First division, day 31
The race for the league title is wide open again after Real Madrid beat their arch rivals Barcelona 4-2 on Sunday evening to move six points behind them in the table. It was a thrilling match, with both sides playing open football from start to finish, and the scoreline could have been even bigger in the end. Zidane started things off, heading home Ronaldo's cross in the seventh minute, and Ronaldo himself got the second a few minutes later from Beckham's free kick. Eto'o pulled one back with an opportunist goal, but Raúl restored the two goal lead on the stroke of half time after Roberto Carlos set him up. Beckham sent away Michael Owen for him to make it four midway through the second half, and Ronaldinho scored what could be an important second goal for the visitors soon afterwards with a well struck free kick, giving Frank Rijkaard's side the head to head advantage in case the two sides finish level on points at the end of the season. Barça suffered another blow near the end though when Eto'o was carried off with a knee injury, first reports suggesting he could be out for between three and eight weeks.
The two sides have opened up an eleven point gap over third spot, which is currently occupied by Sevilla after they beat Espanyol 1-3 earlier in the evening. The Andalusians took an early lead when Jordi drove the ball past Kameni after the defence failed to clear a corner, and Baptista intercepted a pass from Lopo and ran on to make it two a few minutes later. Substitute Jonathan headed one back after the break, his first goal in the league, but with everybody forward for a last second corner including Kameni, the ball was cleared out to Daniel Alves who ran on from the halfway line to score in to an empty net.
Villarreal drop down to fourth place, albeit with a game in hand, after drawing 1-1 at Deportivo La Coruña. Neither side made much of an inroad until Luque came on for the injured Diego Tristán on the hour mark, the Spanish international almost immediately opening the scoring with a free kick which found a gap through the defensive wall. Forlán hit the post as the visitors came forward, but with a home victory seemingly on the cards, Munúa dropped a corner kick at the feet of César Arzo who almost accidentally bundled the ball in to the net.
Betis drop out of the Champions League spots though after being held to a 2-2 draw by Levante. Rivera hit the post for the visitors early on, but Serra Ferrer's side went in front when Edu steered a header past Mora after the keeper could only parry a shot from Oliveira. Rivera equalised midway through the first half despite the best effort of Rivas, but Oliveira put the locals back in front before the break with a header from Assunçao's free kick. Juanma levelled the scores again after the break though to save a valuable point for Bernd Schuster's team.
A depleted Valencia side missed out on a chance to move back up to the European spots after they could only draw 2-2 with Málaga. Di Vaio gave the hosts the lead in the twentieth minute after running on to a pass from Mista, but Baiano made it all square after controlling a long ball from Valcarce before beating Cañizares. Di Vaio re-established the lead on the stroke of half time, and only good goalkeeping from Arnau stopped Antonio López's side from extending the lead after the restart. But in the third minute of injury time a long shot from Duda bounced past Cañizares to deny Valencia the victory.
The relegation spots are looking fairly clear after this weekend's results, with the bottom three now ten points adrift of the rest. Osasuna moved a step nearer to safety after beating Racing Santander 1-0, their first win in 2005 ending a run of twelve games since they last took the three points. The only goal of the match came just three minutes in to the second half, Webó heading in from close range after Morales headed across a free kick. Valdo hit the post later on, but his side had done enough for a vital victory which takes them level with the Cantabrians.
Mallorca appear to be doomed though after losing 0-2 at home to Zaragoza, their seventh defeat in eight games. Héctor Cúper's side just couldn't get going, and fell behind when Savio volleyed a shot past Moyà ten minutes in to the second half. Substitute David Villa picked up a long pass from Milito to score a second near the end, and the disappointed fans left the ground early calling for the heads of their manager and their board of directors.
Albacete also seem to be on their way to the second division as well after a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Getafe, who themselves are now fairly safe after climbing to twelfth in the table. It was a dull match though, and there were virtually no chances for either side until Vivar Dorado picked up a loose ball in the penalty area to beat Valbuena twenty minutes in to the second half. The Manchegans have now only picked up one point in their last nine games. (10.04.05)
Athletic Bilbao beat neighbours Real Sociedad 3-0 on Saturday evening to move up to within four points of the European spots. It was a typical derby game, with neither side giving ground until ten minutes before the break when Etxeberría and Urzaiz combined to set up Ezquerro for the opening goal. Yeste made it two with a well struck free kick a quarter of an hour from the end, and substitute Tiko got the third with a long shot in the third minute of injury time.
Athletic are now just a point behind Atlético Madrid, who lost 1-0 to bottom club Numancia earlier in the evening. The locals held their own for much of the match, and only Fernando Torres caused any problems for ex Atlético keeper Juanma. But with the game coming to an end substitute Toché, himself on loan from Atlético, picked up a loose ball near to goal and rounded a defender before beating Leo Franco from a wide angle. (09.04.05)