First division, week 26

Real Madrid moved eight points clear at the top of the table after coming from behind to beat Celta 4-2. The visitors went into the lead on the quarter hour mark when Ilic finished off following a corner, and they could have had more if Edu had not shot wide and Milosevic had not failed to beat Casillas. But three goals in a twenty minute period in the second half turned the scoreline around, with Ronaldo levelling the scores, Zidane heading his side into the lead from Figo's cross and Figo scoring himself after Beckham set him up. Milosevic pulled a goal back in the ninetieth minute, but Figo found Zidane again two minutes later for him to round off the scoreline. Radomir Antic's team ended the day back down in the relegation spots.

Second placed Valencia were beaten 2-1 by struggling Espanyol, their second defeat in a row to teams from the city of Barcelona. The game was affected by a heavy snowstorm which turned the pitch white, but the locals mastered the conditions well and Tamudo put them ahead ten minutes before the break after De la Peña put him through. The Spanish international striker got his second of the night following a corner a quarter of an hour from the end, Cañizares uncharacteristically letting the ball through his hands, but Mista set up an exciting finish when he pulled one back two minutes later. Espanyol are still six points away from safety though as the teams above them also won.

Barcelona's impressive run continued, and they made it seven straight wins in a row after beating third placed Deportivo La Coruña 2-3. The Catalans raced into a three goal lead, Ronaldinho heading home a Xavi free kick and Saviola finishing off a quick passing move before the break, and Ronaldinho getting his second of the night three minutes after the restart following good work by Saviola and Luis García. But half time substitute Pandiani headed two goals past Víctor Valdés in five minutes, both from Romero's crosses, and when Motta was controversially sent off by rookie referee Tristante Oliva in what looked like a case of mistaken identity, Depor seemed to be back in the game. But Barça held on to take the three points and close to within four points of their opponents.

The other five games on Sunday evening were all decided by a single goal, four of which were scored by the away sides. Athletic Bilbao and Atlético Madrid held on to the two UEFA cup spots, the former beating Villarreal 0-1 thanks to a goal on the stroke of half time by youngster Jonan García. The locals paid the price for their gruelling UEFA cup tie against Galatasaray on Thursday, and even though they had several chances after the break they couldn't beat a confident Aranzubia.

Athletic remain a point ahead of Atlético Madrid, who beat Mallorca with a spectacular last minute strike from Fernando Torres, the youngster chipping the keeper from wide out on the left wing. The home side played three quarters of the match with ten men after keeper Leo Franco was sent off for handling outside of the area, and with other results going against them they now find themselves only a place above the relegation spots.

Osasuna moved back to within two points of Atlético with a 0-1 win over bottom club Real Murcia, who are now seven points adrift at the foot of the table. Webó got the only goal on the half hour mark, following up after Bonano pushed out a long shot from Muñoz. The visitors could have increased their lead with a second half penalty, but the referee made Aloisi retake his kick and the keeper saved his second effort.

Albacete moved out of the bottom three to the detriment of Celta after beating Real Sociedad 0-1. Reynald Denoueix made several changes after his side's Champions' League defeat midweek, but they were unable to get past a well ordered defence and found themselves behind after the break when Redondo beat alberto at the second attempt. Visiting keeper Almunia made vital saves from De Paula and Lee Chun Soo late on to give his side their second victory in a row.

Málaga were the only one of the five single-goal winners to record a home victory, Salva putting in another claim for a place in the Spanish squad with his fifteenth of the season in the league against Racing Santander. The striker turned the defence inside out on the half hour mark to give his side their third win in a row. Visiting keeper Ricardo and the crossbar prevented the Andalucians from winning by a bigger margin. (29.02.04)

Betis and Sevilla played out a 1-1 draw in a bad tempered derby, a result which does little good for either side. Betis had not won against their city neighbours since the 1996/7 season, but they got off to the best possible start when Daniel Alves handled the ball following a first minute corner and Alfonso scored from the resulting penalty. Visiting keeper Esteban pulled off an incredible save to stop Benjamín extending the lead from a free kick midway through the first half, and Javi Navarro levelled the scores a few minutes later with a lob over the head of Prats after the keeper had saved from Antoñito. Before the break Sevilla were left with ten men when Antoñito picked up a second booking, but the home side were unable to take advantage and the second half descended into a physical battle between both sides, with referee Pino Zamorano not helping matters with some poor decisions.

In the other match played on Saturday night, Zaragoza climbed away from the relegation spots with a 1-2 victory over a Valladolid side who have now lost their last five games. The visitors took the lead early on when Generelo headed the ball over Bizzarri from Movilla's long free kick, the keeper committing himself but unable to reach the ball. Losada wasted a chance to equalise soon afterwards, but Oscar González beat keeper Valbuena on the half hour mark with a downward header from Chema's cross, and the two sides went in level at the break. With a quarter of an hour to go though, Valladolid were left with ten men when Ricchetti was shown a second yellow card, and five minutes later Galletti took advantage of some slack defending to strike a bouncing shot past a shaky Bizzarri for the winning goal. (28.02.04)

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