First division, day 11
One of the lowest goal-scoring weekends for a long time in the Spanish league saw six matches end in draws, four of them goalless. Mallorca missed out on the chance to take spot after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Villarreal in the San Moix stadium. Gregorio Manzano's side were looking for their eighth straight win, but they were caught out when a loose back pass by Marcos was intercepted by Palermo for him to score his first league goal of the season. The visitors could have scored three more before the break, but ten minutes in to the second half Pandiani took advantage of an indecision by Reina to head Poli's cross over the top of the defence for the equaliser. Reina made up for his mistake blocking another effort from Pandiani, earning his side a much needed point.
Valencia closed up on the leaders with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Valladolid. With Aimar and Rufete out for a month or so and a Champions League tie against Ajax due midweek, Rafa Benítez made seven changes to his line up. One of the men he drafted in was Mista, and he made the best of his opportunity scoring twice in the first half an hour of the match, the first a spectacular volley after Juan sánchez headed on Angulo's cross, and the second a far post header after Garrido laid the ball in. Aganzo got the ball in the net for the visitors after the break only to see it ruled out for a dubious offside, and in the closing minutes Cañizares saved a Colsa penalty after the referee ruled that Carboni had brought down Fernando Sales. The bad news for Benítez though was an ankle ligmanet injury to Kily González in the last minute which may keep him out for several weeks. Valencia ended the day still in third place, a point now behind Mallorca and two below Real Sociedad.
An early goal from Fernando Torres gave Atlético Madrid a 1-0 win over Betis, taking them up to fifth spot in the table. The Spanish under 21 striker rose to head a Stankovic corner past Prats with a quarter of an hour on the clock, and could have had a hat-trick in the second half as his side looked to build on their lead. Luis Aragonés switched García Calvo to left back to keep tabs on Joaquín, and with Denilson also under the vigilance of Aguilera the visitors' wings were clipped. Even so Betis nearly snatched a point near the end, with José Mari coming back to clear off the line from Fernando. With so many sides bunched together near the top, the defeat takes Betis out of the top four down to eighth place.
The only team to score more than two goals was Athletic Bilbao, who proved they are back on track with a 4-1 win over Espanyol. For the third home game in a row though they fell behind, Maxi turning De la Peña's free kick past Lafuente with a quarter of an hour gone, but the Basque's levelled the scores soon afterwards with a Larrazábal penalty after the referee ruled that Amaya had fouled Etxeberría. Visiting manager Ramón Moya was shown the red card for protesting, and four minutes in to the second half his side went behind after Gurpegui headed home a corner. To make matters worse Espanyol were left with ten men after Roger picked up a second booking, and Urzaiz and Etxeberría added two more goals in an eight minute period to take their side to eleventh in the table.
Espanyol drop to bottom place after Recreativo Huelva recorded their first home win of the season, a 2-1 victory over Racing Santander. Recre manager Lucas Alcaraz was fighting for survival, and for much of the match it looked like his time was up as his side trailed to an early Pablo Sierra goal. However the manager brought on striker Raúl Molina six minutes from the end in a desperate effort to save the day, and with his first touch he turned a long Viqueira free kick past Ceballos. Then in the last minute he scored the winner, rising to head home a Mario Bermejo cross to take his side one point ahead of the Catalans and only three now below their opponents on the night.
Celta drop to sixth in the table after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Osasuna. The visitors surprised Miguel Angel Lotina's side in the first half, and Cavallero had to be on top form to save from Aloisi early on. The Australian striker also put a header over the bar, and his team mate Iván Rosado wasted another chance when free in front of goal. Celta's best effort during that time was a free kick by Mostovoi, but in the second half they improved and only two first class saves by Sanzol, the first from an Edu header and the second from Sylvinho's long shot, kept the Pamplona side in the game.
A scoreless draw too at Málaga, where a great performance by Alavés keeper Richard Dutruel kept out the double D strike force of Darío Silva and Dely Valdés. The heavy rain made playing conditions difficult, and much of the game took place in a crowded midfield. Dutruel made the save of the day in the first half from a spectacular Dely Valdés bicycle kick, and kept out two or three more efforts before the break. Gerardo tested the keeper again after the restart, and Musampa shot over the bar late in the game when given space. The visitors only had two shots in all the match, and can think themselves lucky to walk away with a point. (24.11.02)
Shameful scenes at the Nou Camp, where the game between Barcelona and Real Madrid had to be suspended for fifteen minutes in the second half after fans threw bottles and other objects at Luis Figo as he tried to take a corner kick. The incident overshadowed an interesting match, which although ended without goals, was full of action. Casillas made a fingertip save from Kluivert's header and Bonano palmed away an effort from Cambiasso in the best moments of the first half, and Barcelona had a Kluivert goal disallowed soon after the restart for a more than dubious offside. Nerves on both sides were starting to fray, especially when Makelele was stretchered off after a hard tackle by Motta, and the referee had to separate the players more than once. Then came the suspension of play, which in fact damaged the interests of the home side who were taking the initiative up to that point. Once play resumed things calmed down a bit, but the disciplinary committee are expected to take serious action against the Catalan club, and their ground could be closed as a result.
Real Sociedad held on to top spot after drawing 0-0 at Rayo Vallecano. Missing the injured Nihat and De Pedro, the visitors allowed their opponents to take command in the first half, and headers from Quevedo and De Quintana both brushed the bar. Real's only reply was a free kick from Gabilondo which Etxeberría had to tip over for a corner. After the break neither side really troubled the two goalkeepers, with both limited by their opposing defences to long shots from outside of the area, and in they end they settled for a point apiece. The draw keeps up the Basque side's unbeaten record, and ends a run of four defeats for the men of Fernando Vázquez.
A draw as well in the third game on Saturday night between Sevilla and Deportivo La Coruña, this time 1-1. The Gallicians had not lost in the Sánchez Pizjuan stadiun in the last five years, but they went behind in the fourth minute when Antoñito deflected Casquero's free kick past Juanmi. Sevilla wasted two or three good chances to make it two before the break, but only four minutes into the second half Makaay connected with a cross from Sergio to level the scores. Sevilla keeper Notario at least saved a point for the home side with late saves from Makaay and Tristán, but with difficult games coming up the Andalucians really needed to win. (23.11.02)