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Villa hands Barcelona vital win

David Villa struck just after half-time to lift Barcelona to a laboured 1-0 home win over his former club Sporting Gijon.

Missing injured Argentina forward Lionel Messi, the champions struggled to break down a well-organised Gijon side before Daniel Alves sent Villa clear in the 49th minute and he finished clinically past Ivan Cuellar.

With four matches played, Barca have nine points, one behind arch-rivals Real Madrid, who are joint top after beating Espanyol 3-0 at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.

Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson was an interested spectator as Atletico Madrid spoiled Valencia's perfect start to the season, holding Unai Emery's side to a 1-1 draw at the Mestalla.

In Wednesday's other matches, promoted Levante clinched their first win of the season after three straight defeats with a 1-0 victory at Almeria.

Real Zaragoza are bottom of the standings after a 0-0 draw at home to promoted Hercules.