First division - day 26
Very few goals in the first division for the second Sunday in a row, with only nine in all in the seven games played. Celta missed out on a chance to go back to the top of the table when they were held to a 0-0 draw by Málaga. Even with Catanha and Darío Silva back in their respective sides nobody could make the breakthrough, although Celta tried frantically in a second half played almost entirely in the visitors' half. Contreras and a packed defence blocked everything though, the keeper even stopping a Maurice shot with his face, and Málaga's Canabal almost stole away a victory with the last kick of the game on a last ditch breakaway. Celta ended the day in fourth place, two points behind leaders Valencia.
The seventh and eighth placed teams Alavés and Betis met at the Mendizorroza stadium, both trying to keep in touch with the leading group. It was a hard fought game, but in the end the visitors took the three points with a 0-1 victory. With three players suspended and five out injured Juande Ramos was forced to put out a side packed with youngsters, but they put in a professional performance that augurs well for the future. The only goal came just before half time from Capi, who headed home a pinpoint cross from new Spanish international Joaquín to take the Sevilla based side up to fifth. Alavés fall to their third defeat in a row, and with Coloccini sent off for a second bookable offence at the end and Llorens picking up a fifth yellow card of the season, Mané will have to cobble together a new defence for next week's game at Real Madrid.
Valladolid moved up a place to ninth in the table after drawing 1-1 at Las Palmas. Both goals came in the second half, with the visitors taking the lead with a spectacular volley from Fernando Sales, and Orlando equalising soon afterwards after cutting in from the wing to slide the ball past Ricardo for his first goal of the season. Orlando missed a good chance to put his side in front soon afterwards, and Schurrer cleared off the line from Luis García at the end of the match with Nacho González beaten. Las Palmas lost Samways to a leg injury early on, and they were left with ten men after Angel got his marching orders for handling the ball, his second yellow card of the game. They ended the day down in sixteenth place having now gone six games without a win.
A dour, bad-tempered game in Pamplona between Osasuna and Espanyol, where the two teams fought out a battle royal which ended in a 1-1 draw. Both sides were lucky to end the match with eleven players, with referee Carmona Méndez showing twelve yellow cards and letting off several more. Osasuna came in to the game with the best record of any team in 2002, having gone seven games without defeat since new year's day. However they let in their first goal in five games when Tamudo (who left the field injured in the second half) headed Pacheco's cross down past Unzué with only a quarter of an hour gone. Lotina brought on Gancedo and Sabino in the second half though, and the two combined with Aloisi soon afterwards for Sabino to level the scores. Both sides ended the day where they started, in twelfth and eleventh places respectively.
Real Sociedad climbed out of the relegation zone with a 0-1 win at Sevilla, their third victory in four matches. The only goal came twenty minutes from the end from substitute De Paula after De Pedro laid in a low cross from the left wing. The goal came after a period of pressure in which the Basque side had had an Idiakez goal disallowed for offside and Kovacevic had headed over the bar. Sevilla had their chances though, and Westerveld made several important saves, including one in the last minute from Olivera, and Kvarme cleared another effort from the Uruguayan striker off the line. Sevilla have now gone four games without a win, and they drop a place to tenth.
Real's victory leaves Mallorca down in the bottom three. They lost 1-0 to Zaragoza in a disappointing game, with Toro Acuña getting the only goal of the game ten minutes in to the second half with a powerful shot which went through Roa's hands. Earlier the Argentine keeper had saved well from Drulic, and Láinez had blocked an Ibagaza header which could have put the Islanders in front. Eto'o finally reappeared for Mallorca in the second half, the Camerooni striker having gone missing for a few days after his country's victory in the African Nations Cup, but he did little to enhance his side's play. The result though was a relief for Luis Costa's side, who climb away from the danger zone.
The bottom two Rayo Vallecano and Tenerife met at Vallecas, with the home side running out 2-0 victors. The visitors were reduced to ten men early on when an active Bolic was brought down just outside the area by keeper Aragoneses, who was given a red card by referee Mejuto González. Bruno Marioni reluctantly left the field to allow reserve keeper Julio Iglesias to come on, but the new keeper could do nothing about the two headed goals, both scored by Bolic in the second half. Tenerife go three points adrift of their opponents at the bottom of the table, and the defeat cost manager Pepe Mel his job, the club's management announcing that he had been fired and that a replacement would be named soon. Rayo stay next to bottom, but the result does give them some hope of salvation. (17.02.02)
For the fifth week in a row the lead changed hands as the team at the top slipped up. This week it was the turn of erstwhile leaders Real Madrid who lost 2-1 at Athletic Bilbao, their third away defeat in a row. Bilbao were looking for revenge for their cup semi-final defeat at the hands of the league champions, and they went in to a two goal lead by the break, Tiko scoring the first with a spectacular shot from outside of the area and Del Horno heading the second from a corner on the stroke of half time. Morientes pulled one back in the second half after Larrainzar failed to cut out a cross from Munitis, but they ran out of steam and Urzaiz missed an easy chance at the end for the Basque side. Madrid have not won away since early December and they drop to second place, only a point now ahead of Athletic who rise up to fourth pending Sunday's games.
Second placed Valencia failed to take full advantage of Madrid's defeat, but still move back to the top of the table after drawing 1-1 against neighbours Villarreal. The pre-match build up was a friendly affair, although that was all forgotten on the pitch, with both sides needing a victory for different reasons. After an intense but goal-less first half the hosts took the lead, Arruabarrena heading home a corner from Galca. A few minutes later though Víctor was sent off for a rigorous second yellow card from an over-zealous Téllez Sánchez, and Benítez brought on Aimar to strengthen his attack. The Argentine international was the inspiration the manager needed, and he grabbed the equalising goal from a pass by Sánchez five minutes from the end. .
Barcelona move up to third in the table after an exciting 3-2 victory over Deportivo La Coruña. The Catalans had to come from behind twice but eventually won the game with a diving header from Patrick Kluivert just three minutes from the end. After intense pressure from the home side Depor took the lead with virtually their first attack, Diego Tristán controlling Víctor's cross and coolly slotting the ball past Reina. However Luis Enrique equalised six minutes later on his return to the side after a two month lay-off, and the teams went in all square at the break. Depor took the lead again though in the second half on a counterattack through Sergio, who had only come on five minutes earlier. But then a piece of magic from Rivaldo set up Saviola for the equalising goal, and a few minutes later Kluivert met Puyol's cross to take the three points and move them above their rivals. (16.02.02)