Fighting Espanyol hold leaders Barcelona

Fighting Espanyol hold leaders Barcelona

TIMELY TACKLE Espanyol goalkeeper Carlos Kameni clears the ball from the reach of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. AFP

The Italians host the European Cup holders in a Champions League semifinal first leg on Tuesday, volcanic ash permitting, and were able to witness a rare sight as Barca found themselves harried, hurried and ultimately held by their super-motivated city rivals.

The visitors lost defender Daniel Alves to a red card after 62 minutes and Espanyol, who hit the woodwork in the first half, were perhaps unlucky not to come away with more from a game in which Barca were uncharacteristically defensive in outlook.  The champions moved on to 84 points from 33 games, but chasing Real Madrid could close to within one point if they can beat third-placed Valencia at the Bernabeu on Sunday.

Earlier, Frederic Kanoute and Luis Fabiano were on target to help Sevilla beat Sporting Gijon 3-0 at home, moving them up to fourth with 54 points. In the late game, Atletico Madrid suffered their third successive defeat, going down 2-1 at Villarreal. Diego Godin and Giuseppe Rossi scored to put Villarreal.

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