Barcelona escape from Seville with bittersweet draw

Society Materials 10 February 2008 03:40 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- Barcelona did well to escape from Seville with a 1- 1 draw Saturday, after being thrown against the ropes by lively Sevilla.

Barca's second-half revival culminated with an equalizer from Xavi Hernandez, which cancelled out Diego Capel's first-half goal for Sevilla.

The draw leaves Barca in second place in La Liga - with 48 points from 23 games - now five points behind leaders Real Madrid, who on Sunday are at home to midtable Valladolid.

"There is still a long way to go," Barca midfielder Andres Iniesta told television channel La Sexta. "This is a difficult ground to win on, and they made things really hard for us in the first half."

The hosts tore Barca apart down both flanks in a pulsating opening burst and should have gone ahead by more than one goal.

Frederic Kanoute should have opened the scoring in the 32nd minute on a perfect centre from teenage left-winger Diego Capel.

It was Capel himself who put Sevilla ahead, just two minutes later, turning in a centre from the right from fellow youth product Jesus Navas.

Barca coach Frank Rijkaard brought on Ronaldinho at half-time, and his team gradually began to take control.

In the 75th minute Xavi made it 1-1 by toe-poking home a perfect pass from Lionel Messi.

Three minutes later, the rampant Messi was hacked down by Seydou Keita, who was given his marching orders.

A man short, Sevilla had little choice but to fall back in defence and play on the break.

Messi almost set up a Barca winner in the 87th minute, with a cross that flashed invitingly across the empty Sevilla goal.

At the other end, the impressive Capel went close with a powerful, left-footed drive.

Barcelona have still won only three away games this season.

The draw keeps Sevilla in seventh place with 33 points.

Earlier Saturday, Villarreal maintained third place with a last- gasp, 1-0 win at lowly Murcia.

Villarreal won thanks to a goal in the third minute from Guille Franco.

The Mexico striker controlled a clever pass from Josico and - despite a suspicion of offside - scored with a low shot.

Until then a goalless draw had seemed on the cards. But Villarreal refused to settle for a point and finally reaped a rich reward for their ambition.

Manuel Pellegrini's team now have 42 points from 23 games, seven less than second-place Barcelona at the end of Saturday.

Villarreal are now three points ahead of fourth-placed Espanyol, who play Sunday at home to troubled Recreativo Huelva.

Saturday's other early game was a lively 1-1 draw between Deportivo Coruna and Getafe.

An own goal from Getafe defender Mario Alvarez just before the interval gave Deportivo the lead. But Getafe improved in the second half, and Ikechukwu Uche equalized for them on the hour with a powerful drive.

The disappointing draw leaves fallen giants Deportivo sixth from bottom with 24 points.

Getafe stay in 11th place with 28 points.