First division, day 35
Barcelona's title celebrations have been put on ice, at least for a few more days, after second placed Valencia beat Alavés 3-0 on Sunday evening. A draw or a defeat for the Chés would have meant that Frank Rijkaard's side were uncatchable, but after two or three early chances they took the lead when Baraja controlled Aimar's pass before beating Costanzo. Aimar was making his first start since recovering from meningitis, and he proved he was back to full fitness with a second goal a few minutes later. And just a few minutes in to the second half David Villa added a third from the penalty spot after Mena had brought down Angulo to make it five wins in a row for his side, the strike taking him to within one goal of Samuel Eto'o for the top scorers' Pichichi trophy.
The fight for second place appears to have been reduced to a two horse race after Real Madrid beat their closest rivals Osasuna 0-1 to stay within two points of Valencia. With another new president in the directors' box and a hostile crowd against them, López Caro's side almost went behind when Delporte fired a free kick against the post late in the first half. But five minutes after the restart Baptista won himself a penalty when he was fouled in the area by Raúl García to open the scoring, and Casillas saved a second penalty from Puñal a few minutes later to keep his side ahead. The keeper was sent off near the end after picking up a second booking for time wasting, but by then it was almost over.
A depleted Sevilla side beat Real Sociedad 1-2 to distance themselves from their nearest rivals and consolidate sixth spot. After reaching the UEFA cup final midweek, Juande Ramos rested many of his key players, but they dominated their opponents and could have taken the lead had Jordi not hit the woodwork twice from free kicks in the first half. Jesús Navas picked up a pass from Kepa though to open the scoring after the interval, and Martí got a second from the penalty spot after López Rekarte was sent off for keeping out Jordi's shot with his upper arm. The Basque side were left with nine men when substitute Nihat picked up a straight red card, but Uranga got one back with a shot which bounced in to the net off the boot of Jordi late on.
Getafe and Villarreal cancelled each other out in a 1-1 draw which left both virtually out of the running for the European places. The game got off to an electric start, Gavilán cutting past two or three defenders to curl a shot past Barbosa with less than thirty seconds on the clock, and Guille Franco equalising a minute later after César Arzo put him through. After that though the action dropped off, and although both keepers did have some work to do they were never really in serious trouble. The result was another blow to the visitors after their elimination from the Champions League midweek, and they can now realistically only aspire to a place in the Intertoto Cup.
In fact four sides are in with a shout of the one Intertoto spot, including Atlético Madrid who suffered a disappointing 0-1 defeat at the hands of Mallorca. Pepe Murcia's side never really got going, and could have been behind had a Pisculichi strike not been ruled out for a borderline offside in the first half. Kezman missed the best chance to score after the restart, but ten minutes from the end Jonas Gutiérrez got what was to prove the only goal of the game after Antonio López could only play Arango's cross straight to him. The win takes the Balearic Islanders four points clear of the drop zone.
Espanyol also picked up a valuable point in a 1-1 draw at Zaragoza, who they beat a couple of weeks ago in the Spanish cup final. With nothing else to play for, Víctor Muñoz's side were looking for revenge, and they went ahead in the ninth minute when Ewerthon picked up a short pass from Diego Milito to beat Gorka. But Jarque levelled the scores after the local defence failed to clear Luis García's corner, and although the central defender was sent off in injury time, the Catalans held on to ensure the result.
The first issue of the season has been decided though, Málaga now unable to save themselves from relegation after losing 2-3 to Racing Santander. Nando Yosu was in charge of the visitors for the first time (this season at least) after Preciado resigned midweek, and he saw his side take the lead with a spectacular Casquero volley. The hosts turned the scoreline around with two goals from Alexis in the space of five minutes, but Antoñito took advantage of a hesitant defence to square the match after the break. And ten minutes from the end Juanjo got the winner after Arnau had saved a hotly disputed Antoñito penalty to give his team their first win in seven games. (30.04.06)
Barcelona beat Cádiz 1-0 on Saturday evening to move eleven points clear at the top of the table, and they will be confirmed as champions if Valencia fail to win tomorrow. Ronaldinho scored what was to prove the only goal of the game when he drove home Belletti's cross in the ninth minute, but the visitors were unlucky not to go in at the break level after Jonathan Sesma had a goal disallowed and then went a close a couple of times later in the first half. Limia saved an Eto'o penalty after the restart when Van Bommel was brought down in the area, but Valdés had to keep out a late header from Oli to ensure the three points. The biggest cheer of the night though was for Xavi, who returned to the Nou Camp after a five month lay off for injury.
Celta closed up on the Champions League spots after a 0-2 win against neighbours Deportivo, and they are now only two points behind Osasuna pending their match on Sunday. The locals went close early on, with Víctor hitting the post from a free kick, but with just over half an hour gone Baiano played on a corner and Silva forced the ball in to the net seemingly with his upper arm. Depor were left with ten men when Coloccini was sent off for a second bookable offence a quarter of an hour from the end, and substitute Jesús Perera took advantage to run on and score in the dying minutes.
Betis and Athletic Bilbao inched away from the relegation zone after a 1-1 draw in the Ruiz de Lopera stadium. Local keeper Doblas did well to stop efforts from Urzaiz and Orbaiz in the opening minutes, and midway through the first half the Andalusians went ahead when Robert headed the ball down in to the net from a short lob by Edu. The Basque side came forward after the break though, Melli clearing an Urzaiz effort off the line before Lacruz equalised from close range after Doblas could only push out an Urzaiz header. (29.04.06)