First division - day 24
With the top two well clear, the interest is now on the other two Champions League spots. Villarreal hold on to third place even though they were held to a 0-0 draw by Racing Santander on Sunday evening. Despite the result it was a lively match, with several chances for either side. The locals should have taken the lead though when Rossi fired a penalty kick wide after Oscar Serrano fouled Cazorla early in the second half, and they could have won it in the last minute as well had the referee not ruled out a strike by Rossi for the positional offside of a colleague.
Atlético Madrid failed to take advantage after they were beaten 1-2 by Athletic Bilbao later in the evening. Antonio López gave them the early lead with a cross which bounced past everyone into the net. But an incredible run almost the length of the field by Javi Martínez set up Susaeta to equalise later in the first half, and Llorente put the Basque side in front with a deft flick from Yeste's free kick on the stroke of half time. And Atlético's challenge ended when Raúl García was sent off after picking up a second booking soon after the restart.
Almería continue to go from strength though, and they are now level with sixth placed Sevilla after a 1-0 win over Murcia, their seventh single goal victory this season. Negredo got on the end of Crusat's cross to head the only goal of the game shortly before half time. But the other hero was local keeper Diego Alves, who made some excellent saves to beat Casillas's best run of the season with a sixth clean sheet in a row.
Getafe and Valencia also played out a 0-0 draw, a result which didn't help either side in their struggle to reach the European spots. The Ches had lost their only three previous visits to the Alfonso Pérez Coliseum, but they picked up a point despite having David Villa sent off for hacking down De la Red from behind early in the second half.
Valladolid and Mallorca also shared the points in a 1-1 draw, keeping both sides in mid-table. Llorente opened the scoring for the locals late in the first half, heading in from close up after a previous shot from García Calvo had hit the post, but Ibagaza equalised from the penalty spot ten minutes from the end after Alvaro Rubio pulled back Trejo.
Only five points separate tenth from eighteenth though, with Deportivo staying in the relegation spots after losing 3-2 to Recreativo. Verdú's early penalty was cancelled out by a second half header from Beto, who was then sent off for taking off his shirt in celebration. Sinama-Pongolle fired in a spectacular shot soon afterwards however, and although Riki levelled the scores again, Cáceres headed the winner with two minutes to go.
Osasuna are only just outside of the bottom three after they were beaten 2-1 by bottom club Levante. Monreal fired the visitors into the lead after a short free kick midway through the first half, but an Alvaro header and a strike from Geijo in a three minute period in the second half turned the scoreline around. (17.02.08)
A set-back for leaders Real Madrid this weekend, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Betis allowing their closest rivals to close the gap. Bernd Schuster's side started well, Drenthe putting them ahead in the fifth minute after Melli could only deflect Robben's cross into his path. But the locals came back with two similar goals in four minutes later in the first half, Edu getting ahead of Marcelo to head Pavone's cross down past Casillas, and then turning provider for Mark González to do likewise.
Barcelona moved to within five points of Real Madrid after a 1-2 win at Zaragoza later in the evening. Henry put the Blaugrana ahead after controlling a pass from Deco ten minutes before the interval, and Diego Milito fired a penalty kick over the bar before the half time whistle. Oliveira equalised with an angled shot soon after the restart, but a controversial penalty decision by referee González Vázquez after the ball hit Juanfran on the shoulder allowed substitute Ronaldinho to score the winner near the end.
Barça's neighbours Espanyol were beaten 2-4 by a Sevilla side who move up into the top six as a result. Luis Fabiano turned in Kanouté's cross to open the scoring in the sixth minute, and then returned the favour for Kanouté to make it two five minutes later. Luis García got one back before the break, but Zabaleta was sent off for a second bookable offence after the restart, and Poulsen got a third for the visitors soon afterwards. Corominas scored a spectacular volley for the home side two minutes later, but Diego Capel wrapped things up after that. (16.02.08)