Pedro gives Barcelona 11th straight league winBy DPA, IANS
Sunday, January 2, 2011
MADRID - Barcelona opened up a five-point gap at the top of the Spanish Liga Sunday with a 2-1 home defeat of lowly Levante.
Barca’s goals were scored by Spain winger Pedro, both of them set up by right-back Dani Alves. Christian Stuani pulled back a late goal for Levante, but Barca had few problems in holding out.
It was Barca’s 11th straight league win and leaves them with 46 points from 17 games. They are now five points ahead of second-placed Real Madrid, who are away to local rivals Getafe Monday.
Before the match there was an emotive meeting on the Camp Nou field between playmaker Xavi and 1980s defender Migueli, because the little maestro has now equalled Migueli’s record of 549 league matches for Barca.
Xavi then preceded to direct the one-way traffic, with Levante predictably defending in depth but causing problems on the break.
The visitors managed to hold out until half-time, but Pedro broke the deadlock three minutes into the second half with a low angled drive which passed through a forest of Levante legs, after good work down the right by Alves.
Twelve minutes later Alves broke free again down the right and again found Pedro, who made it 2-0 with a ferocious drive from the edge of the penalty area.
Pedro has been the revelation of Spanish football since coach Pep Guardiola brought him into the first team in August 2009.
Barca should have had more goals, but Alves and David Villa were wasteful with their chances. Young sub Thiago hit the Levante crossbar with a clever lob.
Ten minutes from time Uruguayan striker Stuani pulled a goal back for Levante against the run of play with a spectacular left-foot volley, on a pass from fellow sub Valdo.
The visitors failed to create more danger, and were fortunate to only concede two goals.
Sporting Gijon, meanwhile, made their situation worse by losing 2-1 at home to Malaga.
Diego Castro gave Gijon the lead from the penalty spot but defender Weligton quickly equalized for Malaga. Antonio Apono won the match for the visitors with a cool penalty on the hour, after a bad foul in the box by Gijon defender Ivan Cuellar.
The latest defeat leaves Gijon second from bottom with just 12 points, and increases the pressure on embattled coach Manolo Preciado. Malaga - who have just signed defender Martin Demichelis and midfielder Julio Baptista - are now fifth from bottom.
Earlier Sunday, Athletic Bilbao had missed the chance to go fourth by crashing 2-1 at home to lively Deportivo Coruna.
Young striker Adrian Lopez was Deportivo’s hero, putting away both goals.
In the 22nd minute the rampant Adrian was pulled down for a disputed penalty by Bilbao defender Ustariz. He picked himself and calmly converted the spot-kick to make it 1-0.
In the 34th minute Adrian was pulled down by defender Mikel San Jose, who was given a rather harsh red card. Just before half-time Deportivo midfielder Juan Rodriguez picked up a second yellow card, making it 10 against 10.
Adrian made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute with a powerful right-foot drive, after he had headed on a long kick by goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia.
Spain striker Fernando Llorente, just back from injury, gave Bilbao hope with one of his headed goals four minutes from time, on a cross from Andoni Iraola.
The hosts then laid siege to the Deportivo goal, but Llorente missed another good chance and Aranzubia saved well from veteran Igor Gabilondo.
The win takes Deporto up to 11th, and keeps Bilbao in eighth place.
Later Sunday, Sevilla are at home to Osasuna and Valencia receive Espanyol.