First division - day 22
Barcelona opened up a three point gap at the top after beating Racing Santander 2-0. The Cantabrians were missing their front pairing of Munitis and Zigic, but they should have gone ahead early in the first half when Valdés saved a Garay penalty. Five minutes after the restart though Ronaldinho put the locals in front with a trademark free kick, and he added a second a few minutes later, heading Deco's long free kick past Calatayud. With the game in the bag Rijkaard gave a run out to Messi, and Ronaldinho almost completed a hat-trick when he hit the post late on.
Valencia stay down in fourth place though after a 3-0 defeat at Getafe. Quique Flores's side were looking for revenge after their humiliating exit from the cup, and they came closest to scoring in the first half, Silva hitting the post and Joaquín and Angulo shooting just wide. But just a minute after the restart Mario Cotelo ran on to Güiza's pass to open the scoring, and Güiza made it two soon afterwards after Nacho set him up. And Nacho completed the scoring before the end after Casquero's shot came back off the post to take Bernd Schuster's team up to within four points of their opponents.
Atlético Madrid took advantage to move up level with Valencia on points thanks to a 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao. Javier Aguirre's side's home record is not that great though, and they had a few problems before Agüero controlled a cross from Seitaridis and held off Expósito to score the only goal midway through the second half. The result leaves Athletic back near the drop zone, only out of the bottom three on goal difference.
Zaragoza hold on to sixth spot despite a 2-1 defeat at Mallorca, although they are only just ahead of Getafe with whom they are level on points. Diego Milito appeared to have put them on the road to victory when he turned in a cross from D'Alessandro early in the second half, but Nunes equalised just a few minutes later from Ibagaza's free kick, and Jankovic fired home the winner with just eight minutes to go.
Recreativo have been blowing hot and cold recently, and they drop back to eighth after losing 2-1 at Levante. The locals' new signing Salva was to make the difference, running on to a long ball from Rubiales to lob López Vallejo and open the scoring early on, and then heading a Manolo cross past the keeper close to the break. Recre pulled one back with a Sinama-Pongolle penalty after Dehú was sent off for bringing down the ex Liverpool striker, but they were unable to do any more.
Only one point separates the next five sides though, with Osasuna currently occupying ninth place after beating bottom club Gimnàstic 2-3. Cuéllar headed the visitors in front in the twelfth minute, but Portillo equalised before the break, and César Navas turned the scoreline around with a header from Campano's free kick soon after the restart. Two goals in five minutes from Soldado restored the lead for the Pamplona based side though, and that was how it stayed.
Espanyol returned to the top half of the table with a 0-2 win against struggling Celta. Luis García took advantage of a defensive mistake to put the Catalans ahead before half time, and Pandiani ran on to Rufete's cross to make it two after the restart. The locals were left with ten men after Tamas picked up a second booking, and with his side in the bottom three after eleven games without a win, local coach Fernando Vázquez may soon be looking for a new job.
Deportivo moved up level with Villarreal after beating the East coast side 0-2 on Sunday, their first away win of the season. Marcos Senna headed a Sergio free kick back into his own net to put the visitors in front, and Arizmendi hit the post before the break. Tomasson and Forlán went close for the home side after the restart, but Verdú struck home the goal of the night later on to keep up the Galicians' unbeaten record in 2007. (11.02.07)
Real Madrid moved back up to within two points of the leaders after coming from behind to beat Real Sociedad 1-2. The locals went in front in the eighth minute when Casillas could only push a long shot by Xabi Prieto up in the air, and Aranburu ran in to head the ball in from close range. But David Beckham, finally pardoned by Capello and included in the starting line up, beat Bravo with a long free kick shortly before the break. And just four minutes after the restart Van Nistelrooy got in front of the hesitant keeper to head a Miguel Torres cross into the net for the second. The result probably keeps Capello in a job, for a while longer at least, but leaves the Basque side further down in the drop zone.
Sevilla moved level on points with Barcelona pending their game on Sunday after drawing 0-0 at city neighbours Betis. The home side should have taken the lead early on when they were awarded a dubious penalty after Fernando fell in the area, but Robert put his kick way over the bar. Poulsen hit the post for the visitors soon after the restart, and the two keepers made important saves later on. But in the end both sides had to settle for a point which wasn't what either of them really wanted. (10.02.07)