First division, day 36
The league title race is still wide open after Real Sociedad and Valencia drew 1-1 on Sunday evening. After Real Madrid's draw the night before, the San Sebastian side had a golden opportunity to open up a four point gap over their rivals. However Rafa Benítez's side were fighting for their Champions League place, and were not prepared to give up the fight too easily. Xabi Alonso opened the scoring around the half hour mark, heading home Karpin's corner, but Revellière equalised two minutes later, connecting with a free kick from the left to fire a shot in off Jauregi. The visitors decided a point was enough and defended their point in the second half, although Kovacevic could have won it in the last minute when he just failed to get on the end of Xavi Alonso's cross.
Ten man Deportivo La Coruña came back from behind twice to beat Atlético Madrid 3-2 and keep up the pressure on the top two. Irureta's side were up against it from the fifth minute when Naybet was sent off for bringing down José Marí in the area, Albertini converting the resulting penalty. Romero levelled the scores a few minutes later, but substitute Correa restored the lead for the visitors a quarter of an hour from the end after a mistake by Molina. however Makaay equalised again two minutes later, and Luque set up Valerón for the winner five minutes from the end.
Athletic Bilbao held on to sixth spot after drawing 1-1 at Villarreal. Víctor returned to the side and gave the locals the lead in the fourth minute after the defence failed to cut out Arruabarrena's cross. But Etxeberría levelled the scores on the half hour mark after Reina could only push out a close range shot from Urzaiz. The home side felt themselves unlucky not to take the three points though after Víctor had a goal disallowed in the last minute for a questionable foul.
Barcelona closed to within two points of the Basques after beating Málaga 2-1. Saviola gave the Catalans the lead, heading home Mendieta's pinpoint cross midway through the first half. Dely Valdés equalised though from the penalty spot ten minutes in to the second half after the referee ruled that Mendieta had fouled Darío Siva. But Mendieta made up for it scoring from the penalty spot himself later on after Fernando Sanz handled in the area.
Sevilla also kept open their chances of a European spot open with a 1-0 win over Andalucian neighbours Recreativo, and they ended the weekend level with Barcelona. With the visitors fighting for survival in the first division it was at times a bad tempered game, especially at the end as players argued on the pitch. The only goal came five minutes in to the second half, Marcos Vales turning his defender before shooting low past Luque. the result leaves Rece down in nineteenth place, now certain of relegation.
In fact all the relegation spots were confirmed this weekend, Osasuna's 0-2 win at Valladolid opening up a seven point gap between them and Alavés, Recre and Rayo with only two games to go. The Pamplona based side were more than a match for their unmotivated opponents, taking a two goal lead by half time and defending well from there on to ensure a vital win. Palacios opened the scoring from them ten minutes in to the match, and Valdo took advantage of a mistake by keeper Bizzarri to add a second just before the interval.
Disappointment at Alavés, where a 0-1 defeat at the hands of Betis ended their five year run in the top flight. With news of Osasuna's goals coming through the tannoy system, the mood in Vitoria was black, and the weather matched it as rain clouds rolled in. With a thunderstorm raging at the start of the second half, Fernando popped up to turn in Joaquín's cross and sentence the match. A quarter of an hour from the end Téllez summed up their frustrations when he was sent off for punching Capi. Alavés were down and out.
Rayo Vallecano will also be starting next season in the second division despite drawing 1-1 at Mallorca. They too were aware of the result from Valladolid, but starting the weekend four points adrift at the bottom of the table they had little allusion that they save themselves. Peragón gave them a brief hope, turning in Bolo's cross twenty minutes from the end, but a Pandiani penalty after Iriney kept out Nadal's header with his hands made it all square. The Brazilian midfielder had been let off a red card by the disciplinary committee midweek, but this time there was no doubt and he had to go.
The results earlier in the evening meant that Racing Santander and Espanyol were already safe when they kicked off the last match of the weekend. There had been speculation of a scoreless draw to give them a point each, but in the end it was quite the opposite, the Cantabrians running out 5-2 winners. Bodipo scored twice before the break before being carried off early in the second half, and although Milosevic pulled one back, a goal from Javi Guerrero and two headers from Pablo Casar gave the locals an unassailable lead before Maxi scored a late consolation. Espanyol's Lopo was sent off in the second half. (01.06.03)
Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw by Celta, and could lose ground on leaders Real Sociedad who play on Sunday. It was always going to be a difficult game, Miguel Angel Lotina's side needing points themselves to keep up their push for the fourth spot, and the visiting manager put out a novel formation which included four full backs. The locals made the early running, with Raúl having a goal disallowed for offside and Cavallero beating a deflected shot from Hierro over the bar. But the Gallicians took the lead with virtually their first attempt at goal, Mostovoi getting ahead of a static defence to steer Angel's cross wide of Casillas. Del Bosque went for broke and brought on Morientes at the break, and it was only a matter of time before they equalised, Raúl beating Cavallero with a well placed header from Salgado's cross. But Celta were defending well, and although Ronaldo had another goal disallowed and Raúl headed wide in a frantic last few minutes, the visitors had their point and could be on for a first ever appearance in the Champions League. Madrid left the pitch frustrated, knowing that the league title may just have slipped out of their grasp. (31.05.03)