La Liga Round-up
By Simon Fudge
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Barcelona looked second best in a 3-0 defeat at Villarreal on Sunday.Barcelona suffered a disappointing start to 2005, looking second best in a 3-0 defeat at Villarreal.
A brace from Diego Forlan gave Villarreal a well-deserved victory over Frank Rijkaard's side, with Gonzalo Rodriguez finding the scoresheet early in the second half, as Barca were a shadow of the side that have taken La Liga by storm this season.
The home side dominated the first half and had the better opportunities, with Forlan and Juan Roman Riquelme causing particular problems to Barca's backline in the opening 45 minutes.
The former Manchester United player forced a early save from Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes before Carles Puyol blocked an other goal-bound strike from the Uruguayan moments later.
Antonio Guayre then forced another good save from Valdes with a left footed shot before Villarreal deservedly broke the deadlock on the half hour mark.
Forlan played a lovely one-two with the influential Riquelme on the edge of the box before hammering a left footed strike that Valdes could only get a partial hand to before the ball hit the back of the net for 1-0.
Villarreal continued to press forward for more goals, with Hector Font shooting over the bar before Gonzalo failed to connect with Riquelme's free kick in front of goal.
The home side were unlucky not to double their advantage just before the break after Guayre had eluded the onrushing Valdes in the box, but his byline pass bounced up and hit the arm of Forlan right in front of goal before it was blown down for a hand ball.
Villarreal extended their lead two minutes after half time when Riquelme's fine free kick from the left was sublimely knocked home by Gonzalo for 2-0.
The second goal seemed to wake Barcelona up a bit, with Samuel Eto'o striking a powerful right footed short over the bar while Xavi stuck his effort woefully wide.
The Catalans then made claims for a penalty when Eto'o went down under the challenge of Villarreal goalkeeper Jose Reina, but their appeals were waved away by the match officials.
The home side continued to create more chances towards the end of the contest, with Forlan and Riquelme forcing good saves again from Valdes.
But Villarreal would not be denied, as Forlan converted his initial blocked shot on the rebound for his second goal of the match and a well-deserved 3-0 win.
The result sees Barcelona's lead at the top of the table reduced to seven points after Real Madrid took the bragging rights in the Spanish capital with an undeserved 3-0 win at rivals Atletico Madrid.
The visitors had three shots on target in the match and made all of them count, with Ronaldo scoring a brace and Santiago Solari also on the scoresheet, as Atletico failed to turn their dominant possession into goals.
Jesper Gronkjaer made his Atletico debut following his transfer window move from Birmingham City while new Real boss Wanderley Luxemburgo was looking to build on Wednesday's win over Real Sociedad at the Vicente Calderon.
Atletico created most of the first half chances, with Fernando Torres forcing Real goalkeeper Ivan Casillas into a fine save with a right footed strike.
It was Real, however, that took the lead against the run of play, as Roberto Carlos's weak low cross from the left saw Zinedine Zidane pull off a sublime dummy to outwit three Atletico defenders before the ball fell to the feet of Ronaldo.
The Brazilian star struck his right footed shot high into the net for a 1-0 lead on 14 minutes.
Despite going behind, Atletico continued to press forward and had decent chances go begging though Torres, Ariel Ibagaza and Salva Ballesta.
Real's only other chance of the half saw England captain David Beckham strike a right-footed free kick over the bar before the home side squandered more excellent opportunities to level before the break.
Torres missed an open net with a right footed volley that sailed over the bar in the box after Ibagaza forced an initial save from Casillas.
The Atletico striker was denied again moments later when Casillas stopped him brilliantly after latching onto Salva's volleyed cross-shot at the far post before Carlos Aguilera had his rebound strike blocked away.
The second half saw Atletico create more chances, with Torres left particularly frustrated by his missed efforts.
The striker's best opportunity saw Casillas make another fine save from his shot that initially deflected off Helguera in the Real box.
With the home side struggling to convert their chances, Real killed the match off as a contest by scoring with their second shot on goal, as Solari rounded the onrushing Leo Franco in the Atletico goal before finishing left footed for 2-0.
The visitors then made it three with seven minutes remaining, as Ronaldo struck home his second goal of the match after latching onto a fine Zidane through ball.
The result keeps the pressure on leaders Barcelona, who play at Villarreal later on Sunday.
Espanyol continue to keep pace with the frontrunners in La Liga after thrashing Osasuna 4-1 at the Montjuic.
It was the visitors who took the lead just after the quarter hour mark through Pierre Webo before Maxi Rodriguez made it 1-1 on 32 minutes.
Four minutes later, Fredson gave the Barcelona club the lead with the first of his two goals before Ivan de la Pena made it 3-1 four minutes before half time.
Fredson sealed Espanyol's first win of the New Year with his second goal with seven minutes remaining, as they keep pace on the leading pack in La Primera.
A goal two minutes before the break from the Brazilian Savio gave Real Zaragoza a 1-0 win over Real Betis at La Romareda.
Struggling Mallorca earned a 2-2 draw with Deportivo La Coruna at Son Moix - with all the goals coming in the second half.
Albert Luque gave Depor the lead five minutes after the break before Luis Garcia made it 1-1 six minutes later.
Luque scored his second on 61 minutes before Yoshito Okubo earned The Islanders a point with a second equaliser two minutes later.
A brace from Antonio Pacheco gave Albacete an important 2-0 win at Real Sociedad.
The defeat at the Anoeta capped an awful start to the New Year for Sociedad, who succumbed all three points to Real Madrid in midweek after completing the final seven minutes of their previously-abandoned match.
Finally, Racing Santander won an important relegation battle with Malaga after a 2-1 win at El Sardinero.
Javi Guerrero gave Racing the lead midway through the first half before Mario Regueiro doubled the home side's advantage five minutes before the break.
Gonzalez Cesar Navas pulled a goal back for Malaga with five minutes remaining, but it proved not enough in the end.
The match had an eventful ending, as three players were sent off in the dying stages.
Racing's Mehdi Nafti and the Malaga pair of Francisco Ruano and Miguel Angel were all shown red cards by referee Alfonso Pino Zamorano.
Click below for match summaries:
Atletico Madrid 0-3 Real Madrid
Espanyol 4-1 Osasuna
Mallorca 2-2 Deportivo La Coruna
Racing Santander 2-1 Malaga
Real Sociedad 0-2 Albacete
Real Zaragoza 1-0 Real Betis
Villarreal 3-0 Barcelona
Click here for the Primera Liga table.