First division, day 12
Real Sociedad moved three points clear at the top of the table after beating Barcelona 2-1 in a rainy Anoeta stadium. Raynald Denoueix's side over-ran the Catalans in the opening minutes, and only Bonano stood between them and the goal. However the Basque side went behind shortly before the break against the run of play when Kluivert's speculative shot hit the post and bounced in to the net off the shoulder of the outstretched Westerveld. Kovacevic levelled the scores though soon afterwards, getting away from his marker to head Xabi Alonso's free kick over Bonano, and the Yugoslav striker hit the winner eight minutes into the second half after Fernando Navarro failed to cut out De Pedro's through ball. Barça ended the game with nine men after Motta and then Overmars were sent off in the last quarter of an hour, and Van Gaal's side are now ten points adrift of their opponents, who remain unbeaten.
Second placed Mallorca put up a great fight at Deportivo La Coruña, and ended up drawing 2-2 despite playing seventy minutes with a man short. The home side took the lead when the on-form Roy Makaay got on the end of Víctor's pass with less than a quarter of an hour gone, and a few minutes later Ibagaza got himself sent off for insulting the referee. It looked like the end for Manzano's side, but Walter Pandiani celebrated his return to the Riazor stadium with an equaliser after good work from Eto'o, and Eto'o himself won a penalty and converted it on the stroke of half time to take the lead. Makaay finally made it all square in the second half after Lozano failed to connect with a long ball from Capdevila, and the home side almost took the lead after Valerón came on to delight the crowd. Even so Eto'o almost snatched a winner in the last minute, Juanmi making a vital save after the Camerooni striker broke free.
Valencia stay in third place after drawing 0-0 at Alavés. The game was overshadowed though by an injury to Cañizares early in the first half, the keeper clashing knees with Jordi Cruyff and being stretchered off with a ligament injury. Palop took over between the sticks and saved from Astudillo, and Vicente and Angulo both failed to take their chances in the first half. It was more of the same after the break, with Juan Sánchez going close for the visitors and Astudillo firing a shot wide for the home side after a good team move. It was a second scoreless draw for Alavés, who ended the day in fifteenth place, just three points above the drop zone.
Celta won for the fourth season in a row in the Nuevo Zorrilla stadium, beating Valladolid 0-2 to move up to fourth in the league. Last season Catanha scored a hat-trick there, and this time he started off the scoring heading home a long cross from Méndez, his first goal in nine games. The home side were unlucky not to score, with Aganzo testing Cavallero a couple of times and Olivera seeing his shot deflected on to the post by a defender, but then early in the second half Edu made it two heading down Gustavo López's cross. Valladolid ended with ten men after Sousa picked up a second booking twenty minutes from the end.
Another excellent free kick from Marcos Assunçao gave Betis a 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao. The Brazilian midfielder has already made the difference in several games this season with his dead ball kicks, and this time he left Lafuente clutching at air fifteen minutes from the end of this match. Earlier in the second half the visitors had had a chance to go in front when the referee awarded a penalty after Alkiza was fouled by Ito in the area, but Larrazábal put his shot wide.Bilbao almost saved a point in the last minute when Prats tipped an Urzaiz header on to the post, but Betis held on to end the weekend in fifth spot.
Espanyol won their relegation battle against Rayo Vallecano 3-1 thanks to a return to form from team captain Raúl Tamudo. The Spanish international striker scrambled the ball over the line in the tenth minute for the opening goal, and struck a second later in the second half after a good run. An Alex Fernández own goal two minutes from the end set the nerves jangling, but substitute Milosevic added a third goal in injury time to take his side above their opponents, who are now next to bottom. The result takes the pressure off Ramón Moya for the time being, but could mean an end to the time of Fernando Vázquez at the Madrid based club. To make matters worse, the visiting manager was shown a red card for protesting in the second half.
Málaga lost ground on the leaders after they were defeated 1-0 by Racing Santander, the fourth match in a row that they have failed to score. The Andalucian side were clearly tired after their midweek UEFA cup tie with Leeds, and with Darío Silva out injured they were unable to break down the Cantabrian defence. The only goal came on the half hour mark when Contreras failed to hold on to a Txiki free kick, Munitis tucking the ball away on the rebound. The visitors ended the game with nine players after Josemi and then Fernando Sanz were shown red cards late in the second half. It was a first victory in six games for Racing, who move away from the bottom spots as a result.
A similar scoreline at Villarreal, where Benito Floro's side beat relegation candidates Recreativo Huelva 1-0. The visitors were never really in the game, and the home side should have taken the lead in the first half, especially when Jorge lópez hit the inside of the post. However they had to wait until midway through the second half when Víctor finally beat Luque with a well struck free kick. Villarreal kept up the pressure after that, but a long shot from Camacho which hit the bar almost caught Reina out near the end. Victories for Espanyol and Osasuna mean that Recre drop back down into last spot.
The other game due to be played this weekend between Real Madrid and Sevilla was postponed as Madrid are currently in Tokyo preparing for Tuesday's Intercontinental Cup final against South American champions Olimpia de Asunción. The match will now be played on 2nd January. (01.12.02)
Osasuna beat Atlético Madrid 1-0 in the only match played on Saturday night to move out of the relegation spots. A second half goal from Rivero was enough to give them their second home victory in a row, and they move five places up the table pending Sunday's results. The visitors can feel themselves hard done by though after hitting the woodwork twice, the first a long shot from García Calvo which a defender deflected onto the post and the second a late header from Aguilera which bounced off the bar. It was only the second defeat of the season for Luis Aragonés' side, and with few points separating the top sides they could be out of the top six by tomorrow night. (30.11.02)