First division, day 16
Barcelona were unable to do any more than draw 1-1 with their "bestia negra" Atlético Madrid, leaving them three points adrift of Sevilla (albeit with a game in hand) going in to the winter break. Xavi went close a couple of times before Ronaldinho opened the scoring, curling a free kick into the far corner of Leo Franco's goal shortly before half time. But Agüero got ahead of Thuram to poke Luccín's pass wide of Víctor Valdés on the hour mark, earning his side the point they needed to stay in the top four. (21.12.06)
Sevilla rounded off their best ever calendar year with a resounding 4-0 victory over Deportivo on Wednesday. A mistake by Dudu Aouate let in Kanouté for the easiest of goals midway through the first half. And the ex Spurs striker moved clear at the top of the Pichichi chart after getting his fourteenth of the season from the penalty spot on the hour mark. Luis Fabiano had been the creator of the first two goals, and he got his name on the scoresheet two minutes later after Daniel Alves set him up. And Alves completed the rout with a fourth from a direct free kick, taking his side four points clear at the top and leaving Depor without a win in nine games.
Nobody wanted to play football in the Bernabeu stadium after four Recreativo fans were killed in a coach crash on their way to the ground, but the Federation insisted on the game taking place. And the Recre players rallied round to beat Real Madrid 0-3 and dedicate a historic victory to the supporters. Casillas had to make two or three saves before Sinama-Pongolle opened the scoring shortly before half time. And Uche produced a spectacular run before adding the second after the restart. Viqueira thundered a long shot against the bar soon afterwards, and then wrapped things up with a well struck free kick in the final minutes.
Osasuna are the side most on form in recent weeks though, and they made it a record seven wins in a row in all competitions after beating Levante 2-1. Cruchaga headed the Pamplona base side into the lead from Puñal's free kick just seconds after Robert was sent off for the visitors, and Soldado picked up a return pass to make it two a few minutes later. Nino got one back with a deflected shot late on, but it was not enough to prevent them from sliding to within a place of the relegation zone.
Espanyol beat Getafe 0-1 to hand Bernd Schuster's side their first home defeat of the season. Pato Abbondanzieri kept out several efforts before Tamudo turned in Rufete's cross midway through the second half for the only goal of the match. Both sides ended with ten men after Casquero and then Chica were sent off for second bookable offences.
Racing Santander kept up their good form with a 2-1 win over Villarreal. All the goals came after the break, Rubén heading home a Cristian Alvarez free kick to open the scoring just three minutes after the restart. Colsa made it two with an overhead kick after Garay headed across another Alvarez free kick, and Marcos got on the end of a long Tacchinardi pass to pull one back later on.
A goal-less draw between Celta and Real Sociedad, a result which left the home side down in twelfth place and the visitors five points away from safety in the drop zone. The Galicians had not won at home for over two months, but they were unlucky not come away with the three points after Bravo turned two efforts from Baiano against the woodwork and the referee turned down two penalty appeals for hand ball.
The relegation struggle between Gimnàstic and Betis ended in a 0-1 victory for the Andalusians. The only goal of the game came just after the hour mark when substitute Dani was brought down by Ruz, Marcos Assunçao converting the kick. The result was not enough to save Irureta though, the visiting coach agreeing terms to leave the club after the match. Luis Fernández will be his replacement. (20.12.06)
Valencia moved back up to the verge of the Champions League spots after beating Mallorca 3-1 on Tuesday night, their third win in a row. David Villa set up Vicente to open the scoring shortly before half time, and the winger returned the favour for Villa to add the second after the restart. Morientes came on to head home the third from Angulo's cross, and the visitors got a late consolation with a Jonás penalty after Raúl Albiol fouled Víctor.
Valencia are level on points with Atlético and with Zaragoza, who returned to the top four after drawing 0-0 at Athletic Bilbao. Local keeper Aranzubia was the hero of the night, keeping out Aimar in only the third minute and producing a string of saves after that. But Yeste and Gabilondo also had chances as Mané's side clocked up another useful point in their fight to avoid the drop zone. (19.12.06)