First division - day 18
Real Madrid restored the seven point gap over Barcelona after a 2-0 win over Zaragoza on Sunday. It was only thanks to Casillas though that they went in at the break level, the Spanish international keeper making a string of saves from Diego Milito, Oliveira and Sergio García. "San Iker" was in action again after the restart, and Oliveira hit the foot of the post as well. But the visitors paid the price for their misses, Van Nistelrooy heading Robinho's cross into the net in Madrid's first real effort on target. A few minutes later Robinho ran on virtually unchallenged to beat López Vallejo for a second time, and it was all over.
The Champions League spots are currently occupied by the cities of Madrid and Barcelona though after Atlético Madrid beat Deportivo to move above Villarreal to fourth. Diego Forlán put them ahead when he turned in an Antonio López cross shortly before the break, and although Pablo had to clear off the line from Lafita, Agüero produced his usual moment of magic to score the second soon after the restart. And Jurado headed the third later in the second half after the defence failed to clear a corner to wrap up an easy win and leave the Galicians further down in the drop zone.
Probably the match of the day though was the derby between Sevilla and Betis which the home side won 3-0. Memories of Antonio Puerta meant that the fixture was much friendlier than usual, but once on the pitch the locals were not dishing out any favours, even though this was "Three Kings Day". Luis Fabiano scored twice in the first half, albeit that the first was with his arm. And Daniel Alves made it three after the break with a free kick which took a deflection off a defender. It was a first defeat for Betis under Paco Chaparro, and they stay in the drop zone as a result.
Another big derby fixture as well between city rivals Valencia and Levante, both sides coming in to the match with serious problems on and off the pitch. Ronald Koeman's draconian measures have only served to worsen the situation, so far at least, and there were serious protests against the directors' box after the game ended 0-0. The high spots were saves either side of half time by Hildebrand from Alvaro and Geijo, and a Joaquín free kick which was tipped onto the bar by Kujovic, who was making his league debut after Storari walked out of the club midweek. The low spot was the sending off of substitute Zigic late on.
Racing Santander are still going strong though, and they held on to sixth spot, now two points clear of Valencia, after beating Athletic Bilbao 1-0. Fernando Llorente was to feature heavily, the young striker missing two simple chances early on and then deflecting Tchité's header past his own keeper close to half time. Aduríz too went close a couple of times after the restart, but he couldn't prevent his side dropping to within one place of the relegation spots.
It's all very close in the bottom half of the table though, and there are only four points between next to bottom Deportivo and tenth placed Murcia, who themselves climbed up seven spots this weekend after winning 2-0 against Osasuna. Both goals came late on, Goitom running through from the halfway line to pick up a return pass from Gallardo and beat Ricardo, and Abel converting an injury time penalty after Goitom was fouled.
Valladolid also moved up five places after they beat Getafe 0-3. Vivar Dorado returned to his old hunting ground to open the scoring after Pato dropped Capdevila's free kick in front of him early in the second half. And after Alvaro Rubio rifled home a second, Dorado rounded things off with his second of the night near the end.
Recreativo and Almería cancelled each other out in a 1-1 draw which took both a little further away from the bottom three. Simana-Pongolle gave the home side an early lead after picking up a long pass before shooting wide of Diego Alves. And six minutes later Mané latched on to Cisma's corner to drive a spectacular shot into the top corner of the net. (06.01.08)
La Liga returned this weekend after the two week winter break, with Barcelona consolidating second spot after a 0-2 victory at Mallorca. Both goals came after the break, Márquez opening the scoring with a header from Xavi's corner with just over an hour on the clock. Henry had a goal disallowed for a borderline offside, but with the game coming to an end Bojan and Henry combined to set up Eto'o for him to beat Lux with a long shot. Frank Rijkaard's side move to within four points of Real Madrid pending their game on Sunday.
Espanyol stay within a point of their city neighbours though after beating fourth placed Villarreal 3-0. By half time Valverde's side were three up, Tamudo getting the first in the eighth minute after a quick passing move with De la Peña and Luis García. Valdo drove in the second after a Luis García free kick came back off the post, and Tamudo got his second of the night with a header from close up after Valdo headed across a corner. Rossi fired a free kick against the bar after the break and Fuentes cleared off the line from Tamudo, but there were no more goals. (05.01.08)