First division, day 17
Three minutes of brilliance by young striker Fernando Torres gave Atlético Madrid a 3-1 win over Deportivo La Coruña. With the scores level late in the second half, the under 21 international left Naybet for dead before beating Juanmi with a shot from wide on the right, and produced another run before the visitors had time to settle to set up substitute Correa for him to wrap things up. José Marí had given the home side the lead in the first minute with a first time volley, but a lapse of concentration by Mono Burgos four minutes later gifted the ball to Makaay for him to equalise. The result brings to an end Depor's run of ten games without defeat, and they drop behind Valencia to fourth. A seven point gap has opened up now with second placed Real Madrid, who receive city neighbours Atlético next Sunday.
Betis have still to find their form in the new year, and they were held to a 2-2 draw by Alavés. Missing eight members of their squad through injury and suspensions, the Andalucians still took the lead on the stroke of half time when Fernando headed in a cross from Joaquín. Magno made it all square in the second half, but Betis appeared to have snatched a late victory when Joaquín poked home a pass from Casas in the second minute of injury time. However a minute later Turiel equalised again from Ibon Begoña's free kick to give his side a point. Víctor Fernández's side still rise a place to fifth after the defeat of Celta the night before.
Málaga and Barcelona drew 0-0 in a bad tempered match at the Rosaleda stadium. The visitors lined up with only one recognised defender (Puyol) in their back four, and lost makeshift centre back Gerard to an injury ten minutes in to the game. Dely Valdés came closest to scoring in the first half with a shot just wide of the post, and Barcelona got the better of the second half, with Contreras saving bravely from Kluivert and Xavi shooting just wide. Barça drop a place to ninth, and Málaga ended the weekend in fourteenth, in the middle of a group of seven teams separated by a single point.
Mallorca's run of four defeats in a row came to an end after they came from behind with ten men to win 1-2 at Rayo Vallecano. Poli was sent off for the visitors after getting a second yellow card early in the second half, and Bolic headed the home side in front from a Julio Alvarez free kick immediately afterwards. However Pandiani headed in Ibagaza's corner with a little help from keeper Etxeberría to level the scores, and substitute Carlos hit the winner six minutes from time, following up after Ibagaza hit the post. Rayo stay down in the relegation zone.
Espanyol closed to within two points of Rayo after defeating Racing Santander 3-0. It was a flattering result though, and local keeper Sergio Sánchez demonstrated to Javier Clemente that maybe he didn't need to sign Toni with some great saves late in the second half. Soldevilla gave the Catalans the lead in the eighth minute, heading De la Peña's free kick past Lemmens, and Tamudo made it two from the penalty spot after he himself had been fouled by Mateo early in the second half. Milosevic got the third near the end after Lemmens had saved from Maxi.
Espanyol's victory leaves Recreativo Huelva six points adrift at the bottom of the table. They could only draw 0-0 at home to Sevilla, and there is some speculation that Lucas Alcaraz could be the next manager to be shown the door. The visitors dominated the match but could not convert any of the chances, although the point they take away with them takes their unbeaten run to four games. The game was stopped for a few minutes late in the first half to attend to Recre's Quique Romero, who was knocked unconscious in a collision with Notario, and who was later taken to hospital for tests.
Villarreal's new signing Javier Farinós started to pay off his transfer fee with the winning goal in the 0-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao. The ex Valencia midfielder beat Aranzubía with a shot from outside of the area in the fifth minute to take his side away from the danger zone and up to mid-table, ahead of the Basques on goal difference. It was a miracle they did so though, with Bilbao hitting the woodwork no less than four times, Reina and his defence clearing several balls off the line and the referee disallowing a late strike for the home side. Both teams ended with ten men after first Guayre and then Urzaiz were sent off for second bookable offences late in the second half.
Osasuna and Valladolid drew 1-1 in the Sadar stadium, a result which did neither of them much good in their fight to climb away from the lower reaches of the table. Aganzo opened the scoring five minutes before the break after a long pass by Colsa, and Mateo made it all square with a low free kick in the second half which took a deflection off a defender to wrong-foot Bizzarri. The Pamplona based side stay in seventeenth spot, a point above the relegation zone, and Valladolid join the group of four sides two points above them. (12.01.03)
Real Sociedad recovered from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Valencia and extend their unbeaten record to seventeen games. The Basque side have come back from behind four times this season, but they appeared to heading for their first loss of the season on the hour mark when Aranzábal instinctively played the ball back to his keeper Westerveld only to find he had gone walk about. Earlier in the first half Fabio Aurelio had headed Rafa Benítez's side into the lead from a Curro Torres cross, and without Xabi Alonso to inspire them their challenge seemed to be over. However Nihat found Kovacevic for him to reduce the gap eight minutes later, and with Real bearing down on Palop's goal, Nihat ran on to Schürrer's pass to fire a shot across the keeper and square the match.
Real Madrid closed the gap on Real Sociedad to one point after beating Celta 0-1, their sixth win in a row. The only goal of the game came in the sixth minute when Ronaldo followed up after Cavallero could only parry away a shot from Raúl, although they could have been further ahead by the break after Raúl had a goal disallowed and then Ronaldo shot wide with only the keeper to bear. Casillas saved the day in the second half stopping a close range header from Edu, and with news coming through that Valencia were winning, for a few minutes Real Madrid were top of the table. In the end though they stay in second place, but in this sort of form it is surely only a matter of time before they take over the lead. (11.01.03)