First division, week 30

Real Madrid were knocked off top spot for a couple of hours, but regained it with style after beating Sevilla 5-1 in the last match of the weekend. Solari gave Queiroz's side an early lead after Beckham set him up, and Ronaldo made it two on the stroke of half time, again from a cross from the England captain. Baptista pulled one back though after the break from the penalty spot after Solari pushed over Marañon, and for a brief while the visitors were back in the game. But Zidane picked up a pass from Guti to restore the two goal lead and then Ronaldo stole the show, leaving Salgado with the easiest of tasks to score a fourth after forcing Esteban into blocking his shot, and then robbing the ball off Redondo to complete the rout.

Madrid ended the weekend a point above Valencia, who had beaten Racing Santander 0-3 earlier in the evening to throw down the challenge to the leaders. With South Americans Ayala and Aimar on international duty and others out injured, Rafa Benítez had to put out a makeshift side. But the replacements were up to the task, and with Vicente on excellent form they had no problems taking the three points. The Spanish international winger created the first goal after Angulo sent him away down the wing, Ayoze turning his dangerous cross past his own keeper. And Vicente added two more himself, the first on the stroke f half time when he squeezed a shot past Ricardo, and the second after the break when he left three defenders for dead before shooting low past the keeper.

It was a rainy weekend in Spain though, and nowhere more so than Sevilla, where the match between Betis and Barcelona had to be postponed due to a waterlogged pitch with the players already out on the ground and the fans waiting in the stands. Barça president Joan Laporta was most insistent that the match was unplayable, probably in part because his two recognised strikers were unavailable. The match has already been rescheduled for 14th April.

Atlético Madrid moved up to fifth place in the table after drawing 0-0 at Villarreal, moving above Athletic who lost the day before. Despite the lack of goals it was a lively match, with Fernando Torres hitting the post early on. Pedro Martí hit the bar a few minutes later at the other end, and Sonny Anderson also hit the post before half time. Villarreal stay five points behind their opponents in ninth spot.

Osasuna are back in the UEFA cup spots after drawing 1-1 at Valladolid, the point enough to take them above Basque rivals Athletic on goal average. Losada opened the scoring for the home side early in the game after a mistake by keeper Sanzol, but substitute Richard Morales equalised in the second half.

Málaga could have been level with Osasuna had they beaten Albacete, but they failed to take advantage and ended up drawing 1-1. Conditions at the Rosaleda stadium were almost as bad as at Betis, but both teams decided to go ahead anyway. The wet pitch caused problems though, and the visitors opened the scoring when Arnau failed to hold on to a slippery ball, allowing Fabiano to shoot into an empty net. Diego Alonso saved a point though with a goal nine minutes from the end.

Funnily though the sun was shining at the other end of Spain, where Zaragoza moved safely away from the lower positions after defeating Celta 0-2. The turning point of the match came a quarter of an hour from the end when Cáceres got himself sent off after picking up a second booking for stopping a quick free kick from taking place. Galletti promptly found the head of Alvaro when the kick was taken for him to open the scoring, and Yordi got a second in injury time to leave the Galicians down in next to bottom spot.

Meanwhile bottom side Real Murcia recorded only their third win of the season, beating Mallorca 2-0 to leave them only two points outside of the relegation zone. Acciari put his side ahead from Michel's corner in the first half, and Michel himself got the second with a direct free kick which caught keeper Leo Franco off guard waiting for a cross. (28.03.04)

Deportivo La Coruña kept in touch with the leaders after a last minute 1-2 victory at Real Sociedad. Pandiani put Irureta's side ahead in the tenth minute, running on to a through ball from Sergio to score. But Nihat made it all square shortly before the break, César slipping as the two challenged for a high Xabi Alonso pass, allowing the Turkish forward to volley a shot past Molina. Both sides seemed to have settled for a point in a dull second half, but a loose Kvarme back pass allowed substitute Diego Tristán in, and López Rekarte could only thump the ball past his own keeper as he raced in to tackle. For the second time this season against the Galicians, Real had lost by an own goal, and they could be back near the bottom spots by the end of the weekend.

Espanyol kept alive their hopes of survival with a 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao, thanks in large part to two goals from Tamudo. The team captain caught Aranzubia off guard with a shot from the left wing in only the second minute, and added a second from the penalty spot six minutes from the end after Luis Prieto pulled back Maxi. Prieto was shown a straight red card by referee González Vázquez, who a few minutes earlier had sent off his team mate Lacruz for a dubious second booking. The Catalans could have added to their lead in the last few minutes had it not been for Aranzubia, but in the fourth minute of injury time Pochettino deflected a wayward shot from Ezquerro over the head of Lemmens to set up a nerve wracking end to the match. (27.03.04)

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