First division - day 18

Real Madrid failed in their objective to end the year in first place, but kept up their six game unbeaten run with a 1-1 draw at Mallorca. Raúl headed his side into the lead from a Roberto Carlos centre ten minutes in to the second half, but Mallorca woke up and Luque ran on to Eto'o's square pass to equalize a few minutes later. With Casillas suspended and César injured, third choice keeper Carlos Sánchez made his first team league debut for the visitors, and he made a vital save from Eto'o's header in injury time to save a point. Madrid drop to second, a point behind leaders Deportivo. Mallorca are now only two points above the drop zone, although now that they are out of cup competitions and can concentrate on the league they should have the quality to survive.

Zaragoza ended their two game losing run with a 3-2 victory over Villarreal. It took a late Acuña penalty to take the three points though after the visitors came back from two down to level the score in the second half. Chainho and Vellisca had given them a first half lead, but goals by Víctor and Jorge López after the break had appeared to have saved a point for Víctor Muñoz's side. However Galván got himself sent off with ten minutes to go when he brought down Vellisca in the penalty area, and with the home crowd inexplicably baying for the head of their manager Txetxu Rojo, Acuña stepped up to score the winning goal.

The last match of the year was between the two Basque teams Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao, and it ended with a 0-1 victory for the visitors. Both sides hit the bar in a lively first half, and Bilbao had a penalty claim turned down for a foul on Tiko. Lafuente made three important saves from Armentano and Aloisi twice after the break, but Etxeberria hit the winner after picking up a long pass from Alkiza. The win takes Bilbao up to fifth, within two points of the leaders. Osasuna stay in seventeenth place, only a point now above the drop zone.

The fourth match of the day between Rayo Vallecano and Alavés was postponed as the pitch was frozen due to the heavy snowfall in Madrid. The game has provisionally been rescheduled for 2nd January. (23.12.01)

Deportivo La Coruña moved back to the top of the table with a 2-0 victory over second placed Betis. Starting the day a point behind their rivals the Gallicians needed a win to overtake them, and Irureta put out an attacking line up including Tristán and Makaay. The Dutch striker opened the scoring in the eighth minute after a defence splitting pass from Fran, and Sergio added the second after the break, heading home a long cross from substitute Víctor. Real Madrid and Alavés could overtake them if they win on Sunday. Betis have never won at the Riazor stadium, and they drop down the table to fourth after their defeat.

A poor Barcelona side were beaten 2-0 by Espanyol, increasing the pressure on their manager Carles Rexach. With Xavi and Rochemback suspended and Rivaldo and Gerard injured, Rexach was forced to cobble together a makeshift midfield, but his side hardly created a scoring chance all match. Both goals came from Spanish international striker Tamudo in a fifteen minute period in the second half, starting with the silliest goal of the night when he charged down a clearance by Bonano. The second came after Rotchen headed on Alex's corner, taking Espanyol into the top half of the table only three points behind their neighbours.

Valencia kept in touch with the top teams after coming from behind to beat Málaga. 2-1. Rafa Benítez left Aimar on the bench and gave his place to Mista, and the youngster proved his manager right, scoring a calmly taken winning goal with only half an hour on the clock. Darío Silva had opened the scoring for the visitors after Cañizares failed to hold on to Gerardo's free kick, but Vicente levelled things a few minutes later, his free kick from wide out on the right taking a deflection off Roteta to deceive Contreras. Málaga's Musampa was sent off midway through the second with a straight red card, presumably for something her said to referee Daudén Ibáñez, and Ayala was carried off unconscious at the end after clashing with Romero. Valencia are currently in sixth place, only three points behind leaders Depor.

Celta joined last week's leaders Real Madrid and Betis on 31 points after a 0-1 away win at Sevilla. The turning point of the game came in the second half when referee Ansuategui Roca awarded a penalty to the visitors for a foul by Javi Navarro on Catanha. The Hispano-Brazilian striker took the kick himself, and although Notario saved, the ball fell back to Catanha for him to tuck it away, celebrating his goal pulling out a father Christmas hat from his pocket and putting it on. There were changes in both line ups, with Berizzo and Karpin returning from suspension for the visitors but Mostovoi out injured, and Nico Olivera left in the standsby Sevilla manager Joaquín Caparrós. Celta substitute Silvinho was sent off in injury time after picking up two yellow cards in a minute.

Real Sociedad produced their best result in six years, beating Valladolid 6-0 at the Anoeta stadium. Real's new goalkeeper Westerveld, just signed from Liverpool, was a bystander as John Toshack's side took apart the visitors, with Khohklov celebrating his 26th birthday with an inspired performance. The Russian international set up Xabi Alonso for him to beat Ricardo with a spectacular volley in the first half, and scored the second himself five minutes after the break. Then the floodgates opened as Valladolid gave up, and Khokhlov set up De Paula and then Tayfun for two more in the next ten minutes. It was still not over though, and Luiz Alberto and Tayfun again added two more near the end.

The first ever Canary Island derby in the first division ended with an away victory for Las Palmas, who defeated Tenerife 1-3. The team from Gran Canaria were far superior, and they took the lead early on from their best man on the night, Tevenet, from a quick breakaway. A power cut in Santa Cruz stopped the game for almost half an hour, but when the lights came back on Lussehhoff levelled the scores turning in Marioni's free kick. Their joy only lasted two minutes though before Josico restored the lead, and Las Palmas keeper Nacho González finished things off with a goal from the penalty spot after Lussenhoff brought down Tevenet. (22.12.01)

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