First division - day 3
Four teams share top spot at the end of week three, Valencia, Almería and Villarreal joining Espanyol on seven points after all won their respective matches. Valencia head the table on goal difference after a 1-0 victory over Osasuna, Mata getting the only goal with seven minutes to go after latching on to a long pass from David Villa. The visitors were down to ten men at the time after Azpilicueta was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Almería are second after they beat regional rivals Málaga 1-0. Once again Negredo was the match winner, the striker going close a few times before heading a José Ortíz cross down past Arnau with a quarter of an hour left on the clock. Both sides ended with ten men after Miguel Angel and Ortíz were shown straight red cards, and Málaga ended the weekend in next to bottom spot having only picked up one point to date.
Villarreal are also in the Champions League spots after they came from behind to beat Numancia 1-2. Gorka Brit headed the locals in to the lead from Barkero's free kick on the stroke of half time, but Cazorla connected with a Pires cross to equalise soon after the restart. And Llorente drilled home the winner after good work by Cazorla and Nihat, who was making his first appearance of the season after recovering from an injury.
Real Madrid are just a point behind the top four though after a 0-2 win at Racing Santander. Bernd Schuster gave De la Red a first start, and the Spanish international obliged by opening the scoring after a long run by Higuaín early in the second half. And Van Nistelrooy got the second with an excellent shot after collecting a pass from Van der Vaart, who had replaced the injured Guti at the break.
Barcelona started the last match of the weekend at Sporting Gijón down in the relegation zone. But two hours later they were in the top half of the table after thrashing the Asturians 1-6. Xavi headed the first from Iniesta's cross midway through the first half, then set up Eto'o from a corner five minutes later. Jorge headed another Xavi corner in to his own net to make it three after the interval, and although Maldonado got one back a minute later, Messi set up Iniesta for a fourth and then scored two more himself before the final whistle. Sporting played the last half hour with ten men after Gerard was sent off, and the defeat leaves them firmly anchored to the foot of the table.
Athletic Bilbao also climbed away from the danger zone after a 2-0 victory over Valladolid. As in most games today, the goals came after the break, Llorente heading a cross from Mikel Balenziaga past Sergio Asenjo to open the scoring in the fiftieth minute. Iraola added the second from the penalty spot after the ball hit Baraja on the arm, but only at the second attempt after the referee ordered a retake.
All that left Mallorca still in the bottom three despite a 0-0 draw at Deportivo. Visiting keeper Moyà had to make several saves before the break, and Guardado headed against the bar. But referee Ayza Gámez rather harshly sent off Omar Bravo for a challenge on the keeper early in the second half, and when David Navarro was also red carded for a second bookable offence both sides settled for a point.
A 0-0 draw as well in the big derby game of the weekend between Betis and Sevilla. The boys in green had not beaten their city rivals in three years, but they felt they had a good opportunity to do so when Manolo Jiménez announced many changes to his starting line up after a gruelling UEFA Cup tie midweek. However despite creating many chances in the first half they were unable to beat an excellent Palop, and they will have to wait a few more months before they get another crack at the old enemy. (21.09.08)
Espanyol held on to top spot despite being held to a 1-1 draw in Montjuic by Getafe. The visitors took the lead with a Manu penalty after Beranger fouled Guerrón in the second minute of the second half, but Sergio Sánchez scrambled home the equaliser ten minutes later after the defence failed to clear a Luis García free kick. The result means that both teams remain unbeaten, and Getafe themselves move up to third pending Sunday's games.
Atlético Madrid are breathing down Espanyol's necks though after beating Recreativo 4-0, the third such scoreline in a row in the Calderón stadium. An unmarked Agüero headed them in to the lead in the eighth minute, and Maniche added the second with a shot from outside of the area early in the second half. And Sinama-Pongolle added two more late on against his old club to take Javier Aguirre's side back up to second in the table. (20.09.08)