First division - day 17

Leaders Alavés were surprisingly beaten 0-1 by Sevilla and drop down the table to third. The match was played in sub-zero temperatures, although ground staff were able to clear away the snow which hit many areas in Spain the day before. The only goal came six minutes from the end through Casquero with a shot which took a deflection off Pablo, and the Sevilla players upset the local fans after that with their blatant time wasting tactics. Alavés had played most of the second half with ten men after Téllez got himself sent off for elbowing Víctor Sales. Sevilla's win takes them up to ninth.

Deportivo de La Coruña could only draw 1-1 at Málaga in the last game of the day, leaving Real Madrid top of the table at the end of the weekend. For once Diego Tristán was off target, and the home side took the lead through Darío Silva, who shook off a bout of flu to make the side. Darío beat Molina with a spectacular shot from outside of the area, and Málaga could have extended their lead in the second half if Dely Valdés and then his replacement Canabal had not dithered too long when presented with scoring chances. Sergio hit the post for the visitors, and Naybet got the equaliser twelve minutes from the end after Valerón put him through. It was Deportivo's first point away from home in five games, and they stay fourth, a point behind the leaders.

Betis moved up to second, just behind Real Madrid on goal average, after beating Mallorca 1-0. The Sevilla based side have the best home record in the league, having only let in three goals all season at the Ruíz de Lopera stadium, and once again Prats kept a clean sheet to keep him top of the Zamora chart. Joao Tomás returned to the side after injury, and he got the only goal from the penalty spot just before the half time whistle after substitute Fernando Niño was rather harshly adjudged to have handled in the area. Denilson hit the bar in the second half, and Luque missed the visitors' best chance when he overran the ball. Mallorca drop back down and are now only a point away from the drop zone.

Celta rose up a place to fifth after defeating Zaragoza 2-0. Catanha scored the opener in the sixth minute after Vellisca had had a goal disallowed at the other end for offside. The visitors got another chance to equalise when they were awarded a penalty just before the break for a foul by Cáceres on Yordi, but Cavallero saved Aragón's kick. But then Celta made sure a quarter of an hour from the end when substitute Gustavo López celebrated his return from injury picking up a short free kick from Mostovoi to beat Juanmi with a low shot into the bottom corner of the net. Zaragoza fall to their third defeat in a row, and they drop to fifteenth, only two points above the relegation places.

Athletic Bilbao were almost caught out by bottom club Rayo Vallecano, who outplayed them at the San Mames stadium and ended up drawing 1-1. On paper this should have been a home banker, with Athletic unbeaten for eight games and Rayo clocking up seven away defeats in a row. However the Madrid based side took the lead in the second half when an error by keeper Lafuente gifted the ball to Michel. It was left to Bilbao's two most on-form players to bail them out of trouble, Ezquerro crossing in for Urzaiz to score his tenth of the season to keep him at the top of the goalscorers chart. Bilbao drop a place to sixth.

Barcelona held on with ten men to win their first game in six, beating Villarreal 0-1 at the Madrigal stadium. With roads down the East coast blocked by snow the team had to travel by plane to Valencia the night before, and the cold conditions on the evening of the game meant that many fans stayed away. Kluivert scored their goal six minutes before half time after a long pass by Xavi, but then the young midfielder got himself sent off five minutes later by referee Turienzo Alvarez after picking up a second yellow card for arguing. Rexach had been playing a 4-4-2 formation for this match, and he pulled off one of his forwards Saviola to defend for the last 45 minutes. In the second half Bonano stopped everything thrown at him and Víctor hit the bar with a long shot as the home side tried unsuccessfully for the equaliser.

Two teams languishing in the bottom half of the table, Valladolid and Tenerife, cancelled each other out in a dull 0-0 draw. Fans had little cheer on a bitter cold night, and they ended the game upset with the referee after he disallowed a late goal by Cuauhtèmoc for an earlier foul on Pablo Paz. The two keepers, Ricardo and Aragoneses, were the best players on the field throughout the game. Tenerife stay down in the relegation zone in eighteenth place, with Valladolid six places and four points above them. (16.12.01)

Real Madrid came from behind to beat Real Sociedad 3-1 and move back to the top of the table pending Sunday's games. Khokhlov surprised the league champions with a well taken goal six minutes before the break, but Madrid were level by half time when Kvarme put through his own net as he tried to cut out a through ball from Raúl. With an hour gone Raúl picked up a long throw from Roberto Carlos and ran on to shoot through Alberto's legs to put his side in front, and Figo finished things off from the penalty spot after López Rekarte pushed over Zidane. The defeat leaves John Toshack's side further adrift in next to bottom place.

Three goals in a seven minute period in the second half against Espanyol helped Valencia to their first away win in seven months. The Catalan side had taken a two goal lead in the first half, with Palencia getting the first from Posse's cross and Alex adding another after Roger had laid back Tamudo's centre from the right. Things looked black for manager Rafa Benítez who has been heavily criticised recently, but two goals from Rufete in four minutes levelled the scores, and then a third from Ilie after good work by half time substitute Salva put the visitors ahead. Valencia ended the game with ten men after Pellegrino picked up a second booking in injury time, but they rise up the table to fifth, for the next 24 hours at least.

Las Palmas and Osasuna shared the points in a game which both of them needed to win. Only one point separated the two at the start of the game, with Las Palmas in fifteenth place and Osasuna two below them, just above the relegation zone. The Pamplona based side were the better of the two in the first half, and it was no surprise when Armentano opened the scoring with half an hour gone. The local fans started to get on their players' backs as the game wore on, but with Lotina already counting his winnings, Rubén popped up to equalise four minutes from the end. (15.12.01)

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