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Soccer in brief: Hammers held by gutsy Aston Villa

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Charles N'Zogbia of Aston Villa is tackled by Winston Reid of West Ham United

Charles N'Zogbia of Aston Villa is tackled by Winston Reid of West Ham United

Charles N'Zogbia of Aston Villa is watched by Aaron Cresswell of West Ham United

Charles N'Zogbia of Aston Villa is watched by Aaron Cresswell of West Ham United

Tom Cleverley of Aston Villa chases Alexandre Song of West Ham United

Tom Cleverley of Aston Villa chases Alexandre Song of West Ham United

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Charles N'Zogbia of Aston Villa is tackled by Winston Reid of West Ham United

Aston Villa ended their Premier League losing streak at West Ham yesterday. Paul Lambert's side had suffered six straight defeats since winning at Liverpool in mid-September to plummet down the table.

However, Villa produced a determined, defensive display at the Boleyn Ground, where goalkeeper Brad Guzan palmed away a point-blank header to deny Andy Carroll with a brilliant save in stoppage time to frustrate the Hammers and earn Villa a well-deserved point.

Burnley banish barren streak

Ashley Barnes secured Burnley's first win in the Premiership against Hull with the only goal, a header, five minutes into the second half. It was also their first shut-out since their goalless draw with Sunderland at Turf Moor in the middle of September.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche made one change to his starting line-up as Barnes replaced the benched Marvin Sordell in attack, with winger George Boyd keeping his place to face the club he left early in the season. The visitors' first XI showed two changes from the 1-0 loss to Southampton as fit-again goalkeeper Steve Harper and forward Sone Aluko took over from Eldin Jakupovic and Hatem Ben Arfa, both of whom dropped to the bench.

Deila expecting stiff Dons' test

Ronny Deila believes his Celtic squad is getting used to high demands as he prepares for the Premiership trip to Aberdeen today.

"It is going to be a very difficult match but we are starting to get used to it now," said the Norwegian.

"That's why I say that it is very good for us to be playing in Europe, we get those kind of good games and Aberdeen is going to be like that, it is a very tough game. It will be a good atmosphere and the fixture has been challenging for Celtic before. So we are looking forward to the game. We look physically and mentally strong now. It is going in the right way. We have a team who is working together.

Magical Madrid demolish Rayo

CRISTIANO RONALDO scored again as Real Madrid held their place at the top of La Liga yesterday.

Madrid stayed two points ahead of Barcelona by routing Rayo 5-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu for the side's 13th straight victory in all competitions.

Gareth Bale marked his return to the starting line-up by scoring a tap-in after nine minutes, and he also hit the crossbar in the second half.

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Alberto Bueno scored for the visitors in the second period, and Leonardo Baptista had a goal disallowed for offside, but Ronaldo polished off the lopsided victory with his league-leading 18th goal and 23rd in all competitions this season.

Attacking Leeds impress coach

Leeds got their first win in nine games as they beat Blackpool 3-1 and new coach Neil Redfearn saluted their go-forward attitude at Elland Road. A stunning first-half, which saw Liam Cooper, Souleymane Doukara and Mirco Antenucci all score meant that Blackpool's second-half revival could not affect the result.

"We were excellent in the first half, some of the movement and the passing was different class," Redfearn said.

McCarthy hails hard-fought win

Mick McCarthy paid tribute to his side after Ipswich's hard-earned 1-0 victory over Watford saw his side move to within two points of the top of the Championship. Tommy Smith's 83rd minute goal was the difference between two evenly-matched sides.

"I'm really pleased with the performance and the win. Watford are a good side and we had to play exceptionally well, said McCarthy.

"I said to my boys at half-time that Watford are a very good Championship team who, like us, have a chance of going up there."

Barca get back to winning ways

Substitute Neymar and Jordi Alba came to the rescue with second-half goals to give Barcelona a 2-1 comeback victory at Almeria yesterday, but Lionel Messi again just missed out in his bid to become La Liga's all-time leading marksman.

Messi hit the crossbar in either half as the pressure seems to be building on him to equal Telmo Zarra's La Liga scoring record of 251 goals. The Argentinian remains a goal short of the former Athletic Bilbao striker, having experienced the rare feeling of not having scored in his last three league games.

"With the problems that Almeria caused us along with our own mistakes and lack of rhythm, the best thing is the result," Barca coach Luis Enrique said.

"Still we turned the game around and in order to have success you have to win even when you don't play well like today."


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