First division - day 30
Last week's leaders Valencia lost the chance to open up a gap at the top when they fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of bottom club Rayo Vallecano. Angulo gave the visitors the lead just before the half hour mark, heading a Juan Sánchez centre wide of Etxeberria. Rayo didn't give up though, and Bolic felt hard done by when he was brought down twice in quick succession in the penalty area, referee Turienzo Alvarez waving play on in both cases. However the Madrid based side drew level unexpectedly just before the break when Pellegrino headed Michel's corner past his own keeper. Cañizares kept Valencia in the game with some good saves as the home side kept up the pressure, but Corino beat him with another header, the visiting players protesting to the referee that they had been distracted by a flare which fell on the pitch as the corner came over from the left. Ten minutes later Rayo were reduced to ten men when Pablo Sanz was sent off for a second bookable offence, but they held on to take a valuable three points which moves them off the bottom of the table.
Betis extended their unbeaten run to eleven games after drawing 1-1 at Zaragoza. The home side took the lead in the first half through Bilic, who scored his first goal for the club with a strong shot over keeper Toni Prats midway through the first half. However the visitors equalised in the second half through Dani, who had the easy task of running the ball in to the net after good work by Denilson and Benjamín down the left wing. A few minutes later Betis substitute Ikpeba got the ball into the net only to see the goal disallowed for a dubious offside, but Zaragoza could have snatched a victory at the end when Juanito turned the ball against his own crossbar. Luis Costa's side had to make do with a point though which left them down in the relegation zone for the first time this season. Betis drop a place to fourth, but the bad news is that Denilson picked up his fifth yellow card of the season and will miss next Saturday's local derby against Sevilla.
Celta moved up a place to fifth after a spectacular Karpin goal gave them a 3-2 win over Las Palmas. They appeared to be cruising at half time with a two goal lead, Mostovoi having set up Catanha for a first goal and then scored the second himself from Vagner's pass. However the Canary Islanders came back after the break with two set-piece goals, Orlando beating Cavallero with a low free kick and then Paqui heading an equaliser from another free kick by Samways. But then Karpin connected with Jesuli's long cross from the left to volley the ball in to the roof of the net to take them back into contention for a Champions League place. Las Palmas drop to within a place of the bottom three, ahead of Zaragoza on goal average.
Athletic Bilbao stay just behind Celta in sixth place after coming from two goals down to beat Basque neighbours Alavés 2-3. It was an extraordinary match, with referee Daudén Ibáñez sending off three Alavés players and awarding a hotly disputed penalty to the visitors. The Vitoria based side started well, with Jordi Cruyff scoring twice in the first quarter of an hour of the game, both after mistakes by the Bilbao defence. However Magno was sent off for elbowing Lacruz five minutes before half time, and Tiko scored with a direct free kick two minutes later. Before half time Urzaiz had headed an equaliser and Rubén Navarro had joined Magno in the dressing rooms after picking up a second yellow card, and Téllez became the third player to see red midway through the second half after getting a second booking for holding back Urzaiz in the penalty area. Larrazábal scored the winning goal from the resulting spot kick.
Alavés stay eighth, but they are now only a point ahead of Málaga, who rise up three places after beating local rivals Sevilla 0-2. Darío Silva returned to the Málaga side after almost a month out through injury, but it was Dely Valdés who gave them victory with two goals in the second half. The Panamanian striker was the first to reach the ball after Notario blocked a long shot from Darío on the hour mark, and his second goal came a few minutes later when he got ahead of the keeper to head home Gerardo's corner. Gerardo's brother Moisés was playing for the opposite side, and he did get the ball in the net only to see it ruled out for an obvious offside. However Sevilla fall to their third defeat in a row, and they lose at home to their opponents for the first time in 30 years.
Espanyol drop a place after losing 1-0 to Real Sociedad, their first defeat in eight games. Junior team manager Roberto Olabe took over as caretaker of the San Sebastian side after John Toshack was surprisingly sacked earlier in the week, and he stuck more or less to the same formation, only changing a couple of players from the Welsh manager's first choice side. Kovacevic got the only goal of the game in the eighteenth minute, picking up De Pedro's through ball in what looked like an offside position before rounding Mora to score. A minute later he got the ball in the net again but this time his strike was incorrectly ruled out by Rodríguez Santiago for offside. The referee then ignored a possible penalty by Mora on the Yugoslav striker to round off a bad day. Real climb out of the relegation spots, above Las Palmas and Zaragoza on goal average.
Villarreal stay a point ahead of the three of them after coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Valladolid. The visitors took an early lead from the penalty spot after Xavi Roca pushed Luis García from behind, Fernando converting the spot kick for his thirteenth goal of the season. Luis García added a second involuntarily, Arruabarrena's attempted clearance hitting him in the chest and bouncing in to the net a few minutes later. Moré's side seemed to have things under control as the game went into the last ten minutes, but Calleja turned the ball in from close range to narrow the scores and Arruabarrena made it all square three minutes from the end.
In fact only two points separate thirteenth placed Mallorca from the bottom team in the league Tenerife. The two drew 0-0 in a dull match at the Heliodoro stadium in Santa Cruz to maintain the status quo in the table, for the time being at least. Both managers lined up with a five man defence, afraid to lose a game which would have left their sides in an even more delicate position than they are now. As a result neither took many risks, with keepers Julio Iglesias and Carlos Roa hardly troubled during the 90 minutes. The best chance of the game though fell to the visitors' substitute Carlos in the last minute, Iglesias stopping his shot with his face which resulted in a visit to the hospital to check his eyesight after the game. Tenerife have not lost since Clemente took over four games ago. (17.03.02)
The match between the league's two giants Barcelona and Real Madrid ended all square at 1-1 after a thrilling 90 minutes of football. Madrid had not won in the Nou Camp in nineteen years, but they felt that they had a good chance against a Barça side struggling to keep in touch with the top teams in the league. And at the half time interval it looked like they had a good case after Zidane had given them the lead with just over half an hour gone with an opportunist strike, and Raúl had had a goal disallowed for a more than dubious offside. The Catalans best chance up to then had been a Kluivert effort which went wide, but Xavi brought the best save of the night out of César with a free kick ten minutes in to the second half. The young international had been drafted back in for this game, and he scored the equalising goal a few minutes later with a little help from César, the keeper getting a hand to his long shot only to see the ball spin up over his head into the net. Both sides hit the bar after that, Raúl with a glorious chip from outside of the area and Xavi with another free kick in the last minute. But in the end honours were shared taking Real Madrid above Valencia on goal average to the top of the table for 24 hours at least, with Barcelona still six points behind them in fifth place.
Deportivo La Coruña were the winners of the night though, moving to within a point of Madrid after defeating Osasuna 1-3 in Pamplona. Their hero once again was Diego Tristán, who scored a half hat-trick in the first half hour of the match to give them victory. The Spanish international striker was not even expected to be in the starting line up, but with his side already qualified for the Champions League quarter finals Irureta decided in the end not to rest him for Wednesday's match against Bayer Leverkusen. Tristán was a whirlwind, beating Unzué in the sixth minute after a pass in from Scaloni and adding a second with a brilliant individualist goal a few minutes later. Then with half an hour played Contreras brought down Valerón in the area, and it was Tristán again who converted the resulting penalty. Osasuna pulled a goal back in the last minute of the game with an Aloisi spot kick after Héctor tripped up Rivero in the area, but they were never in the match and they drop into the danger zone having not won now in five weeks. (16.03.02)