MADRID - Real Madrid's poor run of form continued on Saturday when the Primera Liga champions lost 1-0 at struggling Real Valladolid and missed the chance to take over from Barcelona at the top of the table. Valencia could have gone top if they had beaten Sporting Gijon in the late match at the Mestalla but remain third after goals from Luis Moran, David Barral and Diego Castro gave the Asturians a 3-2 win. Barcelona visit Recreativo Huelva in Sunday's late match having won their last eight league games, scoring 33 goals. They have 25 points. Valencia have 23 points from 11 matches, the same as Real but one place ahead on goal difference, while Sporting are provisionally in seventh on 15 and Valladolid 10th with 13. Castilians Valladolid were thrashed 6-0 by Barca at the Nou Camp last weekend but shocked a sluggish-looking Real by taking the lead shortly after the break. Midfielder Fabian Canobbio found space on the edge of the penalty area and the Uruguayan lashed a left-foot shot high into the net past Iker Casillas. Real mounted a desperate charge for an equaliser and almost found one in the 75th minute but Valladolid keeper Sergio Asenjo saved two powerful drives from midfielder Wesley Sneijder. Asenjo made a string of superb stops and kept Raul's weak effort out near the end after the striker intercepted a stray back pass and was through on goal. Real's misery was compounded shortly before the end when their Argentina defender Gabriel Heinze was sent off after receiving two yellow cards in quick succession. INCREASING PRESSURE Real have leaked eight goals at the Bernabeu in their last three matches and suffered a humiliating midweek exit from the King's Cup to third-tier side Real Union. The pressure is increasing on coach Bernd Schuster, who said after Saturday's defeat that his players were working hard but were feeling the absence of a number of first-choice players. The German's injury list includes Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who is out for the season after having knee surgery, his compatriot Arjen Robben, central defender Pepe and midfielders Ruben de la Red and Mahamadou Diarra. Schuster said he was "worried and disappointed" by the defeat and his side did not deserve to lose. "We had no luck," he told a news conference. "Except for the goal our opponents did not create problems for us," he added. "I am calm. We are working and doing what we have to do." In the late match, striker Moran opened the scoring for Sporting midway through the first half when he ran on to Michel's through ball and sidefooted past keeper Renan. Barral doubled the visitors' lead shortly after the break, bamboozling Emiliano Moretti with a series of stepovers and squeezing a close-range shot inside the near post. David Villa pulled a goal back from the penalty spot after Barral's handball, the Spain striker's 11th of the season and 100th Primera Liga goal, before Diego Castro made it 3-1 with about 10 minutes left when he volleyed in from a tight angle. Juan Mata celebrated his call up to the Spain squad for Wednesday's friendly against Chile with a smart finish in the 90th minute but Sporting held on top claim the points.
15 November 2008
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