First division - day 22
Barcelona maintained the twelve point gap over Real Madrid after beating Sporting Gijón 3-1 on Sunday. Eto'o opened the scoring on a quick breakaway midway through the first half, and added a second after Messi put him through shortly before half time. Dani Alves battled through to make it three twenty minutes in to the second half, and Kike Mateo got one back three minutes later, just seconds after coming on as substitute.
Madrid themselves are nine points clear of third placed Sevilla, and Valencia stay a point behind the Andalusians after losing 1-0 at Osasuna in the last match of the weekend. Miguel Flaño got the only goal, heading in Puñal's wide free kick twelve minutes in to the second half to take his side out of the relegation spots for the first time in fifteen weeks.
Fifth placed Villarreal are level with Valencia after a 2-1 win over Numancia, only their second victory in nine games. Rossi returned to the side after an injury lay-off and was on target early on, beating Juan Pablo after Angel set him up. Aranda equalised before half time, but Rossi got his second of the night after the break to leave the visitors down in the bottom three.
Atlético Madrid are back up to sixth after a convincing 0-3 victory at Recreativo. New coach Abel Resino saw his side take the lead in only the second minute when Agüero headed in Sinama-Pongolle's cross, and Agüero set up Forlán for two more before the interval.
Málaga stay level on points with Atlético though after coming from behind to beat Almería 3-2. Headed goals from Kalu Uche and Negredo put the visitors two up at the break, but Albert Luque drilled one back soon after the restart, and Salva came on to score two more and turn the scoreline around.
Deportivo drop a couple of places to eighth after drawing 1-1 at Mallorca. Aduríz headed the locals in to the lead ten minutes after the restart, but Verdú saved a point for the Galicians from the penalty spot after Nunes had brought down Lassad inside the area.
Mallorca stay in the relegation spots, as do Espanyol who also drew 1-1 at Getafe. New signing Iván Alonso put the Catalans ahead in only the seventh minute after intercepting a bad clearance from Jacobo, but a mistake by Jacobo's opposite number Cristian Alvarez later in the first half allowed Soldado to equalise.
Elsewhere Valladolid moved safely up to mid-table after beating Athletic Bilbao 2-1. Víctor put the home side ahead from the penalty spot after Iraizoz had fouled Sesma, and the veteran striker got his second of the night after the restart. Llorente fired a second penalty against the post soon afterwards, and Orbaiz scored from the rebound. (08.02.09)
Real Madrid's recovery under Juande Ramos continues, and they beat Racing Santander 1-0 on Saturday evening to make it seven wins in a row. Ramos has built his side around the defence, and his team have now only let in one goal in those seven games. The only goal came four minutes after the restart, Raúl heading a long ball on for Higuaín to cut past César Navas and beat the keeper from a wide angle. It was enough to take the three points and keep up the pressure on leaders Barcelona.
Later in the evening Betis recorded an important 1-2 victory against Sevilla, the first time they had beaten their city neighbours in the Sánchez Pizjuán stadium since 1996. The game swung in the visitors favour with twenty minutes to go when Duscher was sent off for a second bookable offence, and almost immediately Sergio García opened the scoring for the visitors. Oliveira added a second on his return to his old club, and Kanouté's late header came too late to change the result. (07.02.09)