Second division - day 25
Xerez reduced the gap behind leaders Atlético Madrid to five points after a 2-1 victory against fourth placed Racing Santander. It was an important victory against a direct rival for promotion after two defeats in a row, although they were let off the hook by their opponents who missed easy chances throughout the game. Bernd Schuster's took the lead through Moreno, heading Cubillo's free kick past Lemmens before the break, and then substitute Mena extended the hosts' lead only two minutes after coming on in the second half. Racing substitute Mazzoni pulled one back with a header ten minutes from the end, but the Andalucians held on to keep their promotion hopes intact. Defeats for the teams below them keep Racing in fourth place, although they are now two points behind third placed Recreativo.
Sporting Gijon moved up to seventh place, within six points now of third place, with a 1-2 away win at Albacete. It was the Asturians third win in a row, and once again the architect of the victory was Villa, who scored both goals from the penalty spot. The home side took the lead though through Simeon, who headed home a corner midway through the first half. The lead only lasted a few minutes though before the referee awarded a controversial penalty for a push by Aitor on Villa, and the youngster converted the kick himself. After the break the visitors were reduced to ten men when Sastre picked up a second yellow card, but another hotly disputed penalty after a supposed foul by Leniz gave Villa his second of the night and his sixth in the last three games. This was Albacete's third defeat in a row, and they drop to eleventh, a point behind their opponents.
The bottom two clubs both won to keep their hopes of survival alive. Gimnastic Tarragona recorded their second 1-0 victory in a row under new manager Lobo Diarte, this time at home to Eibar. The only goal came in the second half from Jubera with a header from Rondalare's free kick, taking them to within three points of eighteenth placed Leganés. Poli Ejido drafted in four of their new signings and got their best win of the season, a 3-0 victory over Racing Ferrol. The goals though came from old faces, with Raúl García opening the scoring in the third minute from a free kick and Arpón adding a second just after the break. Sergio Cruz finished things off near the end to keep the Andalucians in touch, although with the three teams above them also winning they are still eight points from salvation. Murcia announced that caretaker manager Chato González would return to his old position as technical director, and that David Vidal would be taking over as their new manager after they dropped into the bottom four. This is the fifteenth change in the second division since the start of the season. (03.02.02)
The match between Atlético Madrid and neighbours Leganés was the home banker of the day, with Atlético undefeated in the Vicente Calderón stadium since April last year and the visitors yet to win away this season. However 'fútbol es así' as they say over here, and it was Leganés who took the three points with a 0-2 victory. Both goals came in the second half, with Oscar opening the scoring and substitute Villa adding a second with a shot in off the bar after beating the limping Hibic, who had had to stay on the field as Luis Aragonés had already made his three changes. The home fans criticised keeper Mono Burgos for not making more of an effort to stop the goal, and applauded their ex player Carcedo, who was making his debut for their opponents after joining from Nice this week. Atlético still head the table eight points clear of Xerez, who play fourth placed Racing on Sunday.
Two of the seven games played on Saturday evening ended 0-0, including the local derby match between Córdoba and third placed Recreativo Huelva. The home side's new manager García Remón drafted in four new signings, but his side didn't impress and the visitors were unlucky not to walk away with a victory. The game was so quiet though that the referee didn't even show one yellow card. Oviedo missed out on another chance to close up on the leaders with their seventh goal-less draw of the season, this time at home to Jaén. The visitors' keeper Raúl kept them in the game in the first half, but it took a great save by Oviedo's Esteban from Chumilla in the closing minutes to stop the Andalucians from stealing away all the points in the end.
Burgos and Salamanca also lost a good opportunity to join the top group when they were both defeated by teams in the lower half of the table. Burgos have done better away from home this season, but they met their match at Extremadura, where they fell by 2-0 to the local side. A big crowd turned up for the home debut of Pier and Kiko, and they weren't disappointed when Pier put them in front midway through the first half. Manuel added a second before the break, but the biggest cheer came when Kiko came on in the secnd half. Elche moved away from the relegation spots with their best result of the season, a 4-1 victory over Salamanca. Central defender Benja opened the scoring in the tenth minute for the home side, but then gave away a penalty on Makukula which Zegarra converted. Elche scored twice in a two minute period before half time though, the first a shot from Nano and the second a Serrano header, and Paco García got a fourth from a corner near the end.
The victory of Extremadura and Elche leaves Numancia in deep trouble. They lost 1-2 at home to Badajoz, who are returning to their earlier form after a brief lapse. Bracamonte put the visitors in front in what could be his last game before joining Boca Juniors, but Barbu equalised from the penalty spot after he was brought down by Pedro Nieto after the interval. However a speculative effort from just short of the halfway line by Marín gave the away side the victory. Numancia drop to within two points of the relegation zone, ahead of Leganés and Murcia, who drop into the bottom four after losing 0-1 at home to Levante. It was a good start for new manager Carlos Cantarero, who replaced Pepe Balaguer at the Valencia based club midweek, although he can't take all the credit as he was up in the stands, leaving the management of the team this week to Balaguer's stand-in, physical trainer José Gómez. Kaiku got the only goal in the second half after a mistake by Timpani, and Levante rise up to within two points of their opponents. (02.02.02)