First division - day 32
After Saturday's matches involving the top clubs, Sunday's games were about the fight to avoid relegation. Tenerife were sure to remain on bottom spot after losing to Valencia the day before, but otherwise the battle was between five clubs who were only separated by a single point. Two of the teams who were occupying the other two relegation spots, Zaragoza and Rayo Vallecano, both drew 0-0 at home and are now deeper in trouble. Zaragoza played out a dull scoreless draw against Valladolid and remain in next to bottom position. Their caretaker manager Luis Costa resigned midweek, and Marcos Alonso was in charge fort the first time. However there was no visible change, and in the end they only saved a point thanks to a couple of important stops by keeper Lainez.
Rayo Vallecano also drew 0-0 in their home match against Betis, who themselves are fighting for a Champions League spot. The game was once again surrounded by refereeing controversy, with Muñiz Fernández disallowing a last minute goal by Rayo's Bolo for a dubious offside and waving away their appeals for a penalty earlier on. Otherwise there were not too many scoring chances, with the best falling to Peragón for the home side and Denilson for the visitors in the first half, and a Joaquín free kick against the woodwork after the break. Betis stay in fifth place, but fall two points behind Celta after their victory the day before.
Rayo move out of the drop zone on goal difference though thanks to the 0-2 defeat of Osasuna at the hands of Málaga. Miguel Angel Lotina's side fell to their fourth loss in a row thanks to two second half penalties from the Andalucians' twin strike force Dely Valdés and Darío Silva. The first came just after the restart when Dely was pulled down by central defender Contreras, and the second happened twenty minutes later after Roteta was tripped by Alfredo. Málaga keeper Contreras once again put in a great performance to give his side the three points and take them up to eighth in the league. Rayo, Osasuna and Zaragoza all ended the weekend on 34 points, two above Tenerife.
The other two teams who started the weekend on 34 points, Mallorca and Villarreal, both won to move up level with Real Sociedad and Las Palmas. Mallorca beat Espanyol 2-1 with goals from their two young strikers Eto'o and Luque. Eto'o gave Kresic's side the lead in the first half with his 23rd goal for the club, making him their all time top scorer in the first division. Tamudo put the Espanyol level though before the break, and the visitors wasted two or three chances, including a Martín Posse shot against the post, before Luque restored the lead. Alex almost saved a point for the Catalans when he fired a free kick against the post near the end, but his side fell to their third defeat in a row and drop out of the running for the European spots.
The big score of the day though was the 5-2 defeat of Athletic Bilbao by Villarreal. Bilbao had been hit for six the week before by Celta, and they found themselves five goals down by half time. Víctor was the inspiration for the 'yellow submarine', scoring twice and having a hand in the other goals in the best first half the fans had ever seen in the Madrigal stadium. Quique Alvarez and Jorge López both scored from corners, and Guayre added the fifth after Víctor set him up shortly before half time. Turienzo Alvarez turned down a penalty appeal for the home side and disallowed a Calleja goal after the break, and after Carlos García had pulled one back with a tremendous shot from 30 metres, the referee awarded two more penalties to the visitors. Larrazábal hit the bar from the first but Urzaiz converted the second to make the score more respectable. (31.03.02)
Real Madrid and Valencia extended their lead over the chasing pack to four points, both with single goal away victories. Real Madrid beat Sevilla 0-1 thanks to a controversial first half goal from Iván Helguera. The midfielder's shot from outside of the area deflected into the net off his team mate Makelele's foot when he was standing in an offside position, but referee Pino Zamorano waved away Sevilla's protests and awarded the goal. Madrid were on top in the first half and Roberto Carlos almost put his side further in front when his free kick hit the woodwork. However Sevilla came back in a bad-tempered second half, and only a couple of good saves from César kept Madrid in front.
Madrid stay ahead of Valencia on goal difference after the East coast side beat bottom club Tenerife 0-1. Both sides had their chances in a lively first half, with Martí testing Cañizares with only a minute gone and Alexis clearing off the line from Aimar a few minutes later. Vicente hit the bar directly from a corner for the visitors and Marchena cleared from Marioni at the other end before the break, and Rufete missed an open goal after the restart. But finally Aimar broke the status quo with a magnificent shot from thirty metres out which flew in to the net off the far post to keep Valencia in the hunt for their first league title since 1971. Tenerife's Lussenhoff was sent off late in the game, and his side could slide further into trouble if any of their direct rivals pick up points on Sunday.
Deportivo lost ground on the two leaders when they could only draw 1-1 at Real Sociedad. Diego Tristán and Scaloni were both suspended, and Irureta included Makaay and Héctor in his side and brought back Mauro Silva after his one match ban. With a quarter of an hour gone Héctor had to hook the ball off the line from a De Pedro header, and Real took the lead twenty minutes later when Idiakez ran on to a long Xabi Alonso pass to score past Molina. Depor came back in the second half though when Valerón beat Westerveld to level the scores, and Molina saved the day with a couple of good stops from Kovacevic.
Celta moved a point behind their local rivals Deportivo after winning 3-1 against Alavés. It was the fourth win in a row for the Gallicians, and they consolidated their fourth place in the league with the victory. The star of the match was Brazilian midfielder Vagner, who scored the first two goals of the game in the second half, the first after taking a return pass from Mostovoi and the second a spectacular shot from outside of the area. Catanha added a third near the end to take him to the top of the Pichichi table, and Coloccini got a consolation goal for the visitors in the last minute.
Barcelona virtually waved goodbye to the league title after they were held at home to a 1-1 draw by a depleted Las Palmas. The Catalans went into the lead midway through the first half through Luis Enrique after a clever pass from Kluivert over the defence, and had a chance to go further ahead when Luis Enrique fired a shot against the bar with the keeper nowhere to be seen. Orlando levelled the scores though ten minutes in to the second half, volleying Carmelo's cross past Bonano, and a great display by third choice keeper Orlando Quintana kept Barça out after that. Both teams ended the game with ten men after Kluivert and then Angel picked up second yellow cards near the end. (30.03.02)