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Late goal rescues Barca

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Monday, April 22, 2013

MADRID - Real Madrid and Barcelona laboured to victories over Real Betis and Levante respectively on Saturday as they warmed-up for their Champions League semi-finals in midweek.

Barca's 1-0 win moved them to within two victories of mathematically sealing the title, but without the injured Lionel Messi they struggled to break down a resolute Levante until Cesc Fabregas stroked home the winner eight minutes from time.

Eric Abidal started for the hosts for the first time in 14 months following his liver transplant as Tito Vilanova rested a number of key players with Tuesday's clash with Bayern Munich in mind.

However, they were denied the perfect start when Keylor Navas saved David Villa's penalty after Pape Diop was very harshly judged to have brought down Andres Iniesta. Barca continued to press for the remainder of the first-half but long-range efforts from Dani Alves and Villa were all that Navas had to deal with.

Madrid's 3-1 victory over Betis earlier in the day was slightly more routine, but also came at a cost as Marcelo and Luka Modric limped off with muscular injuries and are now serious doubts for the first-leg of their semi-final with Borussia Dortmund. After a slow opening by the hosts they went ahead just before half-time when Mesut Ozil latched onto Karim Benzema's through ball to slot home at the near post.





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