First division, day 34
Barcelona kept up their push for the league title with a 2-0 win over struggling Albacete on Sunday evening, maintaining their six point lead over Real Madrid at the top of the table. It was not as easy as expected though, and despite creating numerous chances they were unable to beat an excellent Valbuena until midway through the second half, when Eto'o latched on to a loose ball to fire a shot in off the post. And the second goal didn't come until injury time, when young substitute Messi lobbed the keeper for his first goal in the league. Last season Valencia won the title with 77 points. Barça already have 78, but they still need six more to be sure of finishing ahead of their eternal rivals.
The top two are already sure of the direct places for next season's Champions League, but Sevilla consolidated third spot with a comfortable 2-0 win over Deportivo. Both goals came early in the first half, Baptista setting up Adriano for him to round Manuel Pablo and score the first, and Jesús Navas getting the second soon afterwards with a goal similar to the excellent one he scored the week before. Caparrós's side visit city neighbours Betis next week with the European spots at stake.
Betis themselves have now gone five games without a win, and their 1-1 draw at Racing Santander leaves still them a point outside of the top six. Both sides hit the woodwork in the opening minutes, Javi Guerrero for the locals and Assunçao for the Andalusians, but the opening goal didn't come until the second half when Benayoun forced a shot past Doblas. Joaquín set up substitute Dani to level the scores later in the half, but Serra Ferrer's side were lucky to come away with a point after Guerrero had a last minute goal disallowed for a non existent offside.
Villarreal bounced back from their midweek defeat at Osasuna to thrash Getafe 4-0 and move back up to the top four. Sorín gave them the lead on the quarter hour mark following a corner, and Diego Forlán got a second a few minutes later with a little help from Pernía. Cazorla made it three just a minute after the restart with a spectacular shot in off the post, and Forlán got on the end of Sorín's cross to get his second of the night soon afterwards and move to within two goals of leading scorer Eto'o.
Meanwhile Osasuna were on the end of a 5-1 hammering from a Zaragoza side who now find themselves eighth in the league table. David Villa started things off when he connected with Cani's cross early on, and Savio volleyed home a second goal before the break. Villa set up Oscar González to make it three after the restart and Generelo battled through to get a fourth before Moha pulled one back with an excellent shot from outside of the area. Villa got a fifth though near the end to wrap things up.
Espanyol dropped out of the Champions League positions down to sixth after losing 3-2 at Mallorca, a result which gives the Islanders hope of staying up. Ibarra put the Catalans ahead in the first half, but Campano equalised after the break shortly before Lopo was sent off for a foul on Luis García. Arango came on for his first appearance since breaking his cheekbone and within six minutes crashed home a goal from outside of the area. And Campano made it three before Maxi got a late strike for Lotina's side, setting up a nervous last few minutes.
Mallorca are now only four points behind a Levante side who lost 0-1 at home to Málaga, and who have now only picked up one point from their last six matches. The result signalled the end for local coach Bernd Schuster, who was fired only hours after the final whistle. The only goal of the game was scored by Baiano, who took advantage of slack defending following a throw-in to beat Mora shortly before half time. (01.05.05)
Two late goals from Ronaldo were enough to give Real Madrid a 0-2 victory at Real Sociedad, once again closing the gap on leaders Barcelona to three points pending their game on Sunday. Missing Zidane, Figo, Samuel and Salgado through suspension and injury, Luxemburgo's side took some time to get going, and only a couple of good saves from Casillas kept the scores level at the break. But Guti came on after the interval to set up Ronaldo to beat Riesgo twice in the last ten minutes and put the pressure back on Frank Rijkaard's team.
Valencia moved up into the top four pending Sunday's games after a 1-1 draw at Numancia, although Antonio López's side were disappointed with a result which they expected to go in their favour. The visitors could make no inroad into a well disciplined defence though, and they found themselves behind a quarter of an hour from the end when Tevenet got on the end of Juanlu's cross to score. However Vicente, making his first appearance for several months, equalised with a hotly disputed penalty near the end to virtually ensure their opponents go down.
Atlético Madrid and Athletic Bilbao cancelled each other out in a 1-1 draw, a result which leaves both sides further away from their objective of returning to Europe next season. Only a volley from Fernando Torres troubled either keeper in the first half, but Perea cleared off the line from Ezquerro after the restart before Etxeberría beat Leo Franco to open the scoring for the visitors. Colsa made it all square a few minutes later, but the locals settled for a point after García Calvo was sent off later on. (30.04.05)