First division - day 34
Real Madrid crashed to a 3-1 defeat at Osasuna to hand over top spot to Valencia. With Rafa Benítez's side only drawing the day before, Madrid had a golden opportunity to distance themselves from their rivals. However Osasuna surprised them with two goals late in the first half, the first from Fernando following a short free kick which César got a hand to but could not stop entering the net. Seven minutes later Iván Rosado passed the ball in from the right to Alfredo, who ran in to the area and produced a delightful chip over the stranded keeper. Then with the first half coming to an end a bad back pass let Iván Rosado through, and Iván Helguera had no option but to trip him up as he went past him. Referee López Nieto produced the red card leaving the visitors with ten men, but soon after the break they pulled a goal back when a deflected shot fell to Morientes for him to round Unzué and score. Madrid came out looking to equalise, but Iván Rosado finished things off with a spectacular volley from Lekumberri's lofted cross to take a much needed three points and keep his side out of the relegation zone.
Deportivo bounced back from their defeat at Manchester United with a 3-1 victory over Espanyol which takes them to within a point of Real Madrid and two below Valencia. The game was over as a contest after the Gallicians scored three times in the first half hour. The first goal came as early as the first minute, Makaay celebrating his return to the side in place of the injured Víctor with a powerful header following a corner. Six minutes later Diego Tristán made it two after good work by Sergio and Makaay, and Makaay got his second of the night later in the half running on to a long pass to round Argensó and score. The visitors were reduced to ten men after the break when Soldevilla was given a red card for a tackle from behind on an opponent, but a couple of minutes later substitute Rotchen got a goal back with a header in off the post. Deportivo's Mauro Silva also got his marching orders for a second yellow card, and he will be an important absence from their table topping match in Valencia next Sunday.
Barcelona took advantage of slips by most of the teams around them to consolidate their fourth position in the league with a 3-2 win over Alavés. With Rivaldo not fully fit and Kluivert suspended the responsibility for getting the goals fell on the young shoulders of Saviola. He didn't let his side down though, opening the scoring with a quarter of an hour gone with a chip over the keeper following Xavi's corner. Rochemback added a second after the break from Xavi's square pass, but Magno pulled one back soon afterwards on a rapid counterattack, turning Rubén Navarro's cross past Reina. Saviola appeared to have given Barça victory with an excellent goal after another through ball from Xavi, but Iván Alonso took advantage of a defensive mistake by Puyol to run on to Ibon Begoña's long pass and beat the keeper again in injury time to set up a nail-biting last few seconds.
The excitement was not all at the top of the table though. No less than three of the clubs fighting for survival came back from behind to win their games, and none of the bottom nine lost. Rayo Vallecano also won their game against Valladolid 1-0, although with the other results going against them they stay in the relegation spots. The only goal of the game came from central defender Hernández, who scored with a well placed header from Corino's cross in the second minute of time added on in the first half. The game was preceded by a massive protest by Rayo fans against referees, and that may be why Téllez Sánchez decided it would be unwise to award a goal to the visitors in the second half when a powerful shot from Luis García bounced down off the crossbar and appeared to marginally cross the line before rebounding back out.
Some controversial moments as well at Villarreal, where angry fans threw objects at the referee and linesmen and the home side club president came on to the pitch to protest to the referee. They shouldn't have bothered though, as in the end they ran out 2-1 winners over Celta to move away from the bottom spots. Most of the incidents came in the second half, with Rodríguez Santiago upsetting the local fans by turning down two penalty appeals and sending off Berruet before awarding a penalty to their opponents. Catanha fired his kick against the bar though, and it was not until a few minutes later that the visitors scored, Jesuli setting off from an offside position to win the ball and beat the keeper with a deflected shot. Manager Víctor Muñoz resorted to his talisman Martín Palermo, making his first appearance since breaking his leg several months ago, and within a couple of minutes he won a free kick on the edge of the area which Víctor stuck in the back of the net. Then with a quarter of an hour to go he fell under Catanha's challenge and got his side a penalty which Víctor once again converted.
Real Sociedad also came back from a goal down against Málaga to win the match 2-1. Dely Valdés opened the scoring for the visitors after Westerveld failed to connect with a long ball in under pressure from the Panamanian striker, and he was able to hook the ball in to the empty net. Xabi Alonso made it all square though heading home De Pedro's corner shortly before half time, and half time substitute Luiz Alberto scored a neat winner, heading the ball up over Litos and turning past him to send a second header over the keeper into the net. Both sides ended with ten men after Idiakez for the home team and then Darío Silva for the visitors picked up second bookable offences.
Both Villarreal and Real Sociedad move on to 40 points, one behind Sevilla and one ahead of Las Palmas. The two drew 1-1 in a match which both needed to win to ensure their stay in the top flight for next season. Orlando got the ball in the net for the visitors early on only to see it ruled out for a previous hand ball, and they fell behind when Toedtli got his second goal in consecutive games, turning in a low cross by Gallardo later in the first half. Orlando got his goal though in the second half with a well struck free kick to give his side their third such draw in a row. Sevilla's Fredi was sent off for a second yellow card later on, and the Andalucian side have now gone seven games without a win.
Zaragoza dropped further into trouble when they were held to a 2-2 draw at home against Athletic Bilbao. In the end though they were lucky to save a point, Milosevic scoring from an injury time penalty after Murillo fouled Jamelli from behind. Aragón had given them the lead in the tenth minute with a shot through a crowded goalmouth after a cleared corner fell to him outside of the penalty area. However Urzaiz levelled the scores before half time, and Larrazábal put the Basques in front from the penalty spot in the second half when Paco tripped up Urzaiz. The point takes Bilbao back up to seventh place, which should earn them a spot in the UEFA cup next season if they can hold on to it.
Zaragoza fall to next to bottom, a point above Tenerife who stay in last place despite a 2-1 win over Betis. The visitors are fighting for a place in Europe, and they took the lead in the fifth minute when Denilson headed Joaquín's cross past Julio Jglesias. Clemente's team came back in the second half though with a well taken goal from Bino, and Bichi Fuertes headed the winner with a quarter of an hour to go. Fuertes was only in the side as the appeals committee had cancelled one of his two yellow cards from last week. (14.04.02)
Mallorca and Valencia drew 1-1 in the only match played on Saturday night, a result which does little to further the cause of either side. Although the point does take Valencia top of the table a point ahead of Real Madrid, a victory by Del Bosque's side tomorrow could open up a gap between the two contenders for the title. For their part, Mallorca needed a win to take them away from the relegation zone, and if results go against them on Sunday they could now find themselves very close to the bottom three. In reality the home side should have had the game sewn up by half time despite an early effort from Aimar from inside his own half which Leo Franco just tipped over the bar. Eto'o had a goal disallowed, a penalty appeal turned down and a shot saved at point blank range by Cañizares before Luque finally put them in front in time added on, diving to head home Campano's cross after a quickly taken free kick. The second half was Valencia's though, and Baraja headed an equaliser from a corner straight after Leo Franco had saved from Aimar. The Argentine keeper just managed to stop a last minute effort from Angulo which would have cost them their point, and the game ended with ugly clashes between players as nerves got the better of them. (13.04.02)