First division, day 20
Real Madrid kept up the pace with leaders Barcelona after beating Mallorca 3-1 in the last match on Sunday evening. Figo gave Luxemburgo's side the lead from the penalty spot ten minutes before the break after Roberto Carlos was fouled by Pereyra, but Campano caught out Casillas with a free kick to level the scores before the break. The visitors were left with ten men when debutant Iuliano picked up a second booking midway through the second half, but they held on until ten minutes before the end when Samuel poked home a loose ball in the area to restore the lead. Solari added a third in injury time with a spectacular strike to keep his side within seven points of the leaders and leave the Balearic Islanders further down in the drop zone.
Valencia lost ground on the top two though after they were beaten 3-1 by neighbours Villarreal. The hero of the night was Juan Román Riquelme, who did a great favour for his old side Barcelona by scoring a hat-trick, which included two penalties. The first came with just over a quarter of an hour on the clock for a push on Diego Forlán by Caneira, and the Argentine midfielder added a second individualist goal on the stroke of half time. Reina saved a penalty at the other end from substitute Di Vaio after the break, but could do nothing to stop yet another spot kick near the end from Aimar after Gonzalo had been sent off for a second bookable offence. And referee Iturralde awarded a fourth penalty a minute later, this time to the hosts, Riquelme stepping up to beat substitute keeper Palop and earn himself the match ball.
Espanyol dropped out of the top four after a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Deportivo La Coruña, who had not won in their Riazor stadium for two months before this match. Andrade started things off with a first goal in the tenth minute, and although Fredson got on the end of De la Peña's free kick to equalise soon afterwards, Diego Tristán put his side back in front after running on to Valerón's through ball to beat Kameni. Tristán got a third from the penalty spot after he was tripped by Pochettino in the second half, a foul which cost the defender a red card, and Valerón wrapped things up with a headed goal from a Munitis free kick near the end.
Sevilla took advantage of Espanyol's defeat to move back up into the Champions' League spots after a 0-2 win at Albacete. Both goals came in the first half, Renato collecting a throw in and running on to fire a long shot past Gaspercic, and then slipping a short pass to Antoñito for him to run on and get the second. Esteban had to be at his best in the second half though with saves from Redondo and others to ensure his side went away with the victory which takes them just a point behind Valencia.
Sevilla's city neighbours Betis are also on fine form though, and they stay in sixth spot, just two points behind their rivals, after a comfortable 4-0 win over bottom club Numancia. Juanito got on the end of Joaquín's corner to head the first goal on the quarter hour mark, and Marcos Assunçao made it two from a trademark free kick ten minutes later. The visitors were left with ten men when Otxoa picked up a second booking, and Oliveira finished them off with two more goals a minute either side of the half time interval.
It was a record high-scoring weekend though, with no less than 36 goals in all. Even Getafe got on the goal trail, beating Zaragoza 3-0 to move to within two points of their opponents in the table. Once again Craioveanu was the architect of the victory, all three goals coming from his corners in the first half of the match, Yordi got the first with a first time shot after the defence failed to clear, Nano headed a second after Belenguer crossed the ball back in and Mario Cotelo drove in the third after Luis García tried to punch another corner kick clear.
Málaga's new manager Antonio Tapia led his team to a second single goal victory in a row, beating Atlético Madrid 1-0 to move out of the relegation spots to the detriment of Racing Santander. The only goal came ten minutes from the end when Juan Rodríguez's long shot bounced past Leo Franco, the strike coming not long after Salva had a goal disallowed at the other end for a borderline offside. The hosts were awarded a penalty in the closing minutes, but Franco guessed correctly and saved Rodríguez's kick.
Levante manager Bernd Schuster breathed a sigh of relief after his side beat Real Sociedad 2-1, their first victory in ten games. Nacho opened the scoring for the Valencia based side in the fourth minute after Riesgo spilled Ettien's cross, and Congo scored the second almost immediately following the restart after good work by Nacho down the left wing. Nihat crashed home a spectacular free kick later in the second half, but it was not enough to stop their opponents moving back above them in the table. (23.01.05)
Leaders Barcelona threw down the challenge to the chasing pack with a 3-0 victory over Racing Santander on Saturday night. Eto'o put the Catalans into the lead in only the eighth minute after Xavi put him through, his fifteenth goal in the league this season. But despite countless chances, they didn't add to their score until a quarter of an hour from the end when Ronaldinho cut in from the left to beat Aouate with an angled shot. Deco added a third two minutes later with a strike which took a deflection off a defender to take his side ten points clear of second placed Real Madrid pending Sunday's games.
The comeback of the season in the San Mamés stadium, where Athletic Bilbao were trailing by three goals to their neighbours Osasuna, but fought back to win the game 4-3 in the last minute. Pablo García had put the visitors ahead on the quarter hour mark, and Webó and Puñal added two more with the second half only ten minutes old. But Yeste struck twice in five minutes, and substitute Tiko levelled the scores seven minutes from the end soon after coming on. And in the ninetieth minute Julen Guerrero got on the end of Iraola's cross to turn the ball into the net for a first home win against their rivals since the 1992/3 season. (22.01.05)