First division, day 28
Barcelona ended the weekend eleven points clear after their two nearest rivals both failed to win. Real Madrid could only draw 0-0 at home to a struggling Betis side, who remain in the bottom three of the table despite the point. López Caro left Ronaldo, Beckham and Gravesen on the bench, but their replacements fared no better. Only Cicinho came away with any credit, his centre in the first half coming back off the far post and a shot late on bringing a good save out of Contreras. The visitors could well have taken the three points though had Edu not missed an open goal early on and had Casillas not pulled off a first class save from Robert near the end.
Valencia's run of sixteen games without defeat came to an end when they were beaten 2-1 by Racing Santander. The locals have the worst home record in the league, but they went ahead with just over a quarter of an hour gone when Damià won the ball off Marchena and went on to beat Butelle, who was standing in for the suspended Cañizares. Ayoze added a second with a low free kick after the restart, but David Villa pulled one back later on, heading the ball past Aouate after the keeper had blocked his penalty kick.
Osasuna are proving that their position in the table is not just good fortune, and they followed up their win over Barcelona with a 2-4 victory over their neighbours Espanyol. Tamudo put the locals ahead from De la Peña's free kick, but Javier Aguirre's side scored three times in the last twenty minutes of the first half, David López equalising and Webó and Milosevic adding two more. Luis García got one back with a spectacular shot after the restart, but Muñoz matched García's effort with an equally spectacular strike at the other end to take his side level on points with Valencia.
A seven point gap has now opened up between the top four and the rest, where just three points separate five teams battling it out for the two UEFA cup spots. Sevilla currently occupy fifth place after a 1-1 draw at home to Mallorca, who are still unbeaten under new boss Gregorio Manzano. Saviola had a goal disallowed before he got on the end of Jesús Navas cross to open the scoring for the Andalusians in the first half, but Manzano threw on Víctor and Okubo after the break and the two combined for the Japanese forward to equalise.
Celta drop to sixth though after losing 0-1 to Athletic Bilbao in the last match of the weekend. Aduriz gave the Basque side the lead in only the seventh minute after Yeste and Iraola combined to set him up, and after that they sat back to defend their lead. Jorge and Canobbio both wasted chances to level the scores before the break and Baiaino and Jesús Perera went close after the restart, but despite having Expósito sent off late on Clemente's side held on for three points which take them away from the danger zone.
After today's results Zaragoza are not out of the running either, and they closed up on the group above them with a last minute 0-1 win at bottom club Málaga. The home side should have wrapped things up earlier on, particularly in the first half when Salva and Manu went close and the referee turned down a couple of penalty appeals, but with the game already in injury time local keeper Arnau gifted the ball to Savio, who crossed in for Ewerthon to score. Málaga are now four points adrift of the group above them, where just two points separate five teams.
Cádiz and Alavés did themselves no favours with a 0-0 draw, leaving the locals in next to bottom spot and their opponents just outside of the bottom three above Betis. Visiting keeper Bonano made the save of the game to keep out Paz, and Jandro hit the bar for the Basque side late on. (19.03.06)
Barcelona moved twelve points clear at the top of the table pending Sunday's games after beating Real Sociedad 0-2. Frank Rijkaard's side were never really in trouble after Larsson beat the offside trap to pick up a pass from Ronaldinho and score in the seventh minute, although Mark González did come close to equalising before half time with a fierce drive which bounced off the post. Eto'o made it two though five minutes after the restart, poking the ball past the keeper after Van Bommel's shot came back off the post.
Villarreal moved back up to the UEFA cup spots despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Atlético Madrid. Diego Forlán gave Pellegrini's side the lead in the tenth minute when he connected with José Marí's cross to shoot under the legs of Leo Franco, but the visitors equalised when Fernando Torres looped a header past Viera from Luccin's long pass after the restart. The visitors were left with ten men near the end when Kezman was shown a second yellow card.
Deportivo moved up to within a point of Villarreal after beating Getafe 1-2 earlier in the evening. Víctor opened the scoring for the Galicians on the half hour mark after Luis García failed to hold on to Capdevila's free kick. Pachón made it all square from Gavilán's cross after the break, but Gavilán was sent off soon afterwards and Xisco headed the winner from Héctor's cross a few minutes later. (18.03.06)