First division, week 31

Valencia stay a point behind leaders Real Madrid after a 2-0 win over bottom club Murcia. John Toshack's side put up a good defensive performance though, and it was not until a quarter of an hour from the end that Pellegrino finally opened the scoring, his header from substitute Jorge López's corner beating Juanmi. Mista got a second a few minutes later, his eighteenth of the season in the league, to round off the result.

Deportivo La Coruña lost ground on the top two after they were held to a 2-2 draw by Betis. The Galicians raced into a two goal lead, Víctor setting up Luque for the first on the quarter hour mark and getting a second himself three minutes later. But Marcos Assunçao pulled one back with a trademark free kick, and Dani bundled home the equaliser in the second half after Benjamín's free kick came back off the bar.

Atlético Madrid consolidated fifth spot with a 2-1 win over Valladolid. Fernando Torres started things off with a spectacular strike from Nano's cross, and Paunovic made it two on the stroke of half time. But the visitors came back after the restart with a headed goal from Ricchetti, and should have saved a point when Oscar had a goal disallowed for a debateable offside and then Losada hit the post later on.

The other four games on Sunday evening all finished with draws, including one without goals in the match between Athletic Bilbao and struggling Celta. The visitors were under new management after Antic resigned midweek, but they held on despite two penalty appeals and a couple of top saves by Cavallero from Urzaiz to take a valuable point.

Osasuna stay just ahead of Athletic on goal difference, still occupying the last UEFA cup spot after drawing 1-1 with Málaga. They thought though that they had done enough to win after Morales headed them in front from Puñal's free kick midway through the first half. But a last minute headed goal by substitute Insúa saved a point for the Andalucians, who stay two points behind their rivals.

Zaragoza and Racing both inched further away from the bottom spots after drawing 2-2. The home side went two goals up, Dani taking a back-heel pass from David Villa to run on and score late in the first half, and Villa getting the second himself five minutes after the break. But Pablo Casar scrambled one back only three minutes later, and Morán made it all square eight minutes from the end.

Mallorca moved three points away from the relegation spots after drawing 1-1 with Ral Sociedad. Luis Aragonés was celebrating his 750th game as a manager, but his side fell behind to a Gabilondo strike on the half hour mark. Jesús Perera equalised thirty minutes later, although the goal should never have stood as the striker clearly knocked Delibasic's cross past Alberto with his hand. (04.04.04)

Real Madrid moved four points clear at the top pending Sunday's games after a 1-2 win over Albacete. Once again though it was not a convincing victory, and it took two goals from deflected Roberto Carlos free kicks for them to come away with the three points. The first came twenty minutes in to the first half, the ball bouncing off the foot of Montiel to put off Almunia, and Guti, Beckham and Ronaldo all tested the keeper before the break. Casillas had to be at his best though to save from Pacheco and Mikel either side of half time before Roberto Carlos struck again, this time his kick controversially hitting Figo on the arm before entering the net. Parri pulled one back though with a long shot which bounced awkwardly in front of Casillas, and Pacheco came close to levelling the scores with a shot over the bar late on.

Meanwhile fourth placed Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw by Villarreal in the Nou Camp, a result which ended the Blaugrana's chances of equalling their all time record of ten league wins in a row. Saviola came closest to scoring in a lively first half when he headed against the post from close up following a corner, and Oleguer had a goal disallowed after the break for a borderline offside. Although the visitors were on the back foot for most of the game, they did have their chances as well, Roger hitting the outside of the post with a free kick and Víctor Valdés saving well from Sonny Anderson in the second half.

A set back though for Espanyol, who failed to get out of the relegation zone after a 1-0 defeat at the hands of a Sevilla side who are closing up on the UEFA spots. A victory for the Catalans would have taken them above Mallorca pending their game on Sunday, but a hotly disputed goal from Antoñito early in the second half was enough to sink them. The home grown striker was in an offside position when he received Darío Silva's headed pass, but the referee allowed the goal to stand. Esteban had to save from Hadji and Jordi Cruyff headed against the bar as Luis Fernández's side tried to save a point late on. (03.04.04)

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