Real Sociedad's 2-1 defeat of RCD Mallorca ensured the Basque side go into the new year top of the Spanish Primera División no matter what happens in their encounter with the bottom club RC Recreativo de Huelva next weekend.
Sociedad are unbeaten this season and levelled soon after Samuel Eto'o's opener when Javi de Pedro struck from outside the box. A mistake by goalkeeper Leo Franco presented Mikel Aranburu with a chance to score the second on 58 minutes.
FC Barcelona might have won ten consecutive games in the UEFA Champions League, the joint best ever run in the competition alongside AC Milan, but their league form went from bad to worse when the Catalan side fell 3-0 to Sevilla FC, who won away from home for the first time this season.
It was Barça’s first defeat at Camp Nou this season – but Louis van Gaal’s side have now lost six times in the league and lie in 13th spot, two points above the relegation zone. Javi Casquero fired Sevilla into the lead from the penalty spot after Philippe Christanval hauled down José Antonio Reyes and Mariano Toedtli capped a miserable night for the Azulgrana with two second-half goals, tapping in the second after a powerful run down the flank from Marcos Vales.
Madrid move on up
Real Madrid CF looked to be in for another shock after their 2-2 draw with FC Lokomotiv Moskva in the Champions league but battled back to defeat Recreativo 4-2, moving up to third, ahead of RC Celta de Vigo on goal difference.
The Santiago Bernabéu side were 2-0 down inside 15 minutes after strikes from David García Cubillo and Miguel Angel Espinola Jiménez, but Raúl Bravo pulled one back on 28 minutes and Iván Helguera equalised after 20 minutes of the second half. Raúl González put Madrid ahead five minutes later and Luis Figo made the points safe in the dying moments when he converted from the penalty spot following a foul that earned goalkeeper Jose Antonio Luque a red card.
Celta and Real Betis Balompié both lost further ground on the leaders with surprise defeats against sides in the bottom half of the table, the Vigo team going down 3-0 at Real Racing Club Santander and the Seville club losing 1-0 at home to Madrid's third team, Rayo Vallecano.
Israeli striker Yossi Benayoun was the star of the show for Racing, scoring two second-half goals after José Moratón had put his side in front with a header. Victor Onopko's goal was enough to make sure Rayo coach Fernando Vázquez secured a valuable victory over one of his former employers.
RC Deportivo La Coruña joined fourth-placed Betis on 23 points courtesy of a 1-0 win at home to Málaga CF, the winner coming from an Albert Luque overhead kick four minutes from time.
Osasuna march on
In Sunday's other matches, Club Atlético Osasuna continued their rise up the table with a 1-0 home win over RCD Espanyol, while David Aganzo scored both goals to bring to an end Real Valladolid's run of three successive defeats with a 2-0 victory over Athletic Club Bilbao.
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