First division - day 29
Valencia hold on to top spot after a hard fought 2-0 victory over Sevilla. It was a bad tempered game, with referee Muñiz Fernández eventually forced to clamp down on the numerous fouls, leaving both sides with ten men. Both keepers featured strongly in a score-less first half, with Notario in particular making crucial saves from Carew and Albelda. The home side took the lead though midway through the second half when Juan Sánchez bravely stuck his head in the way of a fierce Kily González drive across the face of the goal, deflecting the ball in to the net. Víctor got himself sent off for the visitors for a second bookable offence, and Valencia took advantage, Angulo slipping the ball past Notario in injury time for the second goal. However he picked up a second yellow card in his goal celebrations and also had to leave the field early. His side though stay a point ahead of Real Madrid after a run of seven games without defeat.
Celta moved back in to the top six after a much needed 2-4 victory over a direct rival for the UEFA cup spots, Valladolid. Catanha was the hero of the night for the Gallicians with a hat-trick, although he was only playing after the appeals committee finally suspended a two match ban for spitting at Málaga's Fernando Sanz a few games ago. Sergio gave his side the lead in the eighth minute, but Fernando headed an equaliser before Catanha got his name on the scoresheet with two goals, one either side of half time. Fernando got his second of the night from the penalty spot after Méndez handled in the area, but Catanha's persistence paid off with a quarter of an hour to go with a third individualist goal to put the result beyond doubt, even though Celta were by then playing with ten men after Cáceres picked up a second caution.
Espanyol extended their unbeaten run to seven games after defeating Athletic Bilbao 2-0 in the Montjuic stadium. Ricardo Cavas started things off beating Lafuente with a low shot in the twentieth minute, but Tamudo missed an opportunity to put his side further in front when the Basque keeper saved his penalty kick shortly before half time. However De Lucas did get a second goal with a well struck free kick in injury time. The Catalans move up to ninth, only four points behind their opponents who are in seventh. Deportivo's cup victory means that three UEFA spots are now available, but if Paco Flores can't get his side into the top seven by the end of the season they will probably play the Intertoto cup. They have pre-registered for the competition, as have Málaga and Villarreal.
Málaga moved further towards that end by beating struggling Zaragoza 2-1. Within ten minutes of the kick off the South coast side were two goals up, with Gerardo returning to the side to volley the opening goal in the first minute, and Musampa adding an individualist second after a good run eight minutes later. They slowed down after that though, and Toro Acuña put the visitors back in the game with a strike in the second half. Paco was sent off for the Aragonés side two minutes from the end for a second bookable offence, but Juanele almost salvaged a point for them when he hit the post in the last minute.
Zaragoza dropped below Mallorca, who recorded their second win in a row, this time by 4-2 against Osasuna. Camerooni international Samuel Eto'o was celebrating his 21st birthday and he announced before the match that he was determined to score a goal. It only took him seven minutes before he beat Sanzol following a Fernando Niño corner, and he added a second from the penalty spot ten minutes before half time when Niño was brought down. The visitors didn't give up though, and goals by Gancedo and Palacios either side of half time made it all square. Then with ten minutes to go Nadal headed the island side in front, and after Mateo was sent off for the visitors, Paco Soler made it four with an injury time free kick.
The build up to the relegation battle between Real Sociedad and Tenerife was dominated by a war of words between the two managers John Toshack and Javier Clemente. Neither acknowledged the other's presence throughout the match, but Clemente ran out the winner as his side defeated their rivals 0-2 to move above them in the table. Marioni put the visitors ahead with a first half free kick, and Fuertes got a late second from the penalty spot after he himself was held back by Luiz Alberto. Only five points now separate the bottom eight teams, and any three of them could go down. (10.03.02)
Real Madrid bounced back from their cup final defeat at the hands of Deportivo to move back to the top of the table with a victory over Villarreal. A sympathetic crowd gave their players a better reception than expected after their centenary plans were ruined on Wednesday night, and they were rewarded by an early goal from Raúl after Solari crossed in from the left. A poor Villarreal offered no resistance, and Hierro added a second goal from the penalty spot after Quique Alvarez brought down Zidane early in the second half. Then five minutes later substitute McManaman made it three on a solo run to finish things off and give his side their third league victory in a row. Del Bosque is expected to rest his star players in their midweek European match in preparation for next Saturday's game at Barcelona.
Whilst Madrid were coming back after their cup defeat, their victors Deportivo were suffering from their post-match hangover, being held 1-1 at home by next to bottom club Rayo Vallecano. With an important Champions League fixture to come midweek at Arsenal, Irureta made eight changes from his cup-winning side, and his team was left with a man less when César was sent off with less than a quarter of an hour gone after he brought down Peragón just outside of the penalty area. By then though they were already in the lead, Pandiani having waltzed through the defence to beat Etxeberria with a low shot in the eighth minute. However Rayo came back with attacking football, and Bolic headed them level from Ferrón's cross before the break. The visitors were even unlucky not have taken the three points as they kept up the pressure in the second half, with Molina saving from Peragón in the last second.
Betis kept up their challenge for a place in the Champions League with an important 2-1 victory over direct rivals Barcelona. Juande Ramos's young side surprised the Catalan giants when they took the lead in only the third minute, Dani latching on to Joaquín's cross to beat keeper Bonano, who had only just returned to the side in place of Reina for this game. Barça had not managed a shot at goal in all the first half, but they drew level early in the second when Ito headed a corner past his own keeper immediately after Luis Fernández had cleared Rivaldo's shot off the line. Betis were not finished though, and Dani pulled down a long ball by Benjamín to shoot across Bonano and give his side the victory. The Sevilla based side have now gone ten games without defeat and they rise up the table to third, a place above Deportivo and two above their opponents.
Las Palmas recorded their first win in nine games to move back out of the relegation zone. They beat Alavés 2-1 after falling behind to a fourteenth minute goal by Astudillo, who charged down Jorge's attempted clearance after Geli had headed against the bar. Jorge made it all square though on the half hour mark with a shot from the edge of the area, and Josico headed the winner from Orlando's cross in the second half. Las Palmas were missing their first choice keeper Nacho González, who had been suspended by the federation after irregularities were reported by the Italian authorities over his passport documentation. He was replaced by Cicovic, who himself gave up his place at half time to young B team keeper Orlando Quintana after pulling a muscle taking a goal kick. (09.03.02)