First division day 33
Leaders Real Madrid fielded a depleted team for their match at Celta and paid the price, losing 3-0 to the most on-form team in the league. Juanfran gave the Gallicians the lead early on and Gustavo López got the second in the 25th minute from a short free kick after Roberto Carlos got himself sent off for a second bookable offence. Celta's Giovanella joined him in an early bath midway through the second half, but substitute Jesuli added Celta's third in stoppage time to take them within two points of fifth placed Barcelona. Madrid are still nine points ahead of Deportivo pending their Sunday match.
Valencia also put a team packed with reserves but came out 1-2 winners against Real Sociedad, largely thanks to the referee. Medina Cantalejo sent off Real's Luiz Alberto and Fuentes before half time much to the ire of the local crowd, who greeted him with a hail of missiles at the break. Zahovic finally put the visitors in front halfway through the second half, but Medina compensated his earlier decisions with an inexistent penalty which Aranzábal converted. However Aimar scored the winner a few minutes before the end to take Valencia up to within a point of Depor.
Espanyol and Barcelona ended their local derby as it started, with 0-0 on the scoreboard. The match was played on a waterlogged pitch after a torrential downpour hit the stadium just prior to kick off, and neither side was able to keep their feet long enough to make any inroads. Barcelona have not won now in nine matches and see their objectives of a place in the Champions League for next season drift further away. Espanyol's hopes of a place in Europe next year were also damaged by the result. (05.05.01)
Deportivo failed to take full advantage of Real Madrid's slip after being held away to a 1-1 draw at Rayo Vallecano. Bolo gave the home team the lead in the second half but Valerón levelled the scores with twenty minutes to go. Depor are now eight points behind Madrid and two ahead of Valencia with five games to go.
Fourth placed Mallorca lost ground on Valencia and saw Barcelona close to within three points after losing 1-0 at Osasuna. A goal in the second half by substitute Armentano gave the Pamplona based team the vital three points after the visitor's keeper Mono Burgos had saved an Iván Rosado penalty earlier on. The win takes Osasuna out of the relegation zone above Real Sociedad.
Alavés warmed up for the Bermuda triangle and more importantly for their UEFA cup final with a 5-1 victory over struggling Racing Santander. Javi Moreno celebrated his return to the starting line up scoring two, taking him back to the top of the league's Pichichi table. The other goals were scored by Jordi Cruyff, Iván Alonso and Raúl Gañan, with Morán replying for the visitors, who stay next to bottom. Alavés stay in seventh place, breathing down the necks of sixth placed Celta.
Villarreal also kept up their push for European football with a 2-1 victory over Las Palmas. Víctor opened the scoring in the first half and Jorge López added a second after the break with a Las Palmas player lying injured. Schurrer pulled one back a couple of minutes later in a game in which their manager Sergio Kresic was sent off in the first half for protesting.
Oviedo produced their best result of the season, beating Athletic Bilbao 5-0 to move away from the relegation spots. All five goals came within the first hour of the game, with two each from Oli and Paunovic and another from Danjou.
They go a point above Valladolid, who could only draw 0-0 at home to Málaga to stay three points above the drop zone. Valladolid's veteran midfielder Caminero got himself sent off in the second half after picking up a second yellow card for diving. Málaga lose ground on the other European candidates, and are now four points behind Celta.
The day was overshadowed though by the assassination of a leading politician as he was making his way to watch Zaragoza play Numancia. Manuel Giménez Abad, the local president of the Zaragoza branch of the ruling Partido Popular, was shot in the head by Basque terrorists minutes before the match was due to start. The game ended 3-1 to Zaragoza, with two goals in the first half from Yordi and a third by Aguado, with José Manuel replying for the visitors, who are now two points behind Racing at the bottom of the table. Zaragoza move safely up to mid-table. (06.05.01)