First division, day 37
Real Madrid and Villarreal shared the points in an exciting 3-3 draw on a night where the fans paid tribute to Zinedine Zidane prior to his retirement. Raúl set up Baptista for the opening goal, but by half time the visitors were ahead, Mejía deflecting a Riquelme corner past his own keeper and Diego Forlán catching out Casillas with an angled shot from outside of the area. Zidane delighted the fans when he headed home a Beckham cross to square the match once again after the restart, but with five minutes to go it looked as if Pellegrini's side would come away with the three points when Forlán scored from the penalty spot after Sergio Ramos was sent off for blocking a shot with his hands. However just two minutes later Baptista headed home a long Beckham free kick, saving the point his side needed to hold on to second spot.
The fourth Champions League place is by no means clear though after Osasuna threw away a one goal lead to lose 2-1 at Racing Santander. A win for Javier Aguirre's side would have ensured them fourth spot whatever Sevilla did in their last two games, and when Milosevic fired them into the lead ten minutes in to the second half they seemed to be on their way. But the Cantabrians were struggling for survival, and although Ricardo saved a Felipe Melo penalty after Marcelo Sosa brought down Matabuena, Pablo Alfaro steered a header past the keeper from the resulting corner to equalise. And with the game coming to an end Antoñito scrambled home the winner to keep his side in the top flight and hand another headache to the authorities, who will now have a fight on their hands to convince FIFA to delay the league program by a week so that the Sevilla versus Barcelona fixture can be played beforehand.
One thing that was settled this weekend was that Celta will definitely be playing in next season's UEFA Cup after coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Real Sociedad. José Marí Bakero's side needed a point to be sure of staying up, and they seemed to be well on the way after Xabi Prieto converted an early penalty and Skoubo added a second later in the first half. But Baiano won himself a penalty which he converted on the stroke of half time, and then forced his way through to equalise ten minutes in to the second half.
It was a thrilling day's football though with many issues at stake, not least of which the two remaining relegation spots. Cádiz needed to beat Getafe in Madrid and hope for the other results to go in their favour, and for almost an hour a miracle was on the cards after Lobos put them ahead and news from other grounds came in. But Pulido took advantage of a lack of concentration to equalise with twenty minutes to go, and Pachón came on to score one himself and set up Riki to wrap up a 3-1 scoreline and send the Andalusians down to the second division.
Alavés were hoping to build on their midweek victory against Betis and take advantage of an unmotivated Zaragoza to move out of the relegation spots, but in the end they were beaten 3-0 and now have to win against Deportivo in their last match and hope Espanyol draw or lose against Real Sociedad to save themselves. All three goals came in the last half hour, Diego Milito heading the locals in to the lead and Savio adding a second from the penalty spot before setting up Oscar González for the third with a well struck free kick.
Betis and Mallorca also started their game with a chance of going down, but a 2-1 victory for the locals coupled with the defeats of Cádiz and Alavés means that both are now safe. The home side took the lead midway through the first half when Pereyra turned Marcos Assunçao's free kick in to his own net, and Robert scored an excellent second before the break. Half time substitute Yordi headed one back after the restart, but once they heard the results from other grounds the game petered out in the end.
Deportivo had a chance of catching Celta if they could beat Athletic Bilbao in the last match of the evening, but their opponents also needed a draw at least to avoid a three way battle with Alavés and Espanyol for the last relegation spot. And although the Galicians got off to a good start when Arizmendi opened the scoring, Javier Clemente's side ran out 1-2 winners with a second half header from Casas and a late penalty from Orbaiz. Deportivo still have a good chance of playing in the Intertoto cup though as they remain one point ahead of Villarreal and Getafe. (07.05.06)
Barcelona celebrated the league title with a 2-0 win over Espanyol on Saturday evening. Frank Rijkaard's side were presented with the trophy in a night of festivities after the match ended, but they were still able to keep their focus on the game and come away with a victory which leaves their city neighbours just two points adrift of the drop zone pending Sunday's games. The home side took the lead with a lucky goal in the twentieth minute, Eto'o's cross first hitting Sergio Sánchez and then coming off Jarque's chest under the legs of his own keeper. Ronaldinho got the second early in the second half after Gorka could only block a shot from Larsson, and reserve keeper Jorquera made a couple of good saves later on to ensure the final result.
Valencia returned to second spot in the league after drawing 1-1 against Atlético Madrid, but only thanks to their head-to-head record against Real Madrid who still have to play tomorrow. It was a disappointing result for Quique Flores's side, although they got off to a promising start when David Villa converted a penalty after he himself was brought down by Leo Franco, taking him to within one goal of Eto'o in the Pichichi chart. A few minutes later though a static defence stood and watched as Maxi ran on to Gabi's free kick to beat Cañizares at the second attempt, and it was back to all square. The point at least ensures that Valencia will be participating in the Champions league next season.
A depleted Sevilla side secured a place in Europe and kept up their push for the last Champions League place with a 0-2 victory over already relegated Málaga. Renato gave the visitors the lead against their local rivals with a low shot from the edge of the area midway through the first half, and Fernando Sales got the second in the last minute to wrap things up. The result takes the Andalusians to within three points of Osasuna, although a win for the Pamplona based side tomorrow will mean they tie up fourth spot, which may help to avoid a showdown with FIFA over the dates for the last round of games. (06.05.06)