First division, day 21
Leaders Real Sociedad were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Espanyol, and are now only two points ahead of Real Madrid. Javier Clemente put out a defensive side on his return to the Anoeta stadium, and the his team only allowed one real shot at goal in the first half, a header from Khokhlov just over the bar. Denoueix was missing two of his key players, Nihat who was suspended and De Pedro who hurt himself in the pre-match warm up, and Xabi Alonso also had to go off at half time with a knee injury. Even so they improved after the break, with Kovacevic heading against the bar and Toni saving from Tayfun, but Domoraud had a chance to take the three points for the Catalans late on. Despite the point, Espanyol drop back into the bottom three.
A late goal from a Fabio Aurelio free kick gave Valencia a 1-1 draw at Recreativo Huelva. The home side were full of confidence after their semi-final cup success midweek, and they took the lead on the half hour mark when Raúl Molina slipped past Ayala to shoot across Cañizares into the top of the net. Molina had a great chance in the second half to increase the lead when he got free in front of goal with Cañizares stranded, but Ayala blocked his shot on the goal line. A few minutes later Valencia equalised to keep them in touch with the leaders and sink the Andalucians even further at the bottom of the table.
Deportivo were also held surprisingly to a 1-1 draw at home to Osasuna, and lose out on the chance to close up on the top spots. Muñoz gave the Pamplona based side the lead a minute after the restart when Juanmi dropped Rivero's cross at his feet, and whenDiego Tristán was sent off for a second bookable offence soon afterwards the fans srated to get concerned. However who else but Roy Makaay popped up to turn Luque's cross past Sanzol for his side's 1,500th goal in the top flight. Numbers were evened up when Rivero was also sent off near the end, but it was too late and both sides settled for a point.
The talking point of the week though was at Barcelona, where club president Joan Gaspart announced his resignation two days ago and Antic was in charge of the side for the first time for the match against Athletic Bilbao. Things were looking rosy for the Catalans when they went two up in the first quarter of an hour, Saviola heading an Overmars cross past Aranzubia and then Overmars scoring himself from Kluivert's pass. But everything went wrong after the break, with Ezquerro converting a dubious penalty after new signing Sorín brought down Tiko, and then Yeste beating Bonano following a deflected free kick to level the scores at 2-2. Barcelona ended the week in a lowest ever sixteenth place, only two points away from the relegation zone.
Celta took advantage of a Mallorca side who were tired after their midweek cup win, beating them 0-2 to move back above Betis into fifth place. Lotina lined up with five at the back and Edu as makeshift centre forward, and he fitted in well with two goals after the break, the first with a header from a Gustavo López cross and the second a shot from outside of the area. Edu should have completed his hat-trick later on, but Lussenhoff brought a good save near the end out of Pinto, who had replaced Cavallero at half time.
A mistake by eccentric keeper Mono Burgos probably cost Atlético Madrid a victory at Sevilla. Luis Aragonés' side had taken the lead early in the second half when Javi Moreno got ahead of the defence to head an Albertini free kick past the league's top keeper Notario. But six minutes later Burgos allowed a speculative shot from Fredi to creep under his body, catching the ball just too late as it rolled slowly over the line. The Atlético players claimed that it had not crossed over, but referee Carmona Méndez awarded the goal to make it 1-1. It was not a great game for Spain's two rising stars though: Fernando Torres was suspended and Reyes was sent off after picking up two yellow cards in the second half.
Racing Santander moved out of the relegation zone after beating Alavés 2-0, ending their run of five defeats in a row. Controversial club president Dmitri Piterman was allowed to sit on the bench as team delegate, and his team went in front midway through the first half when Nafti fired a long shot over the head of Dutruel, who had advanced off his line. Three minutes from the end Nafti put Reguero through for him to add a second with a shot from the left of the area. Racing move above Espanyol to within two points of their opponents.
Rayo Vallecano beat Málaga 2-1 to record their first home win since early December and give new manager Gustavo Benítez a good start. Michel opened the scoring in the fourth minute somewhat fortunately, his long free kick bouncing past everyone to end the hopes of Contreras of setting a new club record. But there was no luck about Rayo's second goal, Peragón picking up the ball inside the area ten minutes from the end and firing a strong shot into the top corner of the net. Darío Silva pulled one back from a free kick near the end, but Rayo held on to move within a point of salvation. (09.02.03)
Real Madrid came back from a goal down to beat Betis 4-1 and move to within a point of the leaders pending Sunday's games. After three draws in a row, Del Bosque's side were looking for a victory to get their title challenge back on track, but they found themselves a goal down when Fernando turned in Denilson's cross late in the first half. Raúl levelled the scores before the break though, and Figo put Madrid ahead from the penalty spot soon after the restart after Roberto Carlos had been fouled in the area by Cañas. Zidane added an excellent third after taking a return pass from Ronaldo, and Ronaldo himself got the last goal, following up after Prats had blocked his penalty kick.
Villarreal recorded their second single goal victory in a row, this time against Valladolid, to move above their opponents and up into the top half of the table. The only goal of the game came from the penalty spot midway through the first half after Bizzarri brought down Palermo, Jorge López converting the kick. The visitors were on top from then on, but were unable to beat Reina in the local goal. (08.02.03)