First division, day 30
One point now separates the top three sides after Deportivo La Coruña and Real Sociedad both won their games on Sunday evening. Second placed Deportivo were up against an improving Sevilla, but thanks to another key performance from Roy Makaay they ran out comfortable 3-1 winners. They were lucky not to go behind though in the first half when Machlas shot over the bar with only the keeper to beat, but five minutes before the break Makaay made himself space down the left wing to cross in for Víctor to score the opening goal. Then on the stroke of half time Njegus fouled Capdevila just inside the penalty area, and the Dutch striker stroked home the resulting spot kick for his side's second goal. Caparrós introduced Antoñito for Machlas at the break though, and the home grown striker pulled one back and then hit the post a minute or so later. But the visitors were reduced to ten men when David cut out a dangerous pass with his hands, and soon afterwards Makaay ran on to Valerón's through ball to wrap things up.
Real Sociedad over-ran a poor Rayo Vallecano side in the last match of the evening, recording a 5-0 scoreline which took them above Deportivo thanks to the higher number of goals scored. Caretaker manager Antonio Iriondo was in charge of the visitors for the first time after Gustavo Benítez was fired midweek, and his side held off the pressure for most of the first half. However Real took the lead after Kovacevic won two penalties either side of half time, the first converted by De Pedro and the second by Karpin, and after that it was no contest. Kovacevic set up Nihat for a third goal on the hour mark, and Nihat and his Turkish compatriot Tayfun added two more goals right at the end for the final result. Rayo stay bottom of the table, and Iriondo has some work to do if he is keep them in the top flight this year.
Two goals from new signing Mido gave Celta a 0-2 win at Osasuna, taking them above Valencia into the fourth Champions League place. Miguel Angel Lotina was returning to his old hunting ground, and he saw his new team take the lead on the quarter hour mark, somewhat against the run of play, when Mido picked up a pass from Edu and fired a shot wide of Sanzol. Iván Rosado got the ball in the net for the locals just before half time only to see it ruled out for a previous hand ball, but five minutes after the restart the Egyptian striker was there again to collect a long free kick from Mostovoi and volley a spectacular shot into the roof of the net. Celta keeper Cavallero impressed the watching premier league scouts with some first class saves to keep his side in front and sink the Pamplona based side to their fourth defeat in a row.
Sevilla's defeat earlier in the evening meant that the winner of the game between Betis and Atlético Madrid would move in to the sixth spot. However in the end they drew 2-2, letting the Andalucians off the hook for another week at least. In the absence of the injured Fernando Torres, Luis García played a more central attacking role, and he gave his side the lead in the first half after Ito lost the ball in the penalty area. Víctor Fernández brought on Alfonso at the break for his first match in four months, and within a minute he had made his mark, stabbing home an equaliser after Dani headed on Capi's cross. Betis were left with ten men soon afterwards though when Filipescu picked up a second booking, and Luis García scored his second of the night immediately after Joaquín missed a sitter at the other end. But Joaquín made up for it setting up Arzu to level the scores once again five minutes from the end.
Málaga moved up to within a point of the UEFA cup spots after a last gasp 0-1 win at Alavés. The match appeared to be petering out to a scoreless draw when substitute Iznata won the ball on the right wing and crossed in for Darío Silva to score. Earlier in the game referee Carmona Méndez had ruled out a headed goal by local captain Karmona for a questionable foul and had also sent off Desio for a second bookable offence. The defeat was bitter blow for the Vitoria based side, who have now only picked up two points from their last eight games and who stay in the relegation spots as a result.
A thrilling match at Montjuic, where Espanyol came back from three goals down to draw 3-3 with Athletic Bilbao. The Basque side raced into the lead, with a goal from Ezquerro in the second minute and two more from Yeste before the half hour mark, the second a well struck free kick. But the Catalans were level within twenty minutes of the restart, Maxi and Milosevic both beating Aranzubia before Roger converted a penalty after a foul by Del Horno. The result helps Javier Clemente's side move three points clear of the drop zone.
Racing Santander also move away from the bottom spots after a narrow 1-0 victory over Recreativo. The visitors had gone seven games without defeat, and a win would have taken them out of the relegation spots and level on points with Piterman's side. However a freak own goal early in the second half when Pernía got in the way of Espinola's clearance was enough to settle the match in favour of the home side. Both teams were reduced to ten men late in the first half when Iker Begoña and then Bodipo were sent off. (20.04.03)
Leaders Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw by arch-rivals Barcelona in Spain's big "derby game", giving Deportivo and Real Sociedad a chance to move to within a point of them if they can win on Sunday. With a 24 point gap between the two sides the Catalans were not given much of a chance, and they found themselves behind on the quarter hour mark when Raúl headed on a long ball from Makelele into the path of Ronaldo for him to beat Bonano. But the visitors came back, and returning captain Luis Enrique levelled the scores after Casillas could only palm away Kluivert's header. Both sides could have scored again before the break, Mendieta having a goal disallowed for a borderline offside and Ronaldo heading a cross from Salgado just over the bar. Luis Enrique thought he should have had a penalty in the second half when Hierro brought him down, but Madrid came closest to scoring, Bonano making first class saves from Figo and Zidane and Ronaldo heading against the bar. Salgado got himself sent off two minutes from the end though for a second bookable offence, and in the end both sides had to settle for a point. They could meet again soon though if both win through their Champions League quarter final ties midweek.
Spain's other Champions League quarter finalists Valencia were beaten 1-0 by Valladolid and could lose their fourth spot if Celta win on Sunday. Home side manager Pepe Moré needed a victory to help his side to move away from the relegation spots and also to hold on to his own job if rumours were to be believed, and he put out a defensive line up containing six defenders. That, together with a waterlogged pitch after a heavy rainfall meant that the first real shot at goal didn't come until five minutes before the break, when Mista went close for the visitors. Rufete tested Bizzarri a couple of times in the second half, but a strike by substitute Antonio López a quarter of an hour from the end gave the three points to the locals.
Villarreal and Mallorca both inched a little closer to safety after they shared the points in a 1-1 draw. Benito Floro included under 17 international César Arzo in his line up, but it was veteran striker Martín Palermo who made the difference with a headed goal midway through the first half after good work by Belletti and Guayre. The home side should have added to their lead, but Mallorca equalised against the run of play shortly before the interval when Eto'o collected a through ball from Ibagaza to score. The visitors were buoyed up by their goal and dominated the second half, but the slippery conditions on a wet pitch meant that the scoreline remained unaltered in the end. (19.04.03)