First division day 35

Real Madrid moved closer to their first league championship in four years with a narrow 0-1 victory against city rivals Rayo Vallecano. Guti got the only goal before the half time interval after Keller failed to hold on to a Roberto Carlos free kick. It was a bad tempered game, with Rayo's Helder getting sent off for a second bookable offence in the second half. Madrid stay six points above second placed Deportivo, and will take the title if they beat Oviedo next Saturday in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Deportivo kept their slim hopes of a second league championship alive with a heart-stopping 2-3 victory over Oviedo. Diego Tristán got his third hat-trick of the season with the first two of the match and a third in the second half after Jaime had pulled one back, but Paunovic brought the Asturians back in to the game again with twenty minutes to go. Then Depor's keeper Molina was sent off after receiving a second yellow card for time wasting and Donato had to take over in goal for the last ten minutes.

After the one goal victories by their rivals Valencia and Barcelona for the Champions League spots, Mallorca did the same, beating Espanyol 0-1 in the Montjuic stadium. Luque got the only goal of the match against the run of play in the eighteenth minute, and despite playing with ten men for most of the second half after Marcos was shown a second yellow card, Mallorca held on to move back level with Valencia and stay three points ahead of Barça.

The top five have opened up a seven point gap over sixth placed Celta, who stay in the last UEFA spot despite drawing 1-1 with bottom club Numancia. Referee López Nieto had to leave the pitch injured after twenty minutes (the third referee to do so in Celta's games this season) and was replaced by the fourth official who awarded a controversial penalty to Celta fifteen minutes from the end which Gustavo López converted, and sent off Karpin and Marini after they clashed near the end. The visitors had taken a deserved lead ten minutes earlier through Rosu.

Four other teams are in contention with Celta for sixth place, Villarreal, Málaga, Alavés and Espanyol, but none of them took advantage of their slip up this week. Villarreal were the only one of the four to pick up a point with a 0-0 draw at Zaragoza. Esnaider returned for the home side but ended up arguing with the crowd who protested at his performance. Villarreal move up to seventh, a point behind Celta and one above Málaga, who were well beaten 4-0 by Real Sociedad. Idiakez put the San Sebastian side in the lead in third minute and De Paula headed a second before the break. Two more in the second half from Khokhlov and Tayfun gave Real the three points to take them up to fifteenth in the league above Valladolid and Oviedo.

The bottom three teams all drew to maintain the status quo, although five other sides are within four points of the drop zone and are not out of trouble. Osasuna drew 3-3 against Las Palmas in an extraordinary game, with goalkeeper Nacho González scoring twice from the penalty spot for the visitors. The lead changed hands three times, with Iván Rosado giving the Pamplona based side an early lead, Guayre and González putting the Canary Islanders ahead, Osasuna's Gerardo getting his first two goals for his new club including another penalty, and González levelling the scores near the end. Osasuna close up to within a point of Oviedo and two of Valladolid, who drew 1-1 with next to bottom team Racing Santander. A Txema own goal gave the home side the lead, but a mistake by keeper Bizzarri two minutes from the end let in Rushfeldt for the equaliser. (20.05.01)

Alavés paid the price for their epic UEFA cup final losing 0-1 to Barcelona in the only match played on Saturday night. The visitors took the lead through Overmars in the eighteenth minute with their only shot of the first half and held on to move level with fourth placed Mallorca pending Sunday's games. Contra was sent off by referee Medina Cantalejo close to the end for a second bookable offence. (19.05.01)

An unrecognisable Valencia scraped a last minute victory against Athletic Bilbao to close to within two points of second placed Deportivo. Héctor Cúper rested ten of his first choice players including goalkeeper Cañizares in preparation for next Wednesday's Champions League final, making a bit of a mockery of his request to play the game on Friday night. Still Valencia dominated the game, and Zahovic got the winner from the penalty spot in the second minute of stoppage time after Carlos García brought down Juan Sánchez. (18.05.01)

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