First division - day 17

Real Madrid opened up a seven point gap at the top of the table after beating arch-rivals Barcelona 0-1 in the Nou Camp. Bernd Schuster's side had the better chances early on, but Casillas had to make a double save from Ronaldinho and Deco before Baptista opened the scoring, picking up a return pass from Van Nistelrooy to beat Valdés shortly before the break. Casillas was in action again after the restart to keep out Iniesta and Bojan, but the visitors had further chances themselves before the final whistle. The win ensures Madrid the honorary title of winter champions with two matches still to go to the halfway point of the season.

Espanyol moved up to third after a 1-2 victory at Atlético Madrid, who drop out of the Champions League spots as a result. Despite having Agüero sent off for retaliating after a foul by Torrejón, Simao put the home side ahead with a well struck free kick close to half time. But Tamudo equalised from a second half corner, and Pernia was also sent off for a second bookable offence soon afterwards. And with the game coming to an end, Luis García got the winner after De la Peña set him up.

Villarreal drop to fourth after they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Recreativo. The locals hit the bar early on and visiting keeper Sorrentino made a couple of good saves, but Camuñas opened the scoring for the Andalusians after Sinama-Pongolle turned the ball back across goal. Nihat picked up a pass from Cazorla to equalise a minute later and then hit the bar again with a free kick. But Sorrentino and his defence held fast in the second half to pick up a point on the day the league's oldest club celebrated its 118th birthday.

Osasuna move safely up to mid-table after beating Mallorca 3-1, their first home win in five games. Héctor Font opened the scoring in the eighth minute after picking up a loose ball on the edge of the area, and Plasil made it two soon after the restart after latching on to a cross from Juanfran. Güiza pulled one back after Héctor set him up, but Plasil hit the post before Hugo Viana got the third from Vela's centre in injury time.

Down at the bottom of the table, Deportivo moved to within a point of safety after a late 0-1 victory at bottom club Levante. If anything the locals had the better chances in a dull game, with Viqueira in particular bringing a good save out of Munúa soon after the restart. But with five minutes to go José Serrano cut out a cross with his hand, and Sergio drove home the resulting penalty to take the three points.

Betis are still in the relegation zone despite a 0-0 draw at fellow strugglers Valladolid. The Andalusians' third choice keeper Casto did well to save from Marcos and others before the break, but Rivas had a goal disallowed and then brought a good save out of Sergio Asenjo after the restart. In the end though both sides settled for a point which maintained the status quo between them.

Murcia stay just a point clear of the bottom three after drawing 1-1 at Athletic Bilbao in the last match of the weekend. On the stroke of half time the locals were awarded a penalty after Movilla handled in the area, and although Notario saved Orbaiz's spot kick, Koikili scored on the follow up. Baiano equalised though from a second penalty soon after the restart after Abel was fouled by Aitor Ocio, who was himself sent off for a second bookable offence late on.

The league now takes a short break for the festive season before returning on the 5th of January. We wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers. (23.12.07)

Valencia came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Zaragoza on Saturday evening. Ronald Koeman's side are going through a major crisis, and the coach announced that he had no further use for Cañizares, Albelda and Angulo. With Hildebrand out of favour that meant third choice keeper Mora took over in goal, but he had the most unfortunate of starts, giving away a penalty on Oliveira which Milito converted and then turning a Sergio García cross into his own net with less than half an hour gone. Half time substitute Zigic headed one back though, and David Silva made it all square with ten minutes to go.

Sevilla are up to eighth in the table after a 4-1 win over Racing Santander, who themselves remain in sixth spot despite the defeat. Kanouté gave the Andalusians a half time lead after a good team move, but Garay headed home a corner to level the scores just four minutes after the restart. Chevantón came on though and almost immediately restored the lead with a free kick, and Garay got himself sent off for a foul on Capel with ten minutes to go. And Jesús Navas and Adriano took advantage after that to add two more late on to complete the scoreline.

Getafe rounded off what has surely been the best year in their history by beating Almería 0-2 on the last weekend before the Christmas break. Both sides had chances before Licht got on the end of Manu's cross to open the scoring shortly before half time. And there were further close shaves before Crusat got himself sent off, and Granero made it two with a cross-come-shot which De la Red couldn't reach, but did enough to put off the keeper and allow the ball to enter the net. (22.12.07)