcelo made it 3-1 with a right-foot drive after breaking free down the left. The Brazilian was keen to impress the Estadio Bernabeu crowd after an appalling display in the 2-1 defeat away to Sevilla two weeks ago.

In the 54th minute Marquitos scored Valladolid’s second goal on a clever pass from Diego Costa, but supersub Gonzalo Higuain made it 4-2 for the hosts with a precise chip 11 minutes from time.

Real director general Jorge Valdano singled out Marcelo for special praise, saying that “he has to be congratulated for his display this evening.” Real are now three points above Sevilla, who share third place with Deportivo Coruna after losing 1-0 in La Coruna earlier on Saturday, thanks to a handsome goal from Juan Rodriguez.

Sevilla dominated possession at the Riazor but lacked penetration in attack.

The only goal came in the 39th minute. Sevilla left-back Fernando Navarro messed up a clearance and Rodriguez broke the stalemate with a 35-yard screamer that gave goalkeeper Javi Varas no chance at all.

“It was important for us to win today,” said Deportivo defender Alberto Lopo, “in order to keep close to the teams at the top of the table.”

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