First division - day 37
A dramatic round of matches on the next to last weekend of the season, with several issues still to be decided on the last day. No less than four teams can still occupy the last relegation spot, but Zaragoza must be favourites for the drop after they were held to a 2-2 draw by already crowned champions Real Madrid. Oliveira gave the local fans hope, but strikes by Van Nistelrooy and Robinho turned the scoreline around before Sergio stabbed home a late equaliser.
Manolo Villanova's side are now two points adrift of Osasuna and Recreativo after both won their respective matches. Osasuna move out of the relegation spots after a 2-1 victory against Murcia, their first points at home in five games. Dady set them on the way with a first minute header and Juanfran added a second after the break, but an injury time goal by Abel gave the home fans a late scare.
Recreativo beat regional neighbours Almería 0-2 to move up to sixteenth in the table, above Osasuna on the head-to-head record. Jesús Vázquez set them on their way with an early goal, and a spectacular dipping volley by Sinama-Pongolle put them two up by the break. They still had some defending to do though after Iago Bouzón was sent off on the stroke of half time.
Valladolid are still not safe after a 0-0 draw against Getafe, who themselves are sure of another season in the top flight thanks to the result. Despite the scoreline it was a lively match, with Oscar Sánchez and Aguirre both hitting the woodwork for the locals, and keepers Sergio Asenjo and Pato Abbondanzieri called on a number of times. Mendilibar's side visit Recreativo next weekend in a match which could decide who goes down.
Valencia are also safe after a resounding 1-5 win at city neighbours Levante, whose financial plight was supported by protests in all the grounds this weekend. David Villa was the star of the match, scoring twice in the first half hour, and setting up goals for Mata and Angulo after José Serrano had got one back for the hosts. Villa completed his hat-trick later on.
Celebrations at Atlético Madrid, who will be playing in Europe's top competition for the first time in twelve years after beating Deportivo 1-0 to make sure of a place in the top four. Their long season has taken it's toll, but they had enough energy left to win thanks to a strike from Diego Forlán just before the interval. Depor themselves are still favourites to make it to the Intertoto Cup, and the Gailicians could even enter the UEFA Cup as Spain's cleanest side in UEFA's draw for the last fair-play spot next Tuesday.
Javier Aguirre's side stay three points clear of Sevilla, who will now not be able to overtake their rivals (thanks to the head-to-head record) despite a 0-2 victory over city neighbours Betis. Luis Fabiano got his first goal in six weeks to open the scoring, and Fazio headed a second after the restart to at least ensure a place in the UEFA Cup. The game ended in disarray though after Arzu and Dani Alves were sent off in a brawl later on which involved several players.
Atlético move level on points with Barcelona, who threw away a two goal lead to lose 2-3 to Mallorca. Before and after the match there were strong protests from fans against club president Joan Laporta and in favour of outgoing manager Frank Rijkaard, who Laporta announced will be replaced by B team coach Pep Guardiola next season. Goals from Henry and Eto'o appeared to have set them on their way to victory, but strikes by Borja Valero, Webó and top scorer Güiza in the last 25 minutes gave the visitors their fifth win in a row.
Mallorca are now only one point off the UEFA Cup spots after sixth placed Racing Santander drew 0-0 at Athletic Bilbao. With a lot at stake it was a gritty match with few chances for either team and a red card for a nervous Yeste at the final whistle, but the Cantabrians thought they had done enough until Güiza's last minute strike in the Nou Camp. Whatever the case it will be an exciting finale, with Mallorca at home to Zaragoza and Racing hosting Osasuna. Athletic themselves still have a chance of overhauling Deportivo for the Intertoto spot.
Who are already in a state of euphoria though are second placed Villarreal, who rounded off their best ever season with a 2-0 win over Espanyol. Goals by Javi Venta and Pires in the run up to half time were enough to finish off an opponent who will be thankful to see the end of the season after nine matches without a win. (11.05.08)