Football: Villarreal miss chance to leapfrog Real Madrid in La Liga

Villarreal's defender Adrian Marin reacts after missing an attempt on goal during the Spanish league football match between Villarreal CF vs Real Betis.
Villarreal's defender Adrian Marin reacts after missing an attempt on goal during the Spanish league football match between Villarreal CF vs Real Betis. PHOTO: AFP

MADRID (REUTERS) - Villarreal missed a chance to climb above Real Madrid into third spot in the Spanish Primera Liga and draw level on points with second-placed Barcelona when they were held to a 0-0 draw at home to promoted Real Betis on Saturday.

The stalemate at the Madrigal means Villarreal and Real have 40 points ahead of the Madrid club's game at home to Sporting Gijon on Sunday.

Real are ahead on goal difference, two points behind champions Barca and four adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid.

Atletico visit Las Palmas and Barca, who have played one game fewer than their main rivals, host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Villarreal forward Roberto Soldado came closest to scoring in the second minute when his shot beat Betis goalkeeper Antonio Adan but came back off a post.

Betis, who are still without a coach after Pepe Mel was sacked last weekend and are six points clear of the relegation places, enjoyed long periods of possession but struggled to get past a resolute home defence.

"We had quite a difficult time of it today and we weren't able to play our game and create chances," Villarreal captain Bruno Soriano told Spanish television. "If we had managed to score that chance Roberto had at the start, everything would have changed. But you have to create more chances if you want to win games."

Fifth-placed Celta Vigo held off a spirited fightback from bottom club Levante to secure a 4-3 victory in an entertaining clash in Galicia that trimmed the gap to Villarreal to six points.

Celta cruised into a 3-0 lead at their Balaidos stadium, with Sweden forward John Guidetti scoring twice. Levante fought back to 3-2 with 25 minutes left before the home side added a fourth goal six minutes from time.

Levante left-back Jose Luis Morales cracked the ball into the roof of the net with a minute remaining to make it 4-3 but the struggling Valencia-based side ran out of time to find an equaliser.

"We had periods of good play and others not so good," said forward Iago Aspas who scored Celta's third goal. "The final phase of the match was not good but we managed to hold out," added the former Liverpool player.

Celta, who had lost their previous three games in Spain's top flight, moved on to 34 points from 20 matches.

Levante, who have won only three games all season, have 14 points.

Sevilla climbed above Eibar into sixth position on 32 points when Gameiro scored twice in three minutes to give the Europa League holders a 2-1 victory at home to Malaga.

Gameiro struck five minutes before half-time at the Sanchez Pizjuan with a neat lob and the French forward added a second goal, his 11th in the league this term, in the 42nd with a cool finish from Vitolo's cross.

Sevilla surrendered control to Malaga, who are 10th, in the second half and Charles pulled a goal back in the 72nd minute after a well-worked free kick.

The hosts had midfielder Vicente Iborra sent off seven minutes from time after picking up two yellow cards in rapid succession soon after coming off the bench but they held on to move on to 32 points.

Malaga fullback Arthur Boka was dismissed in added time after also earning two quick cautions. "It was a tough game but this will lift our spirits and will give us confidence going forward," said Gameiro.

Eibar, who entertain Granada on Monday, have 30 points, two ahead of Bilbao in eighth and ninth-placed Deportivo La Coruna who drew 1-1 at Real Sociedad.

Luis Alberto put Deportivo ahead in the 26th minute after poor Sociedad defending before captain Xabi Prieto levelled for the Basques when he won and converted a penalty 15 minutes from time.