First division, day 14
Second placed Real Madrid were held to a 0-0 draw at Villarreal, and are now nine points behind leaders Barcelona. With a vital Champions League coming up against Roma on Wednesday, manager García Remón decided to rest many of his top names. But their replacements put in a disappointing display, and were lucky not to be beaten for the first time ever in the Madrigal stadium as the home side failed to take advantage of the many chances they created. Madrid's only effort on target came from a Beckham free kick which hit the bar, and Villarreal's new signing Figueroa got the ball in the net after the break only to have the strike ruled out for a borderline offside.
Espanyol moved up level with Madrid on points after beating Zaragoza 0-1. The only goal of the game came on the half hour mark from Tamudo, who was returning to the side after an injury. The Spanish international striker finished off a long passing move, picking up the last pass from Dani to beat Luis García and keep up their positive record in the Romareda stadium, where they have not lost in seven years. Keeper Kameni kept out the local forwards after that, but Martín Posse should have increased the lead when he missed an easy chance right at the end.
Sevilla are back up to fifth after a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao. Both sides made changes after their successful UEFA cup ties midweek, but it was the hosts who came out on top, Baptista following up his two goals on Thursday with an individualist goal early in the second half, and substitute Carlitos adding a second soon afterwards. The result followed the form book, with Sevilla having now only dropped two points at home and Athletic clocking up their sixth straight away defeat, leaving them once again only two points above the relegation spots.
Atlético Madrid returned to the UEFA cup spots after beating Osasuna 3-2 in the last match on Sunday evening. César Ferrando decided to play Fernando Torres and Salva together up front, and the two combined for Torres to open the scoring on the quarter hour mark. Salva headed a second later on, and although Valdo pulled one back on the stroke of half time, Colsa came on to head a third ten minutes in to the restart. The visitors were left with ten men when Pablo García was sent off, but Morales scored again to set up a nail biting finish.
Talking of exciting finishes, an injury time free kick from Pandiani saved a point for Deportivo in a controversial 2-2 draw at Racing Santander. The Cantabrians took the lead through Benayoun in the first half, but referee Megia Dávila awarded a penalty to the visitors for what he incorrectly adjudged to be a hand ball by Regueiro. Luque scored from the spot, but Javi Guerrero appeared to have given the locals a win three minutes from the end before Pandiani's late strike. Megía dished out three red cards to the home side off the field, including one to manager Lucas Alcaraz.
For thrilling ends though, there can be none better than Mallorca's 3-2 win over fellow strugglers Numancia. The visitors had gone two goals up, Tevenet catching Westerveld off his line with a long shot in the first half and Moreno crashing a second in off the crossbar after the break. But Delibasic headed one back ten minutes from the end, and Luis García added two more after that to give his side their first home win of the season, and take them off the bottom of the table to the detriment of their opponents.
Not much action though in the match between two of the newly promoted sides, Levante and Getafe, who were meeting in the first division for the first time in their history. The match ended without goals, leaving the home side two points away from the European spots and the visitors just a point above the bottom three. The closest anybody came to scoring was a header by Getafe striker Yordi against the post, although local substitute Reggi had a late goal disallowed after the referee spotted that he knocked the ball into the net with his arm. (05.12.04)
Another impressive performance from Barcelona, who trounced struggling Málaga 4-0 to move ten points clear at the top of the table pending Sunday's games. Frank Rijkaard only had 13 fit first team players, but it was more than enough against an opponent who have now gone eight matches without a win and have not even scored since the end of October. Deco set up Eto'o for the opening goal midway through the first half and scored a second with a spectacular strike just four minutes later. And Iniesta and Eto'o added two more later in the second half for the final scoreline.
Valencia moved level with second placed Real Madrid after beating Albacete 0-1 earlier in the evening. It was another workmanlike performance from Ranieri's side, who have now gone four games without letting in a goal. With an important Champions League match coming up on Tuesday against Werder Bremen, the manager put out a much changed side. But they struggled for a long time before substitute Xisco got the winner four minutes from the end.
Real Sociedad put an end to Betis's run of ten games without defeat, Kovacevic getting the only goal for the Basques in a 1-0 victory. The Serbian striker ran on to Gabilondo's through ball late in the first half to chip keeper Doblas and give his side a much needed three points which takes them away from the danger zone. It could have been different though had Oliveira taken a chance early in the second half, but Nihat could also have extended the lead later on. (04.12.04)