First division, day 19
Barcelona ended the first half of the league seven points clear at the top after beating Athletic Bilbao 2-1, extending their run of straight wins to 17 matches. They struggled at first though, and fell behind on the quarter hour mark when Llorente headed home Yeste's cross. But a hotly disputed Ronaldinho penalty after Amorebieta handled in the area levelled the scores, and five minutes in to the second half Messi got the winner. It was a bad tempered match though, and Deco was sent off near the end as players clashed.
Real Madrid took another step to recovery with a 4-2 win over Sevilla, and they move up to fourth in the table as result. Guti opened the scoring early on after connecting with a pass from Zidane, but Luis Fabiano made it all square after the restart. However Zidane restored the lead from the penalty spot, and added another after a clever back-heel pass from Guti put him through. Aitor Ocio closed the gap again, but Zidane completed his hat-trick in injury time for the final result.
Deportivo drop out of the Champions League spots after a surprising 0-2 defeat at the hands of bottom club Alavés. With his side concentrating on the cup, Caparrós put out a much changed side, but they were caught out midway through the first half when Aloisi headed Jandro's long ball down past Molina. And Bodipo latched on to a cross from Aloisi after the interval to wrap things up and get new coach Juan Carlos Oliva off to a best possible start.
Villarreal also drop a place down the table after they were beaten 1-0 by Racing Santander. Matabuena headed the Cantabrians in to the lead in the twentieth minute, but the visitors had a chance to equalise when new signing Pablo Alfaro was sent off for giving away a penalty. However Aouate saved Riquelme's kick, and although Racing were left with nine men soon after the restart when Pinillos picked up a second booking, Héctor Font was also sent off for the visitors soon afterwards.
Celta move back to within a point of Villarreal after drawing 1-1 at Getafe. The locals were the better side early on, Güiza going close and Riki hitting the bar before Gavilán volleyed them in to the lead just before the break. But a minute after the restart Angel equalised after the defence failed to clear a free kick, and that's the way it stayed to the end.
Zaragoza moved up to the top half of the table and sent Mallorca down to the relegation spots after beating the Balearic Islanders 3-1. Víctor Muñoz's side scored twice in a minute midway through the first half, Oscar González heading them in to the lead and Diego Milito getting a second. Arango pulled one back in the second half with a free kick, but Milito got his second of the night to finish things off.
Espanyol rounded off a good week with a last minute 0-1 win over Real Sociedad. The Catalans were in a confident mood after their midweek cup win, but they seemed to be up against it when Jarque was sent off for a second bookable offence before half time. However they held on until the end, when Tamudo picked up a headed pass from Tamudo to curl a shot past Riesgo.
Cádiz will be Espanyol's opponents in the cup next Wednesday after their midweek win, and they added to Málaga's woes with a 0-2 victory in the Rosaleda stadium. Alexander Medina controversially put the visitors ahead when he knocked the ball in to the net with his hand on the quarter hour mark, and the striker helped himself to a second goal before the break. The hosts ended with ten men when Antonio López was sent off, and referee Pérez Lasa had to be escorted off the pitch at the end. (15.01.06)
Goals either side of half time gave third placed Valencia a 2-0 win over second placed Osasuna, closing the gap between the two to three points. Regueiro came on for the injured Vicente early in the match, and he opened the scoring on the stroke of half time after Mista set him up. A few minutes after the restart David Villa headed a second from Angulo's cross, but the visitors fought back and Cañizares was forced to make several first class saves later on.
Betis beat Atlético Madrid 1-0 in the other game played on Saturday evening, a result which took the Andalusians out of the relegation spots. The visitors were hoping for a change of luck after coach Carlos Bianchi was dismissed during the week, but his replacement Pepe Murcia fared no better. The only goal came midway through the first half when Capi beat Falcón from outside of the area, taking the locals to within a point of their opponents in the table. (14.01.06)