First division, day 33
Barcelona held on to their six point lead over Real Madrid after beating Málaga 0-4 on Sunday evening. Frank Rijkaard's side were obliged to win after their rival's victory the day before, but they took an early lead when Oleguer beat Arnau following a corner, the young defender's first goal for his club. Valdés was in action at the other end though before Giuly headed Ronaldinho's cross past the keeper for his team's second, but midway through the second half the French midfielder put the result beyond the home side's reach with a third goal after Xavi set him up. Málaga were left with ten men after Amoroso was sent off for a foul on Puyol, and substitute Gerard finished things off heading home Gio's cross in the last minute.
Sevilla took advantage of Villarreal's defeat the night before to move clear in third place after beating Athletic Bilbao 1-3. The Andalusians took the lead when Baptista fired a free kick past Aranzubia in the seventh minute, and Jesús Navas made it two with a dazzling run, cutting in from the right wing past three defenders before driving a shot wide of the keeper. Notario kept out efforts from Urzaiz and Ezquerro either side of half time before Navas set up Baptista for him to head a third goal, and Julen Guerrero's late strike was scant consolation for the Basque side.
Part of the blame for Athletic's loss can be put down to the exertions of their midweek cup match, and the same can be side for their rivals from last Thursday Betis, who were beaten 2-3 by Real Sociedad. The visitors went in front in the fourth minute when Labaka headed Barkero's corner over Doblas, but Joaquín levelled the scores just a minute after the restart and Oliveira put the locals ahead just five minutes later after picking up a pass from Fernando. They ran out of steam in the end though, Barkero equalising and Uranga heading the winner in the last minute to leave the Andalusians out of the European positions completely.
Espanyol moved back up above Villarreal and Betis and in to the Champions League spots though after beating Zaragoza 3-1. Lotina's side were missing three key defenders, but they opened the scoring ten minutes before the break when Tamudo headed David García's cross over Luis García. De la Peña set up Maxi for him to score a second before the half time whistle, but a long ball from Oscar found David Villa for him to run on and pull one back after the restart. The visitors were left with ten men though when Alvaro was shown a second yellow card, and Tamudo wrapped things up on a quick breakaway right at the end.
Valencia also returned to the European places after a 2-0 win over struggling Albacete. Antonio López's side were back to full strength, but visiting keeper Valbuena and the woodwork kept them out until Buades was sent off for a second bookable offence midway through the second half. Mista picked up a pass from Aimar to fire them into the lead soon afterwards, and then broke free to set up Angulo for a second goal a few minutes later. The result leaves the visitors in next to bottom spot some eleven points away from safety, and they could be relegated if results go against them next week.
Deportivo lost ground on the teams above them though after losing 1-4 against Racing Santander, and they ended the weekend six points behind Valencia in tenth position. The Galicians were leading at the break thanks to a Luque strike, but Benayoun turned the scoreline around single-handedly after the restart, making it all square after Munúa could only push out a header from Javi Guerrero and then firing home a spectacular volley to put the Cantabrians in front. Guerrero made it three with a clever lob over the keeper, and Benayoun completed his hat-trick five minutes from the end to give his side their fourth victory in the Riazor stadium in recent years.
Elsewhere Getafe beat Levante 1-0 to move up to thirteenth and virtually ensure another season in the top flight. Michel got the only goal of the game twenty minutes in to the first half, running on to Yordi's headed pass to beat Mora. Sergio García hit the post for the visitors a few minutes later, but Bernd Schuster's side were unable to get past Sánchez Broto and a well organised defence, and now find themselves just one place off the relegation zone.
Mallorca kept their hopes of staying up alive after beating relegation rivals Numancia 1-2, and they ended the weekend seven points behind Levante. The Islanders scored twice in four minutes just before the hour mark, Campano setting up youth international Víctor for him to head past Juanma and then crossing in for Iuliano o score a second. Merino pulled one back though with a long shot ten minutes from the end, and there were some nervous moments before Héctor Cúper's side could claim the three points. (24.04.05)
Real Madrid moved to within three points of leaders Barcelona pending their game on Sunday after coming from behind to beat Villarreal 2-1. Beckham missed a good chance to put Luxemburgo's side ahead in an otherwise dull first half hour, but five minutes before the break the visitors were awarded a penalty when Pavón was ruled to have fouled Forlán. Riquelme converted the kick, and should have set up Forlán for a second goal when the two broke free in front of Casillas after the restart. Ronaldo levelled the scores soon afterwards though after Zidane set him up, and even though Samuel was sent off for a second bookable offence, Salgado put his side in front after connecting with a pass from Ronaldo. Zidane and Quique Alvarez were also sent off a brawl between several players in injury time, but by then the game was over and the pressure was back on Barcelona.
Osasuna beat Atlético Madrid 1-0 for the second time in four days to ensure their continuity in the first division for another season. Javier Aguirre rested most of the players who had beaten their rivals in the cup midweek, but otherwise the game was a carbon copy of that match, up to and including the sending off of Cuéllar for a second bookable offence ten minutes from the end. The only goal came in the third minute when Aloisi got on the end of Delporte's cross to beat Leo Franco with a powerful header, and after that the visitors were incapable of beating a well organised defence. (23.04.05)