First division, week 33

Valencia came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Real Sociedad and move back to the top of the table, ahead of Real Madrid thanks to a better goal difference. All the goals came in the second half, Xabi Alonso starting things off with a spectacular strike from wide on the right which dipped over the head of Cañizares, and Karpin made it two from the penalty spot after referee Teixeira Vitienes ruled that Ayala had fouled De Pedro. Vicente pulled one back though three minutes later, and Mista salvaged a point when he latched on to a loose ball to fire a shot in off the crossbar in the last minute.

Barcelona moved up to third place in the table after a comfortable 3-0 win over Málaga, their fifteenth game in a row without defeat. Saviola got the first early on from Luis García's cross, and returned the favour a few minutes later for García to score a second. Cocu made it three with a long strike ten minutes before the break, and after that the Catalans eased off the accelerator, already thinking of next Sunday's game with Real Madrid. The bad news for them though was an injury to Puyol, which may mean he misses the big match.

There were several surprise results this weekend which affected the UEFA and relegation spots, but perhaps none more so than at Osasuna, where the hosts fell to a 1-3 defeat by Espanyol just a week after they beat Real Madrid. Tamudo opened the scoring just before half time, and although Pablo García levelled the scores just seconds after the restart, goals from Alex Fernández and Maxi gave the Catalans a win which takes them to just two points of safety. Osasuna hold on to sixth place, although several more teams are closing up on them.

Sevilla are one of those, and they are now only three points off the UEFA spots after a 5-2 win over Racing Santander. The man of the match was undoubtedly Baptista, who scored the first four goals with only an hour on the clock. The Brazilian international headed the first two past Ricardo in the opening seven minutes, and added two more after the break, the second from the penalty spot after he himself was fouled. Javi Guerrero got one back, also with a penalty, and Matabuena scored a second, but substitute Magallanes made it five with a spectacular shot in the last minute.

Villarreal stay a point behind Sevilla after they beat Mallorca 1-2. Paquito rested several key players for next Thursday's UEFA cup semi-final with Valencia, but they still took the lead when Quique Alvarez poked home Senna's free kick late in the first half. Eto'o equalised from the penalty spot two minutes in to the restart after the referee ruled that Alvarez had handled deliberately in the area, but Pedro Martí restored the lead a quarter of an hour from the end. Luis Aragonés's side could have salvaged a point when they were awarded a second penalty in the last minute, but Reina saved Eto'o's kick.

Betis too moved to within five points of the European spots after they defeated Real Murcia 0-1. The only goal of the game came from a Marcos Assunçao free kick in the fourth minute, although Fernando and Rivas could have increased the lead if they could have found the target. The result means that John Toshack's team are already mathematically relegated, sixteen points behind fourth from bottom Mallorca with only five more games to go.

The other two relegation spots are wide open again though, and only five points separate seven sides after Celta beat Albacete 0-2, their first win in nine games. Juanfran opened the scoring with a headed goal midway through the first half, and Gustavo López added the second only a minute after the restart from Velasco's cross. Substitute Sylvinho was sent off for a hard tackle near the end, and local manager César Ferrando was also shown a red card for protesting to the referee. (18.04.04)

Real Madrid are back on top pending Valencia's game tomorrow after beating city rivals Atlético Madrid 1-2. Solari was standing in for the injured Ronaldo, and he put his side in front in only the fifth minute after Figo set him up. But Manzano brought on Nikolaidis at the break, and within two minutes he had won a penalty, getting Pavón sent off into the bargain for a second yellow card. Paunovic converted the kick and could have put his side ahead a couple of times later on. But with twelve minutes to go Iván Helguera headed the winner after Beckham headed back Figo's corner.

Deportivo La Coruña were held to a 1-1 draw by Valladolid, a result which virtually takes them out of the title race. With a Champions' League semi-final coming up on Wednesday, Irureta put out a side packed with reserve players, including Munúa who was making his league debut in goal. The Uruguayan keeper had a good game, but could do nothing when Oscar González picked up a Fernando Sales pass to score on the stroke of half time. But half time substitute Djaminha saved a point when he won a penalty and converted it himself ten minutes after the restart.

Fifth placed Athletic Bilbao moved a step closer to a place in Europe after a 4-0 win over Zaragoza. Exteberría scored with a spectacular overhead kick in the first half, and Del Horno made it two after the break with a long shot into the top corner of the net. The visitors were left with nine men after central defenders Milito and Alvaro were both sent off with straight red cards within minutes of each other, and substitute Yeste added two late goals for the final scoreline. (17.04.04)

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