First division, day 23
Real Madrid came from a goal down to beat Osasuna and stay just four points behind Barcelona. It was not a convincing win though, and they were let off the hook by an opponent who had dominated a rainy first half, and had taken the lead when Webó pulled down a headed pass by Morales to fire a shot into the net shortly before half time. Only Casillas had prevented Morales from scoring early on, and after the restart the young keeper kept out a chipped shot from Valdo, who also hit the crossbar a few minutes later. Luxemburgo finally brought on Michael Owen though, and within four minutes he got his name on the scoresheet, heading in from close range after Sanzol had saved a Roberto Carlos free kick and then blocked the follow up from Raúl. And three minutes later Beckham's long free kick slipped out of Sanzol's hands, and Iván Helguera was there to poke the ball over the line for the winning goal.
Earlier in the evening Sevilla and Villarreal lined up knowing that, after Valencia's defeat the day before, the winner of their match would end the weekend in third spot. And it was the home side who finally took the three points, their 2-1 victory ending their opponents' run of nine games without defeat. Baptista started things off, heading a Fernando Sales cross past the keeper late in the first half, and he added a second from the penalty spot ten minutes from the end after Battaglia had fouled Aitor Ocio. A few minutes later though it was Ocio's turn to give away a penalty, his foul on Figueroa earning the defender a second yellow card, and Riquelme stepped up to narrow the gap. It was too late though to do any more.
Sevilla's city neighbours Betis move up to fifth spot after an extraordinary 4-4 draw at Athletic Bilbao in the last match of the evening. The Andalusians raced into a three goal lead within the first half hour, Oliveira getting two and Joaquín one in between. Urzaiz headed home two Yeste corners in three minutes before the break though, and Gurpegui levelled the scores, again from Yeste's corner, just a couple of minutes after the restart. With twenty minutes to go Yeste got on the scorecard himself with an individualist effort, and when Betis were left with ten men after Lembo picked up a second booking it appeared to be all over. But Oliveira burst through to complete his hat-trick and save a point for his side in the end.
Espanyol move back up to the UEFA cup spots, level on points with Valencia and Betis and one above Villarreal, after beating Getafe 2-0. They left it late to do so though, both goals coming right at the end of the match after Kameni had saved the day from Vivar Dorado a few minutes earlier. Soldevilla put them in front after the visiting defence had blocked two or three shots in a prolonged attack, and Tamudo added the second from the penalty spot after he was brought down by Sánchez Broto, who was shown a red card by the referee for the foul. Espanyol's new international De la Peña had to sit the game out though after aggravating an injury in the pre-match warm up.
Atlético Madrid lost ground on the chasing pack though after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Levante, a result which saves the head of visiting manager Bernd Schuster. Coming only a week after their win in the Nou Camp, the crowd were expecting to see some goals from their side, but they were kept out by a well ordered defence who had to play over three quarters of the game with ten men after Culebras was sent off for a hard tackle on Fernando Torres. Even so Salva should have scored after Mora dropped a Fernando Torres shot at his feet in the second half, but he somehow managed to miss the target. Some movement at the foot of the table, where the bottom six clubs played each other this weekend.
Real Sociedad made themselves some breathing space with a 1-3 win at Racing Santander, where Nando Yosu returned as caretaker manager after Alcaraz was sacked earlier in the week. The Basque side scored three times in the first half hour, Aranburu starting things off and Nihat adding two more in what could be his last match if rumours of an impending move to CSKA Moscow are true. Anderson Silva headed one back after the break, but the visitors held on for the three points.
Racing are now level with Mallorca, who moved a step closer to safety with a 2-1 win over Albacete. The visitors took the lead first though, Mark González getting on the end of Redondo's cross to volley past Moyà in the first half. But Tuni levelled the scores after the break with a shot which took a deflection off Buades, and then won a penalty which Luis García converted for the winning goal. Mallorca's Correa came on as a second half substitute for Okubo, his first match after serving out a nine month ban for failing a drug test.
Málaga also recorded a much needed win, beating bottom club Numancia 0-1 to move four points clear of the drop zone. The locals started well, but were left with ten men with only a half hour on the clock when Tevenet was shown a red card for elbowing Juan Rodríguez. And on the stroke of half time Rodríguez got what was to be the only goal of the game after keeper Juanma could only turn a shot from Baiano into his path. (13.02.05)
Barcelona bounced back after their defeat last week to trounce Zaragoza 1-4 and move seven points clear at the top pending Real Madrid's game on Sunday. Frank Rijkaard's side were given a helping hand in the second minute when Toledo put through his own net trying to pass back to keeper Rubén Falcón, who was making his first start for the side. The locals fans had waved red cards at referee Carmona Méndez when he came out in protest at some bad decisions against them in recent games, and they were upset again when Galletti was pulled up for a borderline offside, and then Eto'o was allowed to run on to Ronaldinho's pass a few minutes later from a similar position to set up Giuly for the second goal. The French winger hit the post a minute later though and Eto'o fired over the top with only the keeper to beat before running through to collect another lofted Ronaldinho pass, lob the ball over Rubén and walk it in to the net to make it three. Galletti and Movilla both hit the woodwork either side of half time and Carmona let Valdés off a clear penalty for a push on Cani before Galletti pulled one back with a shot from the edge of the area, but Márquez headed a fourth from Xavi's corner to put the result beyond doubt.
Deportivo La Coruña beat third placed Valencia 1-2 in the Mestalla stadium to leave the locals in danger of losing their Champions League spot. Both sides came in to the game needing a win after a string of poor results, and Ranieri decided to leave Cañizares on the bench in an attempt to change their fortune. But opposing keeper Munúa kept out the best effort of the first half from Corradi, and on the stroke of half time Scaloni put the visitors ahead somewhat luckily, his shot from the right ballooning off the foot of Albelda over the head of Palop. Di Vaio got on the end of Rufete's cross to level the scores six minutes after the restart, but substitute Víctor got the winner for the Galicians a quarter of an hour from the end after Diego Tristán put him through with a clever back-heel pass. Sevilla, Villarreal, Betis and Espanyol could all overtake Valencia when they play tomorrow. (12.02.05)