First division, day 24
A surprise 3-0 victory by Valladolid over last week's leaders Real Sociedad handed the top spot to Real Madrid. Reynald Denoueix's side had been in first place in the table since week six, but they were caught out early on and were already three goals down with less than a quarter of the match gone. Uruguay's Nico Olivera was the man who did the initial damage, returning to the side and scoring a first goal with less than a minute on the clock after Pachón set him up. Five minutes later he had added a second, and Oscar González headed a third following a corner not long afterwards. Real were missing the inspiration of the suspended Nihat, and their only attempt at a reply came from a Jauregi header against the post before the break.
The Basque side drop to second and are now only a point ahead of Valencia after they drew 1-1 at Celta. Both goals came early on, with Carew heading home a Mista cross in the seventh minute and Edu turning in a Sylvinho free kick a minute later. Either side could have scored afterwards, with the best chances falling in the second half to Jesuli for the home side, an effort well saved by Cañizares, and to Kily González for the visitors with a spectacular volley which Cavallero fisted away. Celta stay in fifth place, although they lose ground on the Champions League spots and are now seven points away from fourth spot.
Deportivo La Coruña ended Racing Santander's run of three wins in a row with a 1-2 victory at the Sardinero stadium. Team top scorer Roy Makaay started things off in the third minute, turning Sergio's cross into an empty net for his nineteenth goal in the league and his 28th in all competitions this season. Bodipo came on at half time for Piterman's side and within a minute had levelled the scores, stooping to head Javi Guerrero's cross past Juanmi. But substitute Luque hit the winner ten minutes from the end to consolidate Depor's fourth place, only three points now behind the leaders. It was a good result to set them up for their midweek cup semi-final at Mallorca.
Osasuna also had their minds on their cup semi-final against Recreativo, but they were focussed enough to hold Barcelona to a 2-2 draw to halt their rise up the table. Radomir Antic's side were at half strength due to injuries and a round of flu, but they took the lead after the break when Mendieta found Saviola for him to beat Sanzol with a long shot. Bonano had to be carried off after clashing with Iván Rosado, and his replacement Enke could do nothing about Rosado's header a few minutes later which levelled the scores. Luis Enrique put the visitors back in front with five minutes to go and Overmars almost wrapped things up with a shot against the post. But Aguirre's side made it all square for the second time when Rivero scored into an empty net in injury time after Enke could only push out Moha's long shot.
Sevilla won their local derby match at city rivals Betis 0-1 to rise up to eighth place in the table. Home team president Ruiz De Lopera decided to ban opposing supporters and only open the gates to season ticket holders after serious crowd trouble and consequent ground closures in matches between the two sides in the past. Betis fans will say that at least one Sevilla supporter did get into the ground though - referee Pérez Pérez. He turned down three penalty appeals from the local side, the most blatant of which was a hand ball by a Sevilla defender from Denilson's free kick, and booked the Brazilian winger for diving. The only goal came after the break, substitutes Antoñito and Marcos Vales combining for Valés to beat Prats with an acrobatic volley.
Atlético Madrid took advantage of Málaga's midweek UEFA cup exertions to beat them 2-1 and move to within a point of the European spots. Luis García put the home side ahead in the first half with a shot through a crowd of players following a corner, and Fernando Torres made it two immediately after the restart with an individualist goal. But Darío Silva headed one back on the hour mark, and Esteban made a vital save from substitute Dely Valdés later on to give the locals the three points. Some over-zealous refereeing by Moreno Delgado left both sides with ten men, Luis García and then Darío Silva both getting second yellow cards for kicking the ball away. Before the match the Atlético players came out wearing shirts with a message of support for keeper Mono Burgos, who had a malignant tumour removed from one of his kidneys only the day before the game.
Villarreal's new signing Toño De Nigris scored the winning goal on his debut to give Benito Floro's side a 2-1 win over Rayo Vallecano. The Mexican striker had only joined the club midweek, but Floro brought him on for the last twenty minutes and he proved his worth with a headed goal in the last minute of the game. Guayre had given the locals the lead before the break after a mistake by Onopko had let him in, but Luis Cembranos levelled the scores with a second half penalty after Peragón had been bundled over by Reina and Ballesteros. The result takes Villarreal back up into the top half of the table, albeit only three points above seventeenth placed Alavés, and leaves Rayo now only a point above bottom club Recreativo. (02.03.03).
Real Madrid moved top of the table once again pending Real Sociedad's game on Sunday with a 1-5 victory over Alavés. It was a powerful display by the European Champions, with Ronaldo and Raúl carving up a poor local defence with effortless ease. The Brazilian striker opened the scoring in the twelfth minute from Raúl's through ball, and Raúl himself got the second later in the first half after Dutruel had misjudged his jump following a corner. The goal fest carried on into the second half with Ronaldo dummying past Abelardo to shoot through Dutruel's legs, and although Iván Alonso headed one back, Ronaldo completed his hat-trick a minute later. Then eight minutes from the end Raúl got his second of the night after Guti put him through for his 208th goal with the club, taking him above Hugo Sánchez's record. It was the eleventh goal that Alavés had let in in two games, and takes Madrid a point clear at the top.
Espanyol kept their survival hopes alive with a 2-0 victory over Mallorca. Javier Clemente's side desperately needed a win to stop a bigger gap opening up, and the manager made several changes to his starting line up, bringing in De la Peña and Oscar and leaving Milosevic on the bench. De la Peña hit the bar early on , and eventually Tamudo put them in front after slipping between two defenders to beat Leo Franco. Oscar revindicated his first start of the season with a second goal on the stroke of half time, and keeper Toni pulled off two excellent saves from half time substitute Carlos and from Pandiani to keep his side ahead. The bad news though was a head injury to the home side's Fredson, who had to rushed off to hospital for tests. Mallorca have now only taken one point from their last seven games, and they are only four points ahead of Espanyol after today's game.
Bottom club Recreativo started where they left off last week, with three goals in twenty minutes to beat Athletic Bilbao 2-3. Six days ago they did it at the end of their match against Atlético, and this time they did it at the start of their game in the San Mamés stadium. Curiously the goals came from the same three players, with Benítez, Quique Romero and then Xisco all taking advantage of slack defending to score. Athletic pulled two goals back after the break from Del Horno and Ezquerro, but with the home side pushing for the equaliser, Del Horno got himself sent off for hitting an opponent. Recreativo are now only a point behind Rayo Vallecano pending their game on Sunday, and the result gives them a boost for their midweek cup semi-final second leg at Osasuna. (01.03.03)