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Mallorca in rarefied territory

BARCELONA, March 8 – Real Mallorca moved into the Champions League places after a comfortable 3-0 win over Sporting Gijon in the Spanish first division on Sunday.Mallorca are in fourth place, ahead of Sevilla on goal difference, after victory against an in-form Sporting side looking for their third consecutive win.

A long range shot from Julio Alvarez surprised Sporting keeper Juan Pablo Colinas to put Mallorca ahead and while they were always in control they did not extend the lead until the last 15 minutes when Victor Casadesus and Pierre Webo wrapped up the match.

"We are opening up a significant gap between ourselves and the teams in mid-table. We will keep on battling for a place in Europe and hope that maybe one of the sides above us in the top four has a loss of form," said Mallorca coach Gregorio Manzano.

A Gaizka Toquero double gave Athletic Bilbao a 2-0 win over Valladolid to boost their European ambitions.

Athletic are now just one point behind sixth-placed Deportivo La Coruna while the result has put Valladolid in further trouble at the other end of the table and they are now four points from safety.

In Sunday’s late match, a last ditch header from Ibrahima Balde gave ten-man Atletico Madrid a 1-1 draw against Zaragoza.

Defender Jiri Jarosik put Zaragoza in front when he headed in a corner after seven minutes and it was the home side that continued to have the better openings with Jose Antonio Reyes the only player from Atletico to pose any threat.

In-form Humberto Suazo missed a couple of guilt-edged chances but with Reyes sent-off for lashing out it appeared as though Zaragoza were set for victory until substitute Balde scored deep into injury time.

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"It’s impossible to play well all the time and I felt that although we did not carry much of a threat in their area, we passed the ball around well," said Atletico coach Quique Sanchez Flores.

Bottom side Xerez won their first away match of the season with a 4-2 victory over Malaga.

Momo Figueroa put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot after just five minutes but it appeared as though Malaga were on track for victory after goals from Sergio Duda and Valmiro Valdo put them into the lead.

Xerez though enjoyed the luck which they have lacked for much of this season as Momo scored their second penalty and then Leandro Gioda and Fabian Orellana completed the scoring.

On Saturday, a stoppage time winner from Rafael van der Vaart gave Real Madrid a 3-2 win over Sevilla and put them top of the table.

After 10-man Barcelona were held 2-2 by Almeria, Real took full advantage in a dramatic finale to go ahead of the Catalans on goal difference.

Having gone behind through a Xabi Alonso own-goal and then a Ivica Dragutinovic free-kick, Real started their comeback with goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos.

It appeared as though Real would have to settle for a draw before a grandstand finish from van der Vaart.

A brace from Lionel Messi rescued a point for Barcelona against an Almeria side who more than held their own.

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The Argentine twice brought Barca level after Almeria had gone ahead through Domingo Cisma and then a Carles Puyol own-goal.

On a bad night for Barca, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was dismissed for kicking out.

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