Real lose, Valencia takes over first place

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Valery Karpin scored in the 64th minute yesterday as Real Sociedad downed Real Madrid 1-0, allowing Valencia to keep hold of first place.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:05 IST
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Valery Karpin scored in the 64th minute yesterday as Real Sociedad downed Real Madrid 1-0, allowing Valencia to keep hold of first place in the Spanish league at the season's halfway mark. Madrid, which lacked the injured David Beckham, gave an off-key display on its way to its first defeat in eight matches and only its third of the season. Earlier, Valencia topped Albacete 1-0. After 19 games, Valencia has 43 points, while Madrid stays second with 42. Deportivo de La Coruna, which plays today, is next with 36 points, followed by Osasuna and Atletico de Madrid with 28 each. Also yesterday, striker Savo Milosevic and midfielder Peter Luccin netted late goals as Celta de Vigo topped Mallorca 4-2. Madrid, which came into the match with five straight wins, struggled against a team that beat the defending champions at home for the third straight season. The Basque team, which trounced Madrid 4-2 last April en route to finishing second in the league, carried the game to Madrid in the first half, but struggled to create chances. Turkey striker Nihat Kahveci came closest with a 29th-minute free kick and a back header over the bar from close range six minutes later after striker Darko Kovacevic had outjumped goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Madrid's only notable opportunity came when striker Raul Gonzalez ballooned his shot over the bar after a cross by Luis Figo in the 27th minute. Madrid briefly gained control after the interval with Dutch goalkeeper Sander Westerveld saving Raul's low shot in the 49th minute and right back Michel Salgado volleying over the bar five minutes later. But Sociedad broke the deadlock when Casillas weakly punched the ball to Karpin under Kovacevic's challenge, allowing the former Russian international to shoot home from close range. Raynald Denoueix's team came close to doubling its lead in the 83rd minute as Kovacevic's header from a corner was cleared off the line by Salgado with Casillas beaten. Sociedad moves up to 14th place with the victory, its second in succession but only its fifth of the season. Valencia extended its unbeaten streak to eight games, although it barely created any chances after taking the lead. Midfielder Jorge Lopez's game-winning penalty had an element of fortune, coming after left back Paco Pena was harshly adjudged to have pushed Argentine forward Pablo Aimar in the penalty area. Albacete responded to the setback by pushing hard for an equaliser, but Valencia's defensive solidity saw it through. Celta won its fourth of the season and brought relief to beleaguered coach Miguel Angel Lotina. Dutch striker Arnold Bruggink opened the scoring for Mallorca in the 12th minute, with former Spanish international midfielder Jose Ignacio Saenz equalising four minutes later. Bruggink restored the home side's lead with a penalty just before the interval. Celta took charge once Mallorca's Brazilian midfielder Nene was ejected in the 68th minute, with forward Jesuli Mora bringing his team level four minutes later with a header from a cross by Brazilian left back Sylvinho. (AP)