First division, day 17
Another disastrous game for Real Madrid, who were knocked out of the Champions League spots by opponents Sevilla after losing 0-1 in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. The newly appointed director of football Arrigo Sacchi was in the stands to watch the "Galacticos" in their last game of the year, but once again they were short of ideas against a well-knit team who could have won by a bigger margin in the end. The only goal came from Baptista in the twentieth minute, and although half time substitute Ronaldo had a goal ruled out for offside, Jesuli and Baptista could have increased the lead later on.
Valencia move ahead of Espanyol up to second in the table after beating the Catalan side 3-0. The scoreline could have been different though had referee Esquinas Torres not sent off Tamudo and Oscar Serrano for protesting three minutes before half time. The hosts were one goal up at the time, Baraja beating Kameni with an early free kick, but they struggled against the nine men from then on until Mista scored twice in the last ten minutes for what was in the end a flattering result.
Osasuna moved back up to seventh spot after a comfortable 2-0 win over Numancia. Both goals came in the second half from Chengue Morales, taking his tally to seven in as many matches. The Uruguayan international opened the scoring four minutes after the restart with a spectacular overhead kick, and added a second later on from Moha's free kick. The visitors stay at the bottom of the table, still without taking a single point away from home.
Athletic Bilbao completed a successful two weeks with a 4-0 win over struggling Mallorca. Yeste started things off with a rare headed goal in the sixth minute, and Ezquerro made it six in the last three games with a strike a few minutes later. Gurpegui added a well constructed third later in the second half, and Yeste rounded things off from the penalty spot after Poli had been given a second booking and consequently a red card for handling in the area in the last minute.
Athletic's neighbours Real Sociedad also recorded a big score, beating a poor Málaga side 1-5. Kovacevic headed the first early on, and although Valcarce equalised with a cross come shot which caught Alberto off his line, the Serbian striker restored the lead soon after the restart. Labaka headed a third goal from a corner, and Nihat added two more later on for the final rout. Police had to protect club president Serafín Roldán from angry fans after the match, although later on he confirmed that manager Gregorio Manzano would be staying on for now.
A topsy-turvey match at the Riazor stadium, where the lead changed hands twice before Zaragoza ended up beating hosts Deportivo La Coruña 2-3. Cani put the visitors ahead ten minutes before the interval with a delightful chip over the head of Molina, but goals from Pablo Amo and Luque just five minutes after the restart swung the game in favour of the Galicians. Milito headed an equaliser though, and David Villa restored the lead for Víctor Muñoz's side later in the half. Depor were left with ten men when Scaloni was sent off at the end.
Albacete and Villarreal share the points in an exciting 2-2 draw at the Carlos Belmonte stadium. The home side took the lead with only a quarter of an hour on the clock when Pacheco connected with a cross from Redondo, but the visitors were ahead by the break, Diego Forlán and Guayre scoring later in the first half. Pellegrini's side were left with ten men though when Arruabarrena was sent off, and the home side equalised soon afterwards when Pacheco's shot deflected off Quique Alvarez into the net.
Getafe won their relegation battle with Racing Santander, Riki scoring twice as the Madrid based side went on to win 2-0. The ex Real Madrid forward put his side in front in only the fifth minute after Craioveanu set him up, and added a second before the break on the follow up after Dudu Aouate blocked an effort from Gabi. Local keeper Sánchez Broto did the rest to take his team two points above their rivals. (22.12.04) .
The record books were tumbling at the Nou Camp on Tuesday, Barcelona making their best ever start to a season and ensuring an unbeaten home record in the league in 2004 after beating Levante 2-1. It was not a convincing victory though, and Bernd Schuster's side could even have come away with the three points with a little more luck. All eyes were on Ronaldinho as he paraded his World player of the year trophy before kick off, but it was Deco who gave the Catalans the lead with a quickly taken free kick on the half hour mark. Ex Barcelona forward Jofre equalised after the break though, and Rivera had a goal disallowed for a borderline offside before Eto'o burst through to fire the winner past Mora just two minutes from the end. The result takes Barça 12 points clear pending Wednesday's games, and ensures that they will be crowned winter champions at the half-way stage of the competition.
Betis bounced back from their derby defeat to beat Atlético Madrid 1-0 and move above their opponents up to sixth spot. All reports were that Joaquín was playing his last match for the Andalusians before a multi-million Euro move to Chelsea, and he delighted the crowd with what was to be the only goal, taking a pass from Edu to beat Leo Franco in the seventh minute. The Spanish international winger was the inspiration as his side dominated the rest of the first half, but after the break the visitors fought back and were unlucky not to score, Salva in particular hitting the post and wasting two or three other chances later on. The hosts were reduced to ten men when Juanito picked up a second booking, but they held on for a valuable win. A euphoric club president said after the match that Joaquín was not for sale, but there are 43 million reasons why that might not be the case. (21.12.04)