First division - day 21
A good day for Real Madrid on Sunday even though they didn't play, with almost all of their closest rivals failing to win. Only Deportivo de La Coruña took maximum points of the teams immediately below them, with Celta and Betis both drawing away from home and Bilbao, Barcelona and Valencia all losing. Deportivo beat Las Palmas 1-0 to move up four places to third, just behind Alavés on goal average and three points behind Madrid. It was hard work though against a Las Palmas side who had gone six games without defeat, and in the end they won thanks to a mistake from keeper Nacho González, who punched Djalminha's corner in to his own net in the second half. With Makaay injured and a cup semi-final coming up in Figueres midweek, Irureta left Valerón on the bench and played with twin strikers Diego Tristán and Pandiani up front. They were less than effective though, and although the Gallicians recorded their seventh home win in a row, their fans were not happy with their performance. The game was marred by a bad injury to Las Palmas defender Oliás in the first half who dislocated a knee cap, although in the end it appears it was not as serious as at first thought.
Barcelona's brief revival was cut short by bottom club Rayo Vallecano who deservedly beat then 2-1 in front of a capacity crowd in Vallecas. Rexach lined up the same side which had beaten Zaragoza and Sevilla in the last two games, but this time Charly's Angels put in a less than heavenly performance. Bolic opened the scoring with an individualist goal midway through the first half, and Xavi equalised after the break with a first time lofted shot over Etxeberria's head after the keeper came out of his area to head the ball clear. Five minutes later though Rayo were back in front when De Quintana headed home a long cross from ex Barcelona defender Ferrón with Reina hesitating. Poor results by the teams around them mean that Barça stay in sixth place, although they lose more ground on leaders Real Madrid, now six points clear of them. Rayo have a game in hand which will take place next Wednesday against Alavés, and if they win that they will climb off the bottom spot above Real Sociedad.
Athletic Bilbao's away record was spoilt by struggling Mallorca, who surprisingly beat them 3-0 on Sunday evening. With one eye on next week's cup semi-final against Real Madrid, Jupp Heynckes changed his side around, leaving his new star Tiko on the bench. Kresic changed his formation to four at the back, and his side took the lead through Luque shortly before half time, who left Lacruz for dead before beating Lafuente. Engonga added a second from the penalty spot after the break after Carlos García brought down Luque, and in the closing minutes substitute Losada made it three running on to a long pass to shoot low past the keeper. Mallorca move out of the relegation spots above Tenerife, and Bilbao drop to fifth, just behind Celta on goal average.
Celta came from behind to draw 1-1 and take a point at Tenerife to stay in the Champions League spots. Tenerife's new signing Bassedas came straight in to Pepe Mel's side, and the Argentine international showed some good touches down the right wing. The Canary Islanders took the lead through Bino in the first half, following up after Cavallero could only block a shot from Bicho Fuertes. Fuertes had a couple of chances to increase the lead either side of half time, but in the end Catanha levelled things with his eleventh of the season in the league, taking him to the top of the Pichichi's chart. The home side were reduced to ten men three minutes from the end when Javi Venta picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Karpin, and Jesuli shot over the bar in the last minute with the goal at his mercy. Tenerfie drop down into the relegation zone below Mallorca.
Valencia lost 1-2 to Valladolid in the Mestalla stadium, the first time they have been beaten at home this season. Rafa Benítez left Carew out of the squad after rumours that his move to Fulham was back on, and decided to maintain Mista and Ilie up front, with Salva having to make do with a place on the bench after returning from a one match ban. The visitors took the lead from the penalty spot after Ayala brought down Luis García, the forward himself taking the kick. Pellegrino equalised a few minutes later, following up after Ricardo saved Ayala's header. However before half time Valladolid were back in front, Fernando Sales taking advantage of a loose clearance from Cañizares to score. Benítez brought on Salva and Aimar after the break, but they were unable to get past Ricardo and his defence, and they drop out of the European spots to seventh. Valladolid are now only two points behind them, in ninth place.
Espanyol once again threw away the lead in the last few minutes of their match, drawing 1-1 with Betis after substitute Joao Tomás scored an equaliser for the visitors two minutes from the end. Palencia had given the Catalan side the lead shortly after he came on, taking a pass from Oscar before beating Prats with a low shot. Both sides had chances earlier on, with Prats making a one-handed save from Tamudo and Amato hitting the bar in the first half, and Filipescu clearing an effort from Tamudo off the line in the second. Amato almost snatched the three points for Betis in injury time when he got the ball in the net, but referee Ansuategui Roca ruled it out for a non-existent offside. Espanyol stay in thirteenth place and Betis remain in eighth, albeit only a point behind fourth placed Celta.
Sevilla kept up their good form this season, beating Zaragoza 4-2 in an exciting match to move back up to the top half of the season. Reyes and Moisés returned in attack for the home side, but they found themselves behind to a Toro Acuña strike in the twelfth minute. The lead only lasted four minutes though before Reyes headed the equaliser from Gallardo's corner. Caparrós brought on Nico Olivera just before the break, and he staked his claim for more first team football with two goals within seven minutes of coming on, first with a volley past Láinez and then a shot inside the near post. Galletti narrowed the gap heading home a corner, but Víctor finished things off with a well taken goal near the end. Zaragoza drop to within two points of the relegation places, and manager Txetxu Rojo may well be on his way soon.
Zaragoza are level on points with Osasuna and Villarreal, who ended up drawing 2-2 in Pamplona. Aloisi gave the home side the lead after a defensive mix up in the second minute, and had a goal ruled out for a borderline offside two minutes later. Under-21 international Guayre came in to the side alongside Pizzi in place of the injured Víctor, and he took advantage of his opportunity with an excellent solo goal to level the scores. Two minutes before the interval though Osasuna went back in front, Pizzi heading the ball past his own keeper after Palacios deflected Gancedo's free kick. It was the new signing's first goal, although it was not quite the way he would have liked. He made it up for it in the second half though, playing a return pass to Guayre for him to score his second of the night. It saved them a point, although they have not won now in seven games. (20.01.02)
Real Madrid fought back to save a point with a 1-1 draw at Málaga and maintain their lead at the top of the first division. Both sides were unchanged from their previous match, with Del Bosque once again putting out what has become his first choice line up and Peiró also repeating the side who drew at Betis after the top sporting body CEDD suspended a four match ban on Gato Romero which had been imposed earlier in the week for supposedly elbowing Valencia's Ayala in the face. Neither side had much of an effort at goal until midway through the first half, when Darío Silva outstripped his marker to square the ball across for Dely Valdés to score the opening goal. Madrid came back in the second half, and Morientes eventually levelled the scores heading home a long cross from Roberto Carlos. With Sunday's games to come, Madrid are ensured of top spot, now three points clear of Alavés and five ahead of Bilbao.
Alavés came from a goal down to beat neighbours Real Sociedad 1-2 and leave them firmly anchored down in next to bottom position. With Toshack in the stands serving a one match ban, Darko Kovacevic made his reappearance for the San Sebastian side, and he only took seven minutes to head his side into the lead from De Pedro's long free kick. The big striker had two clear opportunities to extend the lead early in the second half but he wasted both, and substitutes Jordi Cruyff and Witschge made their opponents pay for their mistakes, Jordi heading his colleague's cross wide of their countryman Westerveld. Then with four minutes to go the limping Magno stayed on the pitch long enough to get clear of his markers and drive a shot through the keeper's hands from a short free kick from the right. Alavés move up to second place pending Sunday's matches, and with a game in hand against Rayo to play next Wednesday, could be heading the table by the end of next week. (19.01.02)