By Simon Fudge
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Barcelona's lead has been cut to six points after a 1-0 defeat at Valencia.Barcelona's lead at the top of La Liga has been cut to six points after a 1-0 defeat at second-place Valencia.
Frank Rijkaard's side fell to their second straight league defeat at the Mestalla on Sunday evening, as Valencia's prolific goalscorer David Villa struck just before half time to give Los Che a vital win.
Barca were under pressure for most of the first half, with Pablo Aimar and Mario Regueiro creating the best chances for the home side.
Yet, it was from a Victor Valdes mistake that Valencia claimed the only goal of the match, as the Barcelona goalkeeper's poor pass to captain Carles Puyol was intercepted by Villa.
The former Real Zaragoza hit-man instinctively made the most of Valdes being off his line and neatly chipped the ball over his head and into the back of the net.
The second half saw the visitors miss quality chances to pull level, with substitute Henrik Larsson's close-range shot brilliantly stopped by the foot of Valencia goalkeeper Santiago Canizares just after the break.
Brazilian Edmilson failed to hit the target with a close-range header from a free kick later in the half, while Villa forced Valdes into a fine save with a free kick strike in the dying stages.
Valencia held on for victory to throw the Spanish Primera Liga title race wide open, with third-place Real Madrid just seven points behind the champions.
A first-half penalty from Fernando Baiano gave Celta Vigo a 1-0 win over Villarreal.
Sunday's result at the Balaidos was Celta's fourth win in their last six Primera Liga matches.
In contrast, The Yellow Submarines have had a poor start to 2006 after recording just one win in their six league contests to date.
Deportivo La Coruna left it late to heap more misery on struggling Real Betis after a dramatic 1-0 win at the Ruiz de Lopera.
Substitute Ruben Castro struck the winner for the Galicians three minutes into injury time at the end of the match.
Atletico Madrid left it late to defeat Real Sociedad 1-0 at the Vicente Calderon.
Mateja Kezman's strike with nine minutes left was enough to claim all three points over their Basque opponents.
The visitors' night ended miserably, as on-loan Colombian John Viafara was sent off for violent conduct in the dying stages.
Mallorca missed the chance to move out of the relegation places after a 1-1 home draw with Getafe.
Venezuelan striker Juan Arango gave The Islanders the lead on 68 minutes, but Angel Vivar Dorado made sure of a point for the Madrid-based club ten minutes later.
Racing Santander got late goals from Damia Abella (82) and substitute Francisco Casquero (83) to defeat struggling Espanyol 2-0 at the Montjuic.
The Barcelona-based club have lost four of the six league matches they have played since the turn of the New Year.
Alaves boosted their chances of Primera Liga survival with a vital 3-2 win over fellow strugglers Malaga.
The Basque club ran out to a 3-0 lead, with a Cesar Navas's own-goal handing Alaves the lead just before the break.
Australian international John Aloisi doubled the Vitoria-based outfit's lead four minutes after the break before Bodipo made it three seven minutes later.
Malaga made the scoreline respectable after strikes from Duda (70) and Antonio Hidalgo (90).
Defeat for the Costa del Sol club keeps them two points adrift of safety in the Primera Liga table.
Click below for match summaries:
Alaves 3-2 Malaga
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Real Sociedad
Celta Vigo 1-0 Villarreal
Espanyol 0-2 Racing Santander
Real Betis 0-1 Deportivo La Coruna
Real Mallorca 1-1 Getafe
Valencia 1-0 Barcelona