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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Barcelona Closing Gap Against Real

MADRID, Spain -- An aggressive Athletic de Bilbao handed leader Real Madrid its third defeat of the season this weekend, placing Madrid's championship plans in danger with No. 2 Barcelona now lying just a mere two points behind with three games left to play.


Carlos Garcia's 56th-minute goal, off a corner kick that rebounded off several Real defenders, gave Athletic the 1-0 victory Sunday and left Real with 86 points, two more than Barcelona, which defeated Deportivo 1-0 on Saturday.


Athletic overtook Valladolid for sixth place with 58 points, 28 behind Madrid. Deportivo clings to 3rd place with 74 points, one ahead of Betis, which was scheduled to take on Valencia on Monday.


Athletic dominated until the final 10 minutes of the match with frequent attacks in the Madrid area, while Raul Gonzalez had one of Real's rare opportunities with a shot that went wide midway through the first period.


Real pressed furiously in the closing minutes but Roberto Carlos failed to score on two free kicks, one repelled by Athletic's defense in the 80th minute and another that struck the right post in the 86th. Athletic broke up several other attacks.


In Barcelona, It took 89 minutes of constant attack and a dozen failed threats, but star striker Ronaldo finally pulled out a crucial 1-0 home victory over Deportivo on Saturday to keep alive his team's title chances.


Ronaldo, the Spanish league's top scorer, notched his 34th of the season in characteristic fashion, breaking away from a mass of defenders and using sheer speed to drive towards Deportivo's goal and beat goalkeeper Jacques Songoo with 30 seconds left in regulation time.


It was likely the Brazilian's farewell to the ecstatic crowd at Camp Nou stadium, since his national team obligations are scheduled to keep him out of the last three Spanish league games, in which Barcelona is trying to snatch the lead from Real Madrid.


Deportivo's loss leaves it in danger of losing the No. 3 spot to Betis, which trails Deportivo by just one point going into its match on Monday at Valencia.


Barcelona dominated a scoreless first half that included several failed attacks from Ronaldo, starting with a 3rd-minute play broken up by Deportivo defenders.


Portuguese striker Luis Figo fired over the crossbar, Ronaldo did likewise two minutes later, and Ivan de La Pena also had opportunities before Deportivo made its first challenge in the 15th minute courtesy of Rivaldo. Deportivo came out for the second half with more cohesive play, matching Barcelona threat for threat.


(For other results, see Scorecard.)