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Off-key Real lose ground with draw at lowly Almeria

REAL Madrid's shock defeat to bottom side Almeria saw Barcelona move four points clear at the top of the La Liga table.

The crossbar denied Cristiano Ronaldo from pulling his side out of the fire as they drew 1-1 at bottom side Almeria last night. Defender Esteban Granero struck a 77th-minute equaliser as Jose Mourinho's men looked to keep the pressure on the leaders, but could not complete the job.

Jose Ulloa gave the struggling hosts an unlikely lead on the hour mark, the Argentine striker sweeping a loose ball past Iker Casillas from the edge of the penalty area. Substitute Granero smashed in the equaliser with around 15 minutes left and La Liga top scorer Ronaldo thundered a free-kick against the crossbar in added-time but Almeria held firm for a point. Barca had no such problems at the Nou Camp as David Villa scored twice with Andres Iniesta and Pedro also getting on the scoresheet in a 4-1 win over Malaga.

A superb strike from Cani kept Villareal in third place with a 4-2 win over Osasuna, while Valencia kept pace with their neighbours thanks to late goals from Jeremy Mathieu and Pablo Hernandez. Espanyol kept the pressure on the top four as a brace of goals from Jose Maria Callejon gave them a 2-1 victory at Sevilla.


AC Milan's lead at the top of Serie A allowed the chasing pack a glimmer of hope after they were held to a 1-1 draw at Lecce.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's excellent opener was cancelled out by Ruben Olivera's 82nd minute equaliser, but Napoli could only muster a scoreless draw at home to Fiorentina.

Liverpool might be struggling at the moment, but one of their players is making hay in Italy as Alberto Aquilani scored a sensational late winner to end Juventus' three-match winless run with a 2-1 defeat of Bari.

Lazio also profited from a late goal as Libor Kozak struck to down Sampdoria and secure the Rome side's first win of 2011. Maximiliano Pellegrino scored Roma's only goal as they beat Cesena 1-0, while Inter Milan's revival continued under Leonardo as they hammered Bologna 4-1 on Saturday thanks to a Samuel Eto'o brace.

With Borussia Dortmund extending their lead at the top of the Bundesliga table on Friday with a 3-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen, Hannover moved second with a 3-0 win away over Eintracht Frankfurt, their sixth win in seven games.

Steve McClaren's Wolfsburg held Bayern Munich to a 1-1 draw, in which both sides missed first-half penalties. Thomas Muller put Bayern in front after seven minutes, but after Grafite and Philip Lahm spurned their opportunities from the spot, Sascha Reither made Louis van Gaal's men pay as he struck on 86 minutes.

Irish Independent