First division, day 35
Barcelona are just one win away from their first league title in six years after defeating last year's champions Valencia 0-2 in the Mestalla stadium. Frank Rijkaard's side were pegged back early on by their hosts, who were in need of a victory to stay in the European spots. But with just under half an hour on the clock Ronaldinho picked up Belletti's cross and caught Palop off his guard with an unstoppable shot from outside of the area. And just a couple of minutes later the Brazilian midfielder sent Eto'o away for him to dummy past Marchena and slot the ball wide of the keeper. It was game over, especially when Marchena was sento ff for a foul on Deco after the break, and it could have been a bigger result had Eto'o not wasted a couple of chances near the end. The six point lead over Madrid had been restored, and a win at Levante next Saturday would wrap things up.
The battle for the two remaining Champions League spots is wide open though, with only five points separating five teams. Villarreal moved level with Sevilla in third spot after beating Málaga 0-2, a match which they could actually have lost had the home side had more luck. Juanito hit the post for the Andalusians early on and Reina tipped two free kicks from Duda against the crossbar either side of half time. But the locals were left with ten men when Romero picked up a second booking, and the visitors took advantage to score twice, Riquelme beating Arnau after the defence failed to clear Cazorla's cross, and Cazorla himself getting the second with a long shot. And to add insult to injury, Duda hit the bar again near the end.
Espanyol moved back up to fifth in the table with a comfortable 3-0 win over Numancia, who are mathematically relegated as a result. All the goals came after the interval, Amavisca starting things off after Juanma could only push out a shot from substitute Corominas ten minutes after the restart. And only a couple of minutes later Corominas got the second himself after Tamudo set him up. After that there was no way back for the Soria based side, and the Catalans got a third goal near the end when Graff headed a De la Peña free kick over his own keeper trying to clear.
Deportivo got back to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Atlético Madrid in the last match of the evening, although it may have come too late to give them a chance of a return to Europe next season. With no first team forward available, youngster Xisco led the Galicians attack, causing several problems for Leo Franco in the first half. Munitis was the man who did the damage in the end though, producing the cross early in the second half which caused Luccin to turn the ball over his own keeper, and then setting up substitute Capdevila for a second goal near the end.
Getafe made sure of their place in the top flight for next season with a 2-0 victory over Real Sociedad. Michel got both of their goals from Pernía corners before the break, the first from close up after the defence failed to clear, and the second with a header on the near post. The result takes the Madrid based side level with their opponents in twelfth place, and the celebrations went on long into the night.
In fact only Racing and Levante can now be caught by any of the bottom three after this weekend's results. Albacete kept their faint hopes intact after beating the Valencia based side 3-1, their first win in almost three months, although it would still take a near miracle for them to stay up. Francisco gave them the lead in the first half and Redondo and Mark González added two more after the restart before Sergio García headed one back. García and Santi were sent off in a bust up after the goal though, and Reggi followed later on for insulting the referee. It was a poor start for Levante's new coach José Luis Oltra, and they finished the weekend only three points ahead of Mallorca. (08.05.05)
Once again Real Madrid put the pressure back on leaders Barcelona after beating Racing Santander 5-0 to move to within three points of the Catalans pending their match at Valencia on Sunday. The visitors held on for almost half an hour before Raúl and Ronaldo combined to set up Owen for the opening goal, but Ronaldo made it two before half time with a hotly disputed penalty. Raúl took advantage of a poor clearance by the defence to score a third after the restart, and then added a fourth himself after good work by Beckham and Owen down the right wing. And with the game coming to a close Ronaldo ran on to Figo's pass to round Aouate and finish off the scoreline, giving his side their seventh straight win in a row.
Third placed Sevilla were beaten 1-0 by city rivals Betis in a bad tempered derby match later in the evening, a result which takes Serra Ferrer's side back up into the UEFA cup spots. The only goal came in the seventh minute when Oliveira beat Notario with a shot from outside of the area, the ball bouncing over the keeper's hands as he dived to try and make the save. Both sides had their chances after that, the best falling to Darío Silva who poked a shot over the bar, and to Joaquín, who headed against the post. But the locals held on for their first home win against their opponents in ten years, closing the gap between the two to just three points.
Mallorca moved to within three points of safety after drawing 1-1 at Osasuna in the opening game on Saturday evening. Farinós gave them the lead on the half hour mark, firing the ball back over the head of Sanzol from close to the halfway line after the keeper's clearance fell straight to him. But Milosevic headed an equaliser from a David López cross near the end to ensure mathematically that his side stay up. Héctor Cúper's side could have taken the three points though when a last gasp effort from substitute Okubo was cleared off the line, the referee waving away claims that the ball had entered the net before David López got it away.
Athletic Bilbao kept their hopes of European football next year alive with a 2-0 win over Zaragoza. The Basque side scored both their goals in the second half, Urzaiz putting them ahead after connecting with Etxeberría's cross to beat Luis García, and Lacruz getting the second near the end after Etxeberría headed on Yeste's free kick. The result takes the home side above their opponents up to eighth spot, just two points off the UEFA cup positions. (07.05.05)