First division, day 16
Espanyol moved back up above Real Madrid and Valencia to second spot after drawing 0-0 at bottom club Numancia. Miguel Angel Lotina's side did most of the attacking but were unable to find a way through a well ordered defence, Pochettino, Maxi and De la Peña all failing to beat Juanma in the first half. Tamudo went close a couple of times after the break and Martín Posse had a last minute effort cleared off the line with the keeper beaten, but in the end they had to settle for a point which keeps them nine points behind leaders Barcelona.
Perhaps the biggest match on Sunday though was the city derby between Sevilla and Betis, all the more interesting as both clubs started the day in the UEFA cup spots. After a 45 minute delay due to the referee insisting that the visitors change their shirts, the game got off to an exciting start when Daniel Alves opened the scoring in the third minute. Fernando equalised just before the break, but Javi Navarro headed Jesuli's cross past Doblas just a minute after the restart for what was to be the winning goal.
The result means that Betis drop out of the top six, their place being taken by Atlético Madrid who beat Deportivo La Coruña 1-0 in the last match of the evening. Diego Simeone was given a hero's send off before the match after he announced that he was leaving the club to return to Argentina, and the team didn't disappoint him, Fernando Torres setting up Antonio López to score the only goal midway through the first half.
Osasuna moved back up to eighth in the table after a first ever win over Mallorca in the San Moix stadium. New signing Yoshito Okubo was in the stands to watch his new side go two goals down in the first half, Valdo scoring the first with a spectacular left foot volley and getting a second soon afterwards, this time with his right. Jesús Perera pulled one back ten minutes from the end to make it 1-2, but unlike their last home match they could do no more, and stay down in the relegation spots as a result.
Villarreal are up to the top half of the table after a Riquelme inspired 3-0 win over struggling Málaga. Referee Daudén Ibäñez gave a free kick outside the area rather than a penalty after Edgar had handled in the box just before half time, but Riquelme found Peña with his kick for the Bolivian defender to score his first league goal in ten years of football in Spain. The Argentine midfielder scored the second himself after the break, and also had a hand in the third goal, scored by Forlán later on.
Athletic Bilbao climbed away from the danger zone with their second away win in four days, following up their runaway UEFA cup victory in Liège with a 0-2 win at Zaragoza. Iraola missed a first half penalty, but Ezquerro scored twice in the second half to add to his hat-trick on Thursday before being helped off with an injury. Víctor Muñoz's side have now gone seven league games without a win, and they drop into the lower reaches of the table.
Bilbao's Basque neighbours Real Sociedad were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw though by Getafe, and remain down in thirteenth place. The San Sebastian based side struggled early on, and only some excellent saves by Riesgo kept the scores level before Nihat gave them the lead twenty minutes from the end. But ten minutes later the visitors equalised with a Pernía penalty after Riesgo brought down Pachón, the young keeper getting sent off in the incident. (19.12.04)
An intense and at times bad tempered match at the Nou Camp, where leaders Barcelona dropped their first points of the season at home in a 1-1 draw against a battling Valencia. Frank Rijkaard's side had the best of the first half but couldn't find a way past Cañizares and his defence. And with the game just over an hour old, Fiore ran on to a loose ball to chip the ball over Víctor Valdés and open the scoring, referee Puentes Leira turning down appeals for offside. Valdés was sent off a few minutes later for handling outside of the area, but Ronaldinho won himself a controversial penalty ten minutes from the end to save a point for his side.
An injury time goal from Zidane gave Real Madrid a last gasp 2-3 victory at Racing Santander. The Cantabrians took the lead twice in the game, Benayoun opening the scoring midway through the first half after Oriol had headed back a free kick. Michael Owen equalised before half time in a similar move following a corner, but Benayoun set up Javi Guerrero for him to restore the lead after the break. Raúl equalised though four minutes later after Figo and Samuel combined to set him up, and Zidane steered in a headed pass from Morientes right at the end to close the gap on the leaders to ten points with a game in hand.
Levante and Albacete drew 1-1 in the first match on Saturday evening, a result which keeps the home side in mid-table and takes the visitors out of the relegation zone pending Sunday's games. Both goals were scored by defenders in the first half, Gaspar putting the visitors ahead after Pacheco's free kick came off the post, and Culebras poking the ball into the net later in the half after the defence failed to clear a free kick. Megia Dávila sent off local manager Bernd Schuster after the break for protesting, particularly after the referee awarded them a penalty and then changed his mind. (18.12.04)