First division - day 28
Valencia followed the example of Madrid and Depor the night before, winning 0-1 away from home at Zaragoza to stay a point ahead at the top of the table. The only goal of the game came from Rufete around the half hour mark, the international midfielder heading past Láinez after Salva played Kily's corner back into the goalmouth. Zaragoza had no reply, and Cañizares hardly had a save to make all night as he kept his third clean sheet in a row to move joint top of the Zamora chart. Valencia have now taken seventeen points from their last seven games, and must now be considered one of the strong favourites for the league title. Zaragoza though drop to within two points of the relegation zone, and the fans booed their players off at the end.
Charly Rexach saved another match ball as his Barcelona side beat a depleted Málaga by 5-1. The manager had been under pressure during the week to get a result after losing to Valencia in the league and Roma in Europe, but his side had no trouble beating the Andalucians, who were missing their front two Darío Silva and Dely Valdés. Cocu opened the scoring within two minutes with his first goal in a year, and Saviola ran on to get a second soon afterwards. Kluivert added two more either side of half time, both from the penalty spot after Saviola was brought down, with half time substitute Leko getting one back for the visitors in between. Then in the final minute Kluivert completed his hat-trick, taking the Catalans back up to fourth, four points behind the leaders.
Athletic Bilbao moved back into the top six with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Las Palmas. The Canary Island side held their own until five minutes before the break, when Yeste took a return pass from Urzaiz to beat keeper Nacho González with a shot in off the bar. Urzaiz set up Etxeberria from Tiko's free kick for a second goal after the restart, but Nacho González gave the visitors a hope when he scored his fourth of the season from the penalty spot after Javi González pulled down Paqui in the area. Five minutes later though Tiko re-established the two goal lead with a well struck free kick, and Carlos Garcia could have made it four when he headed against the bar with the last attack of the match. Las Palmas have now gone eight games without a win and they drop into the bottom three, below Real Sociedad and Mallorca on goal average.
Alavés put themselves back in the reckoning for a European spot with a 3-1 win over Valladolid. It was a victory they desperately needed after three home defeats in a row, and was particularly important as their opponents had drawn level with them on points the week before. They went behind early on though Fernando beating Kike in the sixth minute, but Magno levelled before half time with an individualist goal. They had Geli to thank for the three points though, the right full back scoring twice in eight minutes, the first with a shot on the near post and the second after a quick Pablo free kick, to take them level with Celta in eighth place. With Real Madrid and Deportivo disputing the cup final, the seventh placed team in the league is almost certain to qualify for the UEFA cup, and the Vitoria based side would love to repeat their success of last season.
Mallorca climbed out of the relegation zone with an invaluable 0-2 victory over direct rivals Rayo Vallecano. Having only taken one point from their last five games they were not given much of a chance against Manzano's improving side, but they took the lead through Eto'o with a quarter of an hour gone thanks to a mistake by De Quintana. Earlier referee Rodríguez Santiago had disallowed a goal from Ferrón for offside, and he further upset the home fans turning down two penalty appeals for fouls by Nadal on Peragón and then on Bolic, who was only playing as his red card from last week was suspended by the appeal committee. With five minutes to go though substitute Paunovic added a second on a counterattack, taking Mallorca just above Las Palmas on goals scored, and leaving their opponents back down in next to bottom place.
Real Sociedad inched a little further from the bottom spots, climbing a place to sixteenth after drawing against local neighbours Osasuna. As always it was a friendly affair, with the two sets of fans mixing freely in the crowd, and the atmosphere was reflected on the pitch where they ended up sharing the points. Fernando gave the Pamplona based side the lead early in the second half, scrambling the ball home after Aloisi had seen his shot blocked. However Luiz Alberto equalised twenty minutes later from a De Pedro corner, referee Ansuategui Roca failing to spot that the Brazilian defender had knocked the ball into the net, albeit accidentally, with his raised hand. Real have gone four games now without defeat, and for the third season in a row it looks like they will escape relegation in the latter part of the season.
Bottom club Tenerife were held to a 1-1 draw by Espanyol, a result which nevertheless takes them level with Rayo Vallecano and only two points away from sixteenth placed Real. Javier Clemente's new side started well, with Fuertes returning after a one match ban to open the scoring in the third minute. However they slackened off, and the Catalans came back with a Tamudo header from Alex's corner a quarter of an hour later. Either side could have scored in a lively second half, with Aragoneses and Mora both making good saves, but when Rotchen was sent off for the visitors for a second bookable offence they closed the game down. Espanyol have now gone six games without defeat, and they are now only four points below the UEFA spots. (03.03.02)
Spain's two cup finalists both brought their games forward to Saturday to give them time to prepare for Wednesday night's match, and both won difficult away games by the same score, 0-1.
Real Madrid defeated Celta thanks once again to a Raúl goal, who broke the stalemate only nine minutes from the end with a glancing header past substitute keeper Pinto after an excellent cross from Zidane. The match started with a massive protest by the Celta fans against referees after Pérez Burrull's performance last week. However this week's officials hardly had anything to do in a boring game with virtually no goalmouth action. Madrid's first away victory in the league since early December takes them two points clear at the top of the table pending Valencia's game on Sunday.
Deportivo also beat Sevilla by 0-1, a result which takes them level with Valencia on points. Irureta rested Diego Tristán for this game and brought in Roy Makaay, and the Dutch striker got the only goal early in the second half, chesting down Víctor's cross before drilling the ball wide of Notario. Depor keeper Molina had kept the scores level with some first class saves in the first half, particularly from Gallardo and Olivera from close range.
Villarreal and Betis played out a 1-1 draw which didn't really help either team. The home side were hoping for a victory to help them move away from the danger zone, and the visitors wanted to win to keep up their push for a Champions League spot, but in the end they had to make do with a point each. Villarreal took the lead through Amor in the twentieth minute after Pizzi headed down Calleja's cross, but youngster Dani levelled the scores a quarter of an hour later latching on to a long ball from Denilson to beat López Vallejo. (02.03.02)