First division, day 24
Betis joined their city neighbours Sevilla in the Champions' League spots after beating Deportivo La Coruña 2-0, their eighth home win in a row. Both goals were scored by Marcos Assunçao, the first shortly before the break when the Brazilian midfielder picked up the ball following a throw in to fire a shot over Munúa, and the second after the restart when he caught the keeper out of position with a curling free kick from wide on the left. It was the first time that Betis had beaten the Galicians in the Ruiz de Lopera stadium since the 1997/8 season.
Villarreal are just a point behind the two Sevilla based sides though after coming from two goals down to beat Atlético Madrid 3-2. Fernando Torres scored twice on quick breakaways in the first half, the first from Gronkjaer's cross and the second from Ibagaza's through ball. But Forlán got one back on the hour mark, and after Perea headed Riquelme's free kick past his own keeper, Sorín swooped in to fire home the winner in the second minute of injury time.
Valencia dropped out of the Champions' League spots though after losing 1-0 at Racing Santander, and Ranieri's side have only picked up two points since the turn of the season five games ago. The rainy conditions made play difficult, but the hosts kept their feet and won the match thanks to a Regueiro free kick early in the second half. It was a first win for caretaker manager Nando Yosu, and takes his side out of the relegation zone.
Espanyol have also been dropping down the table in the second half of the season, and they find themselves out of the European places after losing 3-2 to Málaga. The locals went two up in the first quarter of an hour through Juan Rodríguez and Miguel Angel, and the Catalans were left with ten men when Alex was sent off before half time. Juanito added a third, but Dani pulled one back and Fernando Sanz turned Serrano's cross past his own keeper to set up a close finish.
Bottom club Numancia finally got their first away win of the season, coming from a goal down to beat Albacete 1-2. Mark González had given the home side the lead with a long shot late in the first half, but Santi spoilt his return to the Manchegan side giving away a penalty which Carlos Merino converted. And after Jaime was sent off for insulting the referee, Miguel got the winner three minutes from the end to leave their opponents down in the relegation zone, a result which cost manager José González his job.
The other two games on Sunday night ended in scoreless draws. Getafe were held at home by Osasuna in a match which had very few scoring chances, the best falling to local substitute Riki near the end which Elia saved at point blank range.
And Levante and Zaragoza also drew 0-0, a result which probably keeps local manager Bernd Schuster in a job despite having only won once in the last fourteen matches. His side came closest to taking the three points though as Tito and Sergio García both hit the woodwork during the match. (20.02.05)
Barcelona kept up their push for the title with a 2-0 win over Mallorca. The first goal came when Deco's shot took a slight deflection off Eto'o with just after a quarter of an hour gone, and Deco added a second after the break. It could have been a different story though had Víctor Valdés not saved a Luis García penalty in the tenth minute.
Barcelona move seven points clear at the top though after their closest rivals Real Madrid were beaten 0-2 by Athletic Bilbao. The Basque side had a goal disallowed when Orbaiz's shot bounced down over the line early on, but Del Horno headed Orbaiz's cross past Casillas in the second half and Iraola got the second later on.
Real Sociedad moved away from the danger zone with a 1-0 win over third placed Sevilla later in the evening. The game appeared to be heading for a draw when Kovacevic beat Esteban with a shot on the turn four minutes from the end. (19.02.05)