First division - day 16
Real Madrid made sure of top spot coming in to the Christmas break after beating Osasuna 2-0. Van Nistelrooy headed Bernd Schuster's side into the lead from Sneijder's free kick on the quarter hour mark, and Sneijder himself got the second with a long shot later in the second half. The visitors did cause some problems for Casillas early on, but their hosts could have scored more themselves after the interval, with Ricardo making two or three good saves. Madrid are now four points clear of Barcelona, who they meet in the Nou Camp next Sunday.
Atlético Madrid held on to third place in the table even though they were held to a 0-0 draw at Recreativo. Despite the scoreline both keepers had a lot of work to do, with Sorrentino saving from Simao and Forlán in the opening minutes and Agüero and Luis García after the restart, and Abbiati keeping out Camuñas a couple of times later on. Forlán did get the ball in the net in the second half, but referee Daudén Ibáñez ruled it out and booked Maxi for diving.
Villarreal moved back above Espanyol to fourth after a 1-3 win at Getafe. Nihat picked up a pass from Pires to open the scoring in the first half, and added a second after Cazorla set him up after the break. Cazorla himself made it three a few minutes later after Cani's cross was deflected to him, but Kepa got one back with five minutes to go, and should have scored again when he blasted a penalty kick over the bar after Fuentes had been sent off for a foul on Braulio.
Racing Santander stay in sixth place despite losing 2-1 at Murcia. All the goals came in the second half, with Goitom heading the home side into the lead after fellow substitute Regueiro lobbed the ball to him close to goal. Smolarek headed home a Munitis corner to equalise, but Baiano got the winner from the penalty spot after Moratón cut out a high cross with his hand.
Mallorca drop down to eighth after drawing 0-0 against Athletic Bilbao, their fourth home game in a row without a win. After early pressure from the visitors, Varela headed against the post for the islanders. And although Nunes was sent off on the half hour mark for supposedly insulting the referee, it took a good save or two from Aranzubia after the interval to ensure a point for the Basque side.
All in all though there were three 0-0 draws this weekend, with Valladolid and Sevilla also failing to score in a freezing cold Nuevo Zorrilla stadium. Keepers Asenjo and De Sanctis had some work to do before the break, but after the restart the game came to a halt when Andalusians were left with nine men, Fazio picking up a second booking, and then Luis Fabiano being shown a straight red for a clumsy challenge on an opponent.
Sevilla stay in ninth place, level on points with Zaragoza, who drew 1-1 at Deportivo. Diego Milito gave Víctor Fernández's side the lead in the seventeenth minute with an opportunist goal, heading past Munúa after Zapater's shot was deflected. Rubén Castro had a goal incorrectly disallowed for offside, but Coloccini headed the equaliser soon after the restart. Depor were left with ten men though when substitute Chapi was sent off near the end, and Celades hit the post in injury time.
The Galicians are still in in next to bottom spot, now three points below Betis, who beat Almería 3-1. Negredo opened the scoring for the visitors from the penalty spot after Juanma Ortíz was fouled in the tenth minute. But they were left with nine men after Acasiete picked up a second booking and then Cobeño was shown a straight red for bringing down Rivera in the area, and Edu equalised from the resulting penalty. And Pavone scored twice after the break to give new coach Paco Chaparro his second win in a row. (16.12.07).
Barcelona moved to within a point of leaders Real Madrid pending their game on Sunday after beating Valencia 0-3. Eto'o scored twice in the first half hour, the first after leaving two defenders for dead before beating Cañizares, and the second after a long passing move involving most of the team. And Gudjohnsen added a third after the break after Giovani set him up to give Frank Rijkaard's side their first win against the Chés in three years. The bad news for the coach though was an injury to Messi which will keep him out of next weekend's clash with Real Madrid.
Earlier in the evening Barça's city neighbours Espanyol moved back up to the Champions League spots after beating bottom club Levante 1-0. Jarque got the only goal early on following a corner, following up after his first header was blocked by keeper Storari. The Catalans were missing the suspended Riera and Luis García though, and were unable to build on their lead after that. (15.12.07)