First division, week 20
A second half goal from Ronaldo saved a point for Real Madrid at Betis, although it was not enough to take them back to the top of the table. Carlos Queiroz's side were given the run-around in the first half, and they fell behind on the half hour mark when Joaquín volleyed the ball into the net after Casillas could only push out a long shot by Fernando. But Ronaldo picked up a long pass from Zidane on the hour mark to dribble round Esteban and score his 50th goal for his club and level the scores at 1-1. Madrid ended the day a point behind Valencia, who they meet in the cup midweek.
Third placed Deportivo took advantage of Madrid's slip to close the gap behind them to three points with a 4-1 win over Zaragoza. It was the visitors who took the lead though when Valerón turned Savio's free kick into his own net, but Diego Tristán levelled the scores from Luque's cross later in the half and Valerón made up for his mistake with a headed goal soon after the restart. Tristán got his second of the night and substitute Sergio got the fourth to round things off and leave Zaragoza further down in the bottom three.
Atlético Madrid kept up their challenge on the Champions League spots, and they consolidated fourth place after a 2-1 win over Sevilla. Manzano's side made it eight games without defeat with goals from their twin strikers Fernando Torres and Nikolaidis, Torres opening the scoring just before the break after Ibagaza and Aguilera combined to lay the ball on for him. When Nikolaidis got ahead of Esteban to head home Ibagaza's free kick it appeared to be all over, but a questionable penalty by García Calvo on Martí, converted by Reyes, set up a nervous last few minutes.
Villarreal are still a point behind Atlético though after they beat Málaga 2-0, their first ever win against the Andalucians. After the visitors dominated the first half, local manager Benito Floro decided to bring on Sonny Anderson to help Víctor in attack. It proved to be the turning point, with Víctor and Guayre making a first goal for Arruabarrena, and Anderson taking Víctor's through ball to lob keeper Calatayud for the second.
Osasuna lost ground on the leaders after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Albacete, although they still hold on to sixth place after the clubs immediately below them failed to win. The local crowd were stunned when a defensive lapse allowed Viaud to put the visitors in front in only the sixth minute. But Aloisi made it all square later in the first half after Valdo's header hit the post. After that a good performance by ex Osasuna keeper Almunia kept the scores level to the end.
A third win in a row for Real Sociedad helped them move away from the bottom spots up to thirteenth place. It was a relatively comfortable 3-1 victory over next to bottom club Espanyol, with Karpin putting the Basques ahead from the penalty spot in the seventh minute after Pochettino fouled Kovacevic. The other goals didn't come until the last five minutes though, Gabilondo and Nihat putting the result beyond doubt before Jordi Cruyff got a late consolation goal.
Mallorca ended their bad run of four defeats in a row with a 1-1 draw against Racing Santander, although they are still only four points above the drop zone. Both goals came in the second half, Colsa heading Nagore's free kick over Ricardo to put the hosts ahead two minutes after the restart, and Requeiro saving a point with a spectacular shot a quarter of an hour from the end. The Cantabrians ended the weekend in ninth spot after going five matches without a loss. (18.01.04)
Valencia were held to a 0-0 draw at Valladolid, and although the point takes them two clear of Real Madrid, they could be overtaken by their rivals tomorrow. It was a defensive match, the only opportunities in the first half falling to Ayala and Makukula. The referee let Baraja off a red card in the second half after he clashed with Jesús, and Mista could have won it for the visitors later on. However in the end it was Cañizares who saved the day with a spectacular stop from a Makukula header.
A late headed goal by Gurpegui saved a point for Athletic Bilbao at Barcelona. Local manager Frank Rijkaard included new signing Edgar Davids in his line up, but it was debut keeper Jorquera who made the headlines with first half saves from Ezquerro and Etxeberría. And when half time substitute Kluivert headed Van Bronckhorst's cross past Aranzubía, the locals appeared to be on for their third win in a row. But Gurpegui rose to meet Del Horno's cross five minutes from time to beat the young keeper and level at 1-1.
The other game played on Saturday also ended in a tie, bottom side Real Murcia coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 late on against Celta. A 35 yard Luccin free kick and a second goal from Milosevic on the stroke of half time gave the visitors a convincing lead. But Luccin got himself sent off for mocking the referee, and Quintana and Karanka scored in the last quarter of the game to save a point and possibly the head of manager Joaquín Peiró. (17.01.04)