First division, day 21
Barcelona shrugged off their midweek cup defeat to beat Mallorca 0-3 and move 12 points clear at the top of the table. Giuly opened the scoring after picking a pass over the top from Deco late in the first half, and the hosts were left with ten men when Tuzzio picked up a second booking with a quarter of an hour to go. Rijkaard reacted bringing on Messi, and within two minutes he had his name on the scoresheet after combining with Sylvinho to shoot past Moyà. The young forward missed a sitter a couple of minutes later, but he did get a second goal near the end to leave Héctor Cúper's side further down in the drop zone.
Second placed Valencia were very close to being beaten by Zaragoza, but they fought back with two late goals to draw 2-2. Sergio García took advantage of a rare start to put the visitors ahead on the stroke of half time, and then set up Ewerthon for a second goal soon after the restart. With ten minutes to go though Generelo was sent off for a second bookable offence, and less than a minute later substitute Kluivert pulled one back after Mista headed back a long cross. And two minutes from the end Kluivert was there again to head on a long ball for Aimar to steer it past César and save a point.
Real Madrid closed to within a point of Valencia though after beating Celta 1-2 in the last game of the evening. Robinho started things off on the quarter hour mark after picking up a return pass from Baptista, but the hosts went close a couple of times before Lequi headed an equaliser from Angel's cross just before the break. Cicinho restored the lead after the restart when Pinto could only push out Robinho's shot, but the Galicians felt themselves unlucky not to save a point when a cross from Silva hit the far post and hit Casillas on the line, the referee waving away claims that it had gone in.
The match between Osasuna and Betis should have been a home banker, the Pamplona based side having not lost in the league in their newly named Reino de Navarra stadium and their visitors having not won away all season. However Javier Aguiire's side have gone off the rails since the beginning of the year, and they fell to a 0-2 defeat. Luis Fernández put the Andalusians ahead with a scorching volley in the first half, and Edu took advantage of slack defending to head home the second after the restart.
Meanwhile Betis's neighbours Sevilla were moving up to fifth in the table after beating Villarreal 2-0. The visitors noted the absence of Riquelme, and they fell behind when Luis Fabiano latched on to a pass from Daniel Alves to lift a shot past Viera ten minutes before the break. Josico got himself sent off for protesting soon afterwards, and Kanouté wrapped things up when he got on the end of a Jesús Navas cross after the restart.
Some changes in the relegation spots this weekend, with Alavés dragging themselves off the bottom of the table after beating neighbours Real Sociedad 3-1. Dmitri Piterman's side had not won at home all season, but they went ahead when Carpintero fired a shot back in to the net on the half hour mark, and Aloisi added two more in the second half before Stevanovic got a late consolation goal. The result could signal the end for Real's coach Amorrortu.
Málaga manager Antonio Tapia could also be on his way as his side dropped to the bottom of the table after losing 3-1 at Espanyol. The Catalans were three up within half an hour, with Tamudo scoring twice and Luis García once, and it could have been more had visiting keeper Arnau not saved a Tamudo penalty in between. Alexis pulled one back before half time with a spectacular strike, but the goals dried up after that. (29.01.06)
Atlético Madrid continued their recovery under caretaker manager Pepe Murcia with a 3-2 win over Deportivo. The hosts took the lead on the half hour mark, Maxi firing home a volley on the far post after Petrov had tried to do the same from Ibagaza's cross but only managed to balloon the ball across goal. Visiting coach Caparrós made two changes at the break with immediate effect, substitute Rubén Castro's wide free kick beating everyone and bouncing in to the net just two minutes after the restart, and although Antonio López restored the lead soon afterwards with another well struck free kick, Capdevila levelled the scores again a few minute later with a header from a corner. Maxi got the winner though with an acrobatic leap just ten minutes from the end to give his side their first victory in the Calderón stadium in three months.
Earlier in the evening Athletic Bilbao climbed out of the relegation spots with a 1-0 win over Getafe. The first chances fell to the home side, but the visitors fought back and could have scored either side of half time. With a quarter of an hour to go though the referee awarded the Basques a hotly disputed penalty when Matellán pushed Yeste in the back, and Orbaiz stepped up to drive home the spot kick and give his side the three points.
The first game of the evening saw Cádiz and Racing Santander share the points in a 1-1 draw, a result which leaves both still in the bottom half of the table. The visitors got off to the better start, although it was not until midway through the second half that they took the lead when Felipe Melo converted a penalty after Armando tripped Matabuena. A few minutes later though Raúl López picked up a ball on the left of the area and struck an angled shot past Aouate to save a point. (28.01.06)