First division - day 33
Valencia kept up their challenge on Real Madrid with a 4-0 victory over Real Sociedad. Once again Rafa Benítez lined up without a recognised striker, but his side opened the scoring in the twelfth minute when Baraja got on the end of a Kily González cross. Kily himself got the second with a low shot across Westerveld after Aimar played the ball out, and Angulo made it three ten minutes after the break running on to a long Curro Torres through ball to lift his shot over the keeper. Olabe's side had no reply, and substitute Mista finished things off two minutes from the end winning the ball off the defence to beat Westerveld once again from the edge of the area. Valencia stay behind Real Madrid on goal difference, still four points ahead of third placed Deportivo. Real Sociedad drop a place to sixteenth, and are now only two points above the bottom three.
Celta dropped out of the Champions League spots after losing 2-0 at Espanyol. The defeat brings to an end Celta's impressive run of four high scoring victories in a row, and ends Espanyol's three match losing streak. The Catalans were on top throughout the match, particularly in the first half when they might have scored three or four. Palencia got the first goal midway through the half after Sylvinho gave the ball away down the touchline for Martín Posse to run on and cross, and only a brilliant series of saves by ex Espanyol keeper Cavallero in the Celta goal stopped them from going further behind. Tamudo got a second goal on a breakaway in the second half to take the pressure off the much criticised Paco Flores. The win virtually ensures Espanyol's presence in the top flight next season, and does a big favour for their city neighbours Barcelona, who move up to fourth place above Celta on goal difference as a result.
Betis failed to take advantage of Celta's slip, and drop to sixth after being held to their third 0-0 draw in a row by Osasuna on a rainy night in Sevilla. Manager Juande Ramos has been calling all season for a reliable striker, and it was clear that they need someone with a goalscoring reputation to get on the end of the chances created by the skills of Joaquín and Denilson. Under-21 international Dani did his best, but Unzué was on his best form and kept out shots from him and Capi either side of half time. Osasuna could have taken the lead earlier on though through Sabino and then Cruchaga, and Yanguas shot wide near the end with only the keeper to beat. The result at least extends Betis' record unbeaten run to fourteen games and maintains keeper Toni Prats at the top of the Zamora goalkeeping table, just ahead of Valencia's Cañizares. Osasuna's point keeps them just clear of the bottom three, ahead of Zaragoza on goal difference.
Málaga moved up into the UEFA spots and at the same time sent Tenerife crashing down towards the second division with a 2-0 victory in the Rosaleda stadium. Javier Clemente's side were missing six players through suspension and injury, and he lined up with a makeshift side against Peiró's team, for whom Darío Silva dropped out at the last minute with flu. Central defender Litos put the home side ahead three minutes after the break heading home a long Duda free kick, and the visitors were left with ten men a quarter of an hour later when Bichi Fuertes was shown a second yellow card for diving in the area. Tenerife still had a chance of levelling the scores until Leko finished things off two minutes from the end to take his side up to seventh in the league, above Athletic Bilbao on goal difference. Their opponents stay bottom of the division, two points adrift of the rest of the pack.
Alavés are level with Málaga and Bilbao on 48 points after beating Villarreal 2-1. As often happens with the Vitoria based side, their goals came from defenders Llorens and Coloccini, both of whom are now the clubs joint top scorers together with Magno on six. Llorens struck the first in the twenty-fifth minute from a direct free kick into the top corner of the net, but after that Alavés slackened off and Calleja made it all square just before the half time whistle. Villarreal were on top in the second half, with Jorge López leading the attack and hitting the bar with the keeper beaten. However poor marking from a Pablo free kick allowed Coloccini to beat López Vallejo and take the three points. The visitors stay level with Mallorca and Real Sociedad on 37 points, two above the relegation zone.
Valladolid and Sevilla shared the points in a 1-1 draw to take both sides closer to their objective of staying in the top flight for another season. Sevilla manager Joaquín Caparrós surprised everyone leaving out his first choice strikers Moisés and Reyes after his side had gone five games without scoring a goal, bringing in Toedtli for a rare start alongside Nico Olivera. The Argentine striker didn't let his manager down though, scoring a spectacular goal from 30 yards out in the twelfth minute to give his side the lead. Valladolid equalised ten minutes before the break from the penalty spot after referee Pérez Lasa ruled rather harshly that Torrado had handled in the area, even though the ball hit him at point blank range. Fernando converted the kick for his fourteenth of the season in all competitions. (07.04.02)
Real Madrid held on to top spot with a comfortable 3-1 victory over city rivals Rayo Vallecano. The leaders opened the scoring somewhat fortunately in the tenth minute when a long shot by Roberto Carlos deflected off De Quintana on to the post, and the rebound hit Etxeberria on the back of the foot to bounce back into the net. There was no luck though about their second goal, Raúl slipping a pass through for Morientes to pull the ball past the keeper with his right foot and roll it in to the net with his left shortly before the break. Bolic went close twice in a minute for Rayo in the second half, and Morientes and Raúl both hit the woodwork in one Madrid attack. Then Del Bosque gave Figo a brief run out, his first appearance since returning from injury, and within two minutes he had his name on the scoresheet, converting a penalty after Hernández brought down Guti. With two minutes to go Rayo got a well deserved consolation goal when Hernández headed home a corner, but the defeat leaves them back down in the relegation spots after the day's results. The victory though was a boost of confidence for Madrid and stands them in good stead for Wednesday's Champions League tie against Bayern Munich.
Third placed Deportivo hammered a poor Mallorca side 5-0 in the Riazor stadium to put the pressure on Valencia. Once again their hero was Diego Tristán, who scored a first half hat-trick to move to the top of the league's Pichichi table with eighteen for the season. The Spanish international striker showed tight control in the penalty area to pull down Víctor's cross and beat Leo Franco in the twentieth minute, and produced another startling piece of skill seven minutes later to leave Nadal behind him and spoon the ball over the keeper. Six minutes after that he made it three after Valerón laid the ball in from the right wing, and he topped off an extraordinary performance rolling the ball across for Víctor to tap in a fourth before half time. Mallorca's only reply was a penalty appeal by Eto'o which the referee ignored, and they found themselves further behind when Sergio blasted in a shot from outside of the area which appeared to take a deflection off a defender's boot. The down side for Depor though were injuries to Mauro Silva, César and Sergio, and they ended up playing with no recognised central defenders, full backs Héctor and Romero moving across to fill the role. Hopefully they will be back at full strength for the Champions League clash at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Barcelona kept up their hopes of Champions League football next season with a 0-2 victory over Athletic Bilbao. Both goals were scored by Saviola, who was making a rare start away from home due to the one match ban on Kluivert. The young Argentine striker was in the right place to head home the first after Rivaldo's corner was played on by Cristanval with a quarter of an hour gone, and he made it two with fifteen minutes to go after Xavi put him through. Bilbao's manager Jupp Heynckes made six changes after his side had let in eleven goals in the last two matches, with Aranzubia taking over in goal from the unfortunate Lafuente. It was Barcelona's keeper Bonano who starred though later in the first half, touching an Aitor Ocio effort on to the bar and making a spectacular save from a Tiko free kick. Rivaldo left the field limping near the end, and may be doubtful for next Tuesday's Champions League quarter final with Panathinaikos. However his side go up two places to fourth pending Sunday's games, ahead of Celta on goal difference. Bilbao hold on to seventh place for now, but could be overtaken by Málaga or Alavés if results go against them tomorrow.
Las Palmas and Zaragoza cancelled each other out with a 1-1 draw in a tense match in the Canary Islands. Both sides needed a victory to move them away from the relegation spots, but it was the home side who took the lead just after half time when referee Esquinas Torres awarded a dubious penalty after Jorge fell over the outstretched arm of keeper Lainez. Jorge transformed the kick himself, but a quarter of an hour later Zaragoza's best man Juanele levelled the scores with a volley from outside of the area after the defence failed to clear. Las Palmas had a chance to take the three points when the referee awarded a second penalty after Rebosio brought down Edu Alonso from behind, but Lainez dived to save the kick from Olías. The hosts stay three points ahead of Marcos Alonso's side, who climb temporarily at least out of the bottom three above Rayo Vallecano and Osasuna pending the Pamplona side's game at Betis on Sunday night. (06.04.02)