The Spanish football federation decided that games would go ahead this weekend despite the terrorist attrocities in Madrid on Thursday morning. Tributes were paid in all matches to those who lost their lives in the attacks. The staff at Soccer-Spain offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims.
First division, week 28
Second placed Valencia closed to within four points of Real Madrid after a 0-2 win at struggling Celta. Both sides were trying to come back from disappointing results in Europe midweek, but it was the visitors who had the better of the first half and who took the lead five minutes before the break, Vicente's clever free kick being pushed away at the last second by Cavallero only as far as Rufete, who threaded his shot through a crowd of players and in to the net. Radomir Antic brought on Mostovoi and Jesuli in the second half, and Jesuli felt he should have had a penalty in the last minute when Juan Sánchez held on to him. But play raced up the other end, and Sissoko fed Rufete for him to score his second of the night and wrap things up.
Valencia's win gave them some breathing space over Barcelona, who earlier in the evening had beaten bottom club Real Murcia 0-2 to make it eight straight victories in the league. The Catalans too had lost in Europe midweek, but they were more than a match for their young opponents. Within four minutes Frank Rijkaard's side had taken the lead, Saviola getting on the end of Xavi's free kick to bundle the ball past his ex team mate Bonano and in to the net. Murcia's Luis García hit the post with a free kick after the break, but a great run by Overmars down the left wing set up Ronaldinho to make it two a few minutes later.
Barça move ahead of Deportivo La Coruña, who were beaten 4-2 by Mallorca. Correa opened the scoring for the home side in the seventh minute with a spectacular volley after Delibasic crossed in, but Munitis, given a rare start due to injuries to Luque and Fran, made it all square midway through the first half. Young defender Iván Ramis headed the Islanders back in front though before the break, and Eto'o made it three with a hotly disputed penalty after Campano fell into the area rather too easily under Andrade's challenge. Irureta threw on Diego Tristán and Djalminha, and the two combined for the Brazilian to score his first goal of the season. But Eto'o set up substitute Jesús Perera for him to get a fourth and take his side five points away from the drop zone.
The top four are now nine points clear of the rest though after fifth placed Athletic Bilbao lost 2-1 at Málaga. Spanish manager Iñaki Sáez was there to see a bandaged up Salva fight his way through to score a last minute winner for the Andalucians, his sixteenth league goal of the season. The visitors had taken the lead with a first half Larrazábal penalty after Arnau brought down Etxeberría in the area, but Luque had equalised after the restart with a cross-come-shot which dipped in over the head of Aranzubia. The result takes Málaga to within three points of their opponents, albeit they remain in eleventh place.
Either Betis or Osasuna could have moved up into the UEFA cup spots had they won their match, but in the end they had to settle for a 1-1 draw which keeps them both in contention. The goals came in a five minute period before the interval, Benjamín starting things off with a glorious free kick from the left of the area which left Sanzol looking on helplessly. Aloisi made it all square though soon afterwards after a prolonged attack, the Australian striker finally curling the ball past Prats to keep his side in seventh place.
Villarreal move back up to eighth after coming from behind to beat Albacete 2-1. Pacheco had given the visitors the lead early on, and it was not until five minutes in to the second half that Coloccini dived in to head home the equaliser, the first goal that Almunia had let in for five games. Albacete could have gone back in front if Reina had not saved Fabiano's penalty a few minutes later, but Sonny Anderson finally struck home the winner to end their opponents' run of three victories in a row.
Sevilla's good run also came to an end after they lost 2-0 to Valladolid. Both goals came in the second half, with Jonathan opening the scoring when he came from behind to head a Fernando Sales corner past Esteban. Bizzarri made a key save from half time substitute Carlos ten minutes later, and almost immediately the locals won a penalty at the other end when Daniel Alves brought down Fernando Sales, Jesús converting the kick for the final result.
Espanyol's hopes of survival took a dive this weekend when they lost 0-1 at home to Racing Santander. The Catalans could have moved out of the bottom three and moved to within a point of their rivals had they won and Mallorca lost, but in the end both results went the other way and they found themselves six points away from safety at the end of the weekend. Morán got the only goal for the Cantabrians on the hour mark, running on to Nafti's headed pass and squeezing a shot between Lemmens and the near post from a wide angle. (14.03.04)
A depleted Real Madrid side were held to a 1-1 draw by Zaragoza, who they meet again in four days' time in the Spanish cup final. Carlos Queiroz was missing the injured Ronaldo and Raúl, and decided to leave Figo, Guti and Helguera on the bench in reserve for Wednesday's game. That left a place in the starting line up for young striker Portillo, who took his chance at last with a headed goal from Juanfran's cross around the half hour mark. Before he had time to celebrate his first league goal of the season though, the visitors had equalised, Toledo heading a corner down past Casillas which Salgado was unable to stop going in to the net. It was an important point for Zaragoza, but it could even have been three had Casillas not saved from Galletti in the second half and Drulic had not hit the post a few minutes later with the keeper beaten.
Real Sociedad bounced back from their elimination from the Champions' League with a 2-1 win over Atlético Madrid. There was little action though until ten minutes before the break, when Kovacevic was pushed over by Lequi in the area and Karpin converted the resulting penalty. And before the break Real went two up when Simeone turned Karpin's cross past his own keeper. Manzano brought on Paunovic for the second half, and the Serbian midfielder pulled one back with a header from Ibagaza's free kick with twenty minutes to go. That set up a frantic finale, with Atlético keeper Sergio Aragoneses making three or four top notch saves and the visitors almost scoring themselves on a couple of occasions before Real's Alkiza was sent off in injury time. (13.03.04)