First division, week 34
A thrilling game at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, where Barcelona came from a goal down to beat Real Madrid 1-2 and move up to within four points of them in the table. Only Víctor Valdés, Puyol and the woodwork prevented the home side from scoring twice before half time and again five minutes after the restart, and Solari finally got the goal they deserved when he picked up a loose ball to shoot through crowd of players. But substitute Kluivert headed an equaliser on a quick breakaway only a minute after coming on, and Madrid were left with ten men when Figo picked up a second booking soon afterwards. The game seemed to be heading to a draw when Ronaldinho chipped a delightful pass over the top of the defence, and Xavi acrobatically flicked the ball past Casillas and in to the net.
Valencia took advantage to move a point clear of Madrid at the top of the table after drawing 1-1 at Athletic Bilbao later in the evening. Jorge López opened the scoring for the visitors from the penalty spot on the quarter hour mark after Lacruz handled in the area, but Del Horno headed an equaliser from Yeste's free kick later in the first half. Both sides had chances after that, but in the end they settled for a point each which leaves Athletic in fifth place, four points now clear of their closest rivals for the UEFA cup spots.
It seems nobody wants the last UEFA cup spot though, and six teams are only separated by two points after the weekend's results. Osasuna hold on to the position again despite their second defeat in a row against sides in the relegation zone, this time 1-0 at Celta Vigo. The Galicians had the best chances in the first half, and finally took the lead when Muñoz deflected the ball into his own net whilst trying to block an effort from Giovanella. Pablo García could have saved a point at the end if Cavallero had not tipped his free kick onto the bar.
Villarreal took advantage of slip ups b the sides above them to move up to eighth place, just one point behind Osasuna and Atlético, after defeating already relegated Real Murcia 1-0. After their UEFA cup semi-final midweek, Paquito decided to rest several of his key players, with Guayre and Víctor leading the attack. It took them a long time to break down John Toshack's well ordered defence though, and the only goal didn't come until midway through the second half, when Quique Alvarez got on the end of Guayre's pass to beat Sánchez Broto.
An incredible match at Zaragoza, where four goals from local striker David Villa were only enough to earn a point in an exciting 4-4 draw with Sevilla. Casquero put the visitors ahead early on, but Villa struck twice with help from Savio to put his side ahead at the interval. Casquero equalised again after the restart, but the ex Sporting striker got two more, the second from the penalty spot to open up what looked like an unbeatable lead. However Toledo was sent off for a foul on Casquero in the area and Baptista scored from the resulting penalty, and Carlos saved a point for the Andalucians in injury time.
Sevilla's city rivals Betis also rejoined the fight for the Europe spots after beating Real Sociedad 2-1, moving level with their neighbours two points below Osasuna. Benjamín and Dani gave Víctor Fernández's side an early lead, but only a penalty save in each half by Toni Prats from Karpin and then Kovacevic made sure of the points. Nihat pulled one back for the Basque side on the stroke of half time after Xabi Alonso set him up.
Betis opened up a six point gap over Real Sociedad, who head a group of eight sides fighting to avoid the last two relegation spots. The victories of Espanyol and Celta meant that only four points now separate twelfth and nineteenth positions, with Racing Santander only a point above the drop zone after losing 0-2 to Albacete. The goals came either side of half time, with Pacheco starting things off and Redondo getting the second to take their side level with Real.
Valladolid are also back in trouble, and they only kept themselves out of the bottom three on goal difference after losing 1-3 to Mallorca. The visitors actually started the day in the drop zone, but Delibasic put them ahead early on, and although Chema levelled the scores with a pile-driver after the restart, two goals from Correa later on gave Luis Aragonés's side the much needed three points. (25.04.04) .
Deportivo La Coruña frustrated Málaga's chances of moving up to the UEFA spots when they held them to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night. Irureta made eight changes to the side which drew at Porto in their Champions' League semi-final, but were on top from the start and took the lead when Víctor picked up a pass from Duscher to beat Calatayud. Local manager Juande Ramos made an early change though, bringing on an extra forward Canabal with only half an hour gone, and the striker got on the end of a cross from the left shortly before the break to level the scores.
Espanyol moved out of the relegation zone pending Mallorca's game on Sunday after beating Atlético Madrid 3-1. All the goals came in the second half, with Fredson heading the Catalans in front from a corner on the hour mark. Substitute Raducanu added two more late on, the first after a mistake by Aragoneses and the second from Hadji's cross, and Fernando Torres scored a late consolation goal for the visitors in injury time. (24.04.04)