First division - day 20
Real Madrid moved four points clear at the top after beating Valencia 1-0 in a packed Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Referee Pérez Pérez featured early on, incorrectly disallowing a headed goal by Ilie and then turning down a clear penalty appeal for a foul on Raúl by Pellegrino at the other end. Both keepers were on superb form, with Cañizares making a breathtaking one-handed save from Helguera and Casillas tipping a long effort by Albelda past the post after he was caught off his line. In the end though it was Morientes who broke the deadlock twenty minutes from the end, robbing the ball from Albelda in the six yard box before turning it back wide of Cañizares and in off the far post. The game ended in a near riot as tempers frayed after Carboni carried on playing with Morientes down injured.
Athletic Bilbao stay second on 34 points, a point ahead of five teams including Barcelona, who helped manager Rexach celebrate his 55th birthday with a 3-1 victory over Sevilla. They started badly though against their depleted opponents, Tomás coming in at the last minute after Fredi failed a late fitness test and immediately getting his name on the scoresheet, finishing off after Alfaro headed on a long throw in the fourth minute. Three minutes later Barça were level though after Rivaldo took Kluivert's pass to beat Notario, and they should have taken the lead when the Sevilla keeper saved a penalty from Rivaldo after Alfaro fouled the Brazilian star. Rivaldo made up for his miss in the second half, setting up Gabri for a second goal and then scoring the third himself, both from free kicks.
Barcelona move up to fourth, just behind Celta who could only draw 1-1 with Osasuna. For the second time in a week the Gallicians threw away a one goal lead in the Balaidos stadium, ending up with an identical result to the late draw with Rayo the week before. This time Vagner gave them the lead in the first half with a brilliant solo goal, but Cruchaga headed the equaliser on the hour mark from a corner. Víctor Fernández threw on Mostovoi, Gustavo López and Giovanella, but could not wear down the well organised Basque defence, with keeper Unzué on outstanding form. Osasuna stay three points clear of the drop zone in sixteenth place.
Deportivo de La Coruña fell five places down from second to seventh after losing 3-0 to Valladolid. By chance the league fixture fell in between the two quarter final cup legs between the two sides, but having beaten their opponents at the Riazor stadium midweek, this time Depor were a shadow of their normal selves and were caught out by a much better side. The home team scored twice in a minute on the half hour mark, with Marcos opening the scoring with a strike from wide on the left which took Molina by surprise. Fernando added a second with a shot which deflected off Djorovic over the keeper, and headed a third in the second half from a cross by Torres Gómez. Valladolid move up a place to ninth.
Alavés kept up their challenge on the top spots with a 1-0 victory over Tenerife. The only goal came early on from Magno, heading home the rebound after Aragoneses blocked an effort from Llorens. After that they held on to take the three points, with Kike returning in goal on good form. The result is a relief after losing their last two home games, and they are now fifth with a game in hand on all their rivals. Defeats for Mallorca and Real Sociedad mean that Tenerife stay clear of the relegation spots, although they are still only a point ahead of their rivals in seventeenth place.
Betis dropped out of the top six down to eighth after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to local rivals Málaga. After a good first half the hosts took the lead through Juanito immediately after the interval from Joaquín's corner. However Litos headed an equaliser midway through the second half, and in the end it took a good performance from keeper Prats to stop the visitors from taking all the points. Betis ended the game with ten men after substitute César was sent off for a hard tackle on Miguel Angel, and the game was marred by crowd trouble between the two sets of radical fans. At the end of the match the home supporters called out for president Manuel Ruiz de Lopera to sign a forward, although for the time being at least they have no plans to do so.
Controversy at the end of the game between Las Palmas and Mallorca, which the home side won 3-1. With the scores level in the final minute of normal time, Schurrer headed the ball in to the net for the home side. At first referee Daudén Ibáñez disallowed the goal for the positional offside of Paqui, but after a rain of objects fell on the pitch and continual protests from the Las Palmas players, he consulted his linesman and gave the goal. Then three minutes in to injury time he awarded a rigorous penalty to the Canary Islanders after the ball hit Olaizola's arm in the area, and their goalkeeper Nacho González stepped up to take the resulting penalty and score. Earlier in the first half Josico had put the home side in front with a header from a corner, and Luque had equalised after the break also with a header following a cross from new signing Losada who had just come on. The defeat means Mallorca stay down in the bottom three.
A dull goal-less draw between Zaragoza and Espanyol, with the home fans once again chanting for the head of Txetxu Rojo at the end. The manager did make several changes to his side in an effort to change their luck, including Jamelli in the squad for the first time in three months after making their peace. Espanyol were missing the suspended Tamudo, and also Velamazán, who will miss the rest of the season after a serious knee injury last week. However the goalkeepers came out on top, with Láinez stopping a shot from De Lucas and Mora saving from Yordi in the best efforts on goal. With only Las Palmas winning from the clubs in the bottom half of the table, both sides remain in fourteenth and thirteenth place respectively. (13.01.02)
Athletic Bilbao won their local derby against Real Sociedad 2-1 on Saturday night, the first time they have won against their neighbours in their own San Mames stadium for nine years. Curiously the two managers at that time were the same as now, Jupp Heyckes and John Toshack, both in earlier spells with their respective clubs. Tiko gave the hosts the lead in the first half with a shot from outside of the area, but De Pedro equalised with a free kick just before the break. But Tiko put his side ahead again with another great goal on the hour mark, his second on the night and his fourth in four days after also scoring a brace in their midweek cup match. Kovacevic got the ball in the net twenty minutes from time on his first game since rejoining the club, but referee Medina Cantalejo ruled it out, sending of Toshack into the bargain for protesting too strongly. The result takes Athletic temporarily up to second pending Sunday's games, with Real now firmly stuck down in next to bottom place.
A last minute goal from Quevedo against the run of play saved a point for Rayo Vallecano in their visit to Villarreal and left the home side manager Víctor Muñoz reeling against the ropes. After a goal-less first half, Víctor put the home side ahead from the penalty spot when Peragón handled in the area, and it looked as if they would hold on to the much needed three points before the versatile midfielder popped up to level the scores from Arteaga's free kick. Rayo stay bottom though on fourteen points, still five adrift of Real Sociedad. Villarreal stay down in the bottom half of the table having failed to win now in six games, and could be very close to the relegation spots if results go against them on Sunday. (12.01.02)