Sociedad take advantage of distracted Villarreal

April 22, 2006

MADRID, April 22 (Reuters) - A weakened Villarreal clearly had their focus on next week's Champions League semi-final return against Arsenal as they slumped to a 2-0 home defeat against Real Sociedad in the Primera Liga on Saturday.

Villarreal rested several key players with six out injured and it showed when the Basque side raced into an early lead with Mikel Alonso and Mark Gonzalez scoring in the first 27 minutes to effectively settle the match.

The defeat left Villarreal eighth on 49 points while Sociedad climbed away from the relegation zone and are now 12th with 38 points after their third win in four outings.

Later on Saturday relegation-threatened Alaves host Atletico Madrid and Champions League-chasing Celta Vigo welcome Real Zaragoza.

Leaders Barcelona can claim a second consecutive Primera Liga title on Sunday if they win at Sevilla and second-placed Valencia, 11 points behind with five games left, fail to beat Athletic Bilbao.

Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini had made it clear before the match that turning over Arsenal's 1-0 lead on Tuesday was his priority and rested leading scorer Juan Roman Riquelme, Marcos Senna, and Juan Pablo Sorin among others.

Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan started on the bench.

A fired up Sociedad took full advantage, with Alonso left unopposed after nine minutes to drill a powerful shot at goalkeeper Sebastian Viera, who misjudged it badly as the ball skimmed off his shoulder.

Chilean winger Gonzalez doubled the lead, scoring his third goal in as many games. He fired in a low free kick which deflected off a foot in the wall to send Viera the wrong way.

The home side did not muster a shot on target until near the end of the first half but the introduction of Forlan after the break put the pressure on the visitors' goal for a while.

Socieded wobbled and Forlan skewed a shot wide of the post with just the keeper to beat in the 55th minute.

But Villarreal failed to maintain the momentum and the game finished tamely with Sociedad the side more likely to add to the scores.