First division, day 34
Real Sociedad are back on top of the pack after a 1-0 victory over Recreativo Huelva. The Basque side took advantage of Deportivo's slip up the day before to move above them in the table with four games to go to the end of the season. It was not an easy win though against a side struggling for survival in the top flight. Nihat gave Real an early lead with a spectacular shot into the top corner of the net from outside of the area, and Luque had to be on his best form to stop the Turkish forward from heading a second soon afterwards. But Viqueira hit the bar later in the half and Westerveld had to make two or three important saves to hold on to the lead.
Real Madrid bounced back from their midweek Champions League defeat with a convincing 5-1 win over Málaga, and move back into second place a point behind the leaders. The visiting defence made it easy for them though, and Morientes opened the scoring in the third minute after Gerardo gave the ball away to Zidane. Raúl picked up Guti's pass in a possible offside position to score a second, and then laid the ball back for Roberto Carlos to make it three with only eighteen minutes on the clock. After that it was plain sailing, Morientes making it four in the second half and Raúl adding a fifth late on after Manu had got a consolation goal for the Andalucians.
Celta lost ground on fourth placed Valencia after losing 5-0 in an extraordinary match at Villarreal. The first half was fairly even until the visitors found themselves with nine men, Luccin getting red carded for insulting referee Rodríguez Santiago and Mido picking up a second booking with only half an hour on the clock. Benito Floro quickly brought on three attacking players, and between them they contributed to five goals in the second half, Guayre striking the first and Víctor, Jorge López and Palermo all scoring before Guayre finished things off with his second of the night.
Athletic Bilbao consolidated their sixth place with a 2-4 win over Basque neighbours Alavés, who stay down in the relegation spots as a result. Yeste gave the visitors the lead in the twentieth minute, and although Magno and Astudillo turned the scores around with two goals in a minute or so later in the hslf, Athletic came back to win after the break. Urzaiz levelled the scores with a well placed header, and after Magno was sent off on the hour mark, Etxeberría scored twice to keep his side on track for Europe.
Mallorca took over seventh place from Barcelona after a 1-2 victory in the Nou camp. It was another disappointing performance from the Catalans, who found themselves behind midway through the first half after Novo's shot was deflected past Víctor Valdés by Kluivert. The Dutch striker made up for it levelling the scores in the second half, but late substitute Carlos snatched the three points in a rapid breakaway two minutes from the end. To make matters worse, Gabri was sent off at the end for a second bookable offence.
Sevilla lost ground on the teams above them after they were pegged back to a 3-3 draw by bottom club Rayo Vallecano. Casquero had given the locals the lead on the stroke of half time with a shot from outside of the area, and Reyes had slid in a second goal three minutes after the restart. Luis Cembranos got one back from the penalty spot, but Reyes re-established the two goal cushion ten minutes from the end after his side were also awarded a penalty. It seemed to be all over, but Michel beat Notario with a free kick from outside of the area and two minutes later set up Peragón for the equaliser.
Meanwhile Sevilla's neighbours Betis were being beaten 2-1 by Osasuna, who move three points away from the relegation spots as a result. The visitors took the lead around the half hour mark when Juanito headed home Assunçao's corner, but Moha made it all square five minutes later after a defensive mix up. Puñal scored the winner from the penalty spot before the break after Luis Fernández tripped Morales in the area, leaving Betis virtually out of the race for the UEFA spots.
Espanyol extended their unbeaten run to eleven games after drawing 1-1 at Valladolid, and they are now five points above the drop zone and seemingly on their way to safety. Both goals came early in the first half, Fernando Sales picking up a loose ball on the edge of the area to beat Toni in the thirteenth minute and Roger volleying home Maxi's cross three minutes later at the other end. Bizzarri prevented the visitors from taking home a bigger spoil with some godd saves later in the game. (18.05.03)
There was a set back for leaders Deportivo La Coruña in their race for the title after they were beaten 1-2 by Valencia. Rafa Benítez's side took the lead with a quarter of an hour gone when Fabio Aurelio headed over Juanmi after the keeper had beaten away a fierce shot by Vicente. However referee Rubinos Pérez ruled that a header from Donato early in the second half had crossed the line, even though it appeared that Cañizares had been able to get to it and push it away, and after booking two of the protesting defenders the goal was allowed to stand. Cañizares did well to tip over a shot from Makaay as Depor came forward, but Fabio Aurelio put the visitors back in front soon afterwards, winning the ball off Manuel Pablo and running on to drill a shot past Juanmi. The result will probably cost Deportivo top spot when Real Sociedad and Real Madrid play tomorrow, but takes Valencia back up to fourth and ends their run of two defeats in a row.
Atlético Madrid are back in the hunt for the last UEFA spot after they beat Racing Santander 0-2. Luis Aragonés's side had the better of the first half, but were unable to score despite efforts from Correa and Emerson. Benayoun could have scored for the Cantabrians though had Esteban not been on his best form. After the break Aguilera rattled the crossbar, and soon afterwards substitutes Javi Moreno and Jorge combined down the wing, Moreno finally beating Lemmens with a low shot to open the scoring. A quarter of an hour from the end Neru brought down Aguilera in the area and Moreno made it two from the penalty spot. This was Atlético's first win in nine games, and takes them to within a point of the UEFA spots pending Sunday's games. (17.05.03)