Barcelona clings on to top spot

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RIDING HIGH: Backed by a goal from Samuel Eto'o FC Barcelona maintained its lead in the Spanish league.
RIDING HIGH: Backed by a goal from Samuel Eto'o FC Barcelona maintained its lead in the Spanish league.

Real Madrid and Sevilla keep pace

Madrid: Samuel Eto'o scored on Sunday, and FC Barcelona edged relegation-threatened Levante 1-0 to maintain its one-point lead in the Spanish league.

Levante went into the game with Barcelona having won only twice this season and with defeats on its three previous visits to Camp Nou.

Eto'o fired his eighth goal of the season in the 28th minute after Levante goalkeeper Jose Francisco Molina had pushed the ball into his path.

Yet, despite the goal by Eto'o, Barcelona found it hard to dominate the visitors.Ronaldinho stirred Barcelona supporters with a long-range volley in the 50th minute that Molina pushed expertly over the bar.

Eto'o had a goal disallowed five minutes later in an improved second-half display by the home team, whose goalkeeper Victor Valdes was making his 200th first-team appearance.

While Barcelona's narrow win preserved its unbeaten record at Camp Nou this season, the defending champion has only scored twice in the past four home and away games.

Third-place Real Madrid stayed in contention for its first title in four years with a 4-1 victory at struggling Athletic Bilbao.

David Beckham was included in Madrid's starting line-up for the first time in six weeks after a right knee injury.

Ruud van Nistelrooy scored twice, while Sergio Ramos and Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez added the others to help Madrid record its 10th away win, equalling a club record set in the 1960-61 and 1987-88 seasons.

Beckham made an early impact when his inswinging free-kick was met by Ramos at the back of the penalty area for Madrid's opening goal in the 14th. A free-kick from Beckham also provided Ramos with a headed goal in last weekend's win over Valencia.

However, Beckham received a yellow card in the 75th, ruling him out of next weekend's important league match with Sevilla.

Beckham's suspension means he has a maximum of five Madrid games remaining before he joins the Los Angeles Galaxy in August.

Van Nistelrooy doubled Madrid's lead in the 34th minute by nodding home from Cicinho's floated cross from the right. Cicinho was appearing in the starting line-up for the first time for seven months.

The results: Spanish La Liga: Barcelona 1 (Eto'o) bt Levante 0; Athletic Bilbao 1 (Llorente) lost to Real Madrid 4 (Ramos, Van Nistelrooy 2, Guti); Celta Vigo 0 lost to Mallorca 3 (Arango, Varela, Lopez); Getafe 1 (Ruano) bt Real Sociedad 0; Gimnastic 0 lost to Villarreal 3 (Forlan 2, Fernandez); Osasuna 2 (Juanlu, Valdo) drew with Real Zaragoza 2 (Aimar, Garcia); Racing Santander 0 drew with Deportivo 0; Sevilla 3 (Puerta, Chevanton, Marti) bt Espanyol 1 (Corominas).

Italian Serie A: Inter Milan 3 (Cruz, Recoba, Stankovic) bt Empoli 1 (Saudati); Roma 0 drew with Lazio 0; Ascoli 2 (Fini, Bonanni) lost to Reggina 3 (Amoruso 2, Foggia); Livorno 1 (Cesar-pen) lost to Palermo 2 (Corini-pen, Di Michele); Messina 0 drew with Atalanta 0; Parma 2 (Budan, Gasbarroni-pen) bt Cagliari 1 (Conti); Siena 0 lost to Sampdoria 2 (Maggio, Delvecchio); Udinese 0 lost to Catania 1 (Spinese-pen).

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