Real coach concedes La Liga is out of reach

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Real coach concedes La Liga is out of reach

LONDON - Real Madrid stumbled to a 2-2 home draw with Espanyol, allowing victorious Barcelona to open up a 13-point gap over their rivals and prompting Real boss Jose Mourinho to say the Catalans have all but won the Spanish title in December.

Barcelona moved nine points clear at the top of La Liga after Lionel Messi scored twice in a 4-1 hammering of second-placed Atletico Madrid at the Nou Camp.

Atletico striker Radamel Falcao gave the visitors a deserved early lead but Adriano levelled with a magnificent long-range shot, Sergio Busquets netted before the break and Messi took his 2012 tally to 90 with a second-half brace.

Barca moved 13 points clear of ailing champions Real Madrid in third, who were held to a surprise 2-2 draw at the Bernabeu.

Sergio Garcia gave Espanyol the lead, only for Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Coentrao to put the hosts in charge, but they failed to press home their domination. Juan Albin netted an equalizer for Espanyol in the 88th minute.

Jose Mourinho wrote off Real Madrid’s chances of overhauling Barcelona to retain their La Liga title.

“It is practically impossible,” Mourinho told a news conference about their title hopes.

“That’s too much [of a gap] at this stage. Last year we had a 10-point advantage in February or March and we were able to maintain it.

“But if we can improve in the league it will serve to help us in the King’s Cup and the Champions League.”

In England, Belgium international Jan Vertonghen broke the deadlock to send Tottenham Hotspur back into the top four of the Premier League with a 1-0 home win against Swansea City on Sunday.

The former Ajax defender scored in the 75th minute at White Hart Lane with a beautifully-struck right-footed shot after a Kyle Walker free kick from the right was nodded on by the Swansea defense.

Spurs leapfrogged Everton to take fourth place, level on 29 points with third-placed Chelsea who have a game in hand after losing the Club World Cup final in Japan 1-0 to Brazil’s Corinthians on Sunday.

In the day’s other match, West Bromwich Albion stayed sixth after being held to a goalless draw by 11th-placed West Ham United at The Hawthorns.

Spurs, without the injured Gareth Bale but with England midfielder Scott Parker returning as a late substitute for his first appearance of the season after Achilles surgery, enjoyed most of the possession but were frustrated by a flowing Swansea side that proved solid in defense and dangerous on the break.

“We had so many chances, so many opportunities to put the match to bed even earlier,” said Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas. “We were very solid today .?.?. it would have been extremely unfair if we hadn’t got the win today.”

Walker had Tottenham’s best chance of the goalless first half in the 40th minute when he blasted the ball at goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel from 25 meters.

Tremmel had barely time to raise his hands, with the ball ricocheting off his shoulder without Spurs being able to capitalize.

Swansea’s Michu then tried an opportunistic lob from the halfway line two minutes later that dipped over the bar as Hugo Lloris scrambled back to cover.

The game ended in controversy after Michu was felled by Lloris when the goalkeeper tried to punch the ball clear. With the Swansea player still lying in the area, and others beckoning for assistance, Tottenham played on to consternation from the visitors.

Swansea manager Michael Laudrup, whose side have not won at White Hart Lane in 15 league appearances there and remain 10th, was critical of referee Mike Dean’s delay in halting play while his man was on the ground.

“I was very angry,” the Dane told Sky Sports News. “If two players go up and you see there could be a head injury, then there’s only one thing to do: blow the whistle.”


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