Valencia hung onto
second place in Spain with a convincing 4-0 win over Cup winners
Espanyol as their nearest challengers Real Madrid and Osasuna were both
held to draws.
Real Madrid drew 1-1 at their neighbors Getafe and stay third while
Osasuna are one point and one place further back after a similar 1-1
draw with bottom club Malaga.
Goals from David Villa, Roberto Ayala, Mista Ferrer and Ruben Baraja put
the 2004 champions ahead in the three-way race for an automatic place in
next season's Champions League group stage with fourth now potentially
being a cursed position.
If Champions League semi finalist Villarreal, who will not otherwise
qualify for Europe's top club contest, win this season's competition
then the team that finishes fourth in Spain will be relegated to the
much less-lucrative UEFA Cup.
Valencia fans gave Espanyol, who won the Spanish Cup on Wednesday, a
rousing welcome when they came onto the field and the visitors returned
the friendly gesture by rarely threatening their hosts except with their
Moises Hurtado brought down Valencia's David Villa and the Spanish
international striker had no problem getting his 19th goal of the season
from the resulting penalty after 39 minutes.
Espanyol were reduced to 10 men on the hour when Eduardo Costa got two
yellow cards within the space of a minute and shortly afterwards Ayala
headed Valencia further ahead.
Mista headed Valencia's third goal after 69 minutes and Ruben Baraja
completed the scoring spree with a left foot valley four minutes from
time to leave Espanyol just one point above the relegation zone.
"We didn't commit many errors and for this I have congratulated the
players," said Valencia coach Quique Flores, who is never one to let
himself get too excited.
Real Madrid's Julio Baptista hit the post after just a few minutes
against Getafe, a game played in an acrid atmosphere after a war of
words between the two clubs in the last week, but the Brazilian found
the net after 61 minutes.
However, television replays strongly suggested that the Brazilian had
controlled the ball with his hand and Getafe got a deserved equalizer
seven minutes from time when Manuel Tena connected with a Cosmin Contra
"It was just bad luck and poor finishing that meant we didn't win," said
Real coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro, although not everyone will have seen
the game this way.
Lopez Caro left England captain David Beckham on the bench until the
last 15 minutes.
"The decision was mine, nothing more. I am not worried (about what
people will say) because I was exercising my responsibility to put out
my best eleven. "I could be wrong but I was trying to find what was the
best for the team," added Lopez Caro defensively.
Osasuna took the lead through a Paco Punal's penalty after 30 minutes
but Malaga never threw in the towel despite their lowly position and got
a point when their Uruguayan striker Chengue Morales found the net 10
minutes before the whistle, making the most of a defensive error by
"I was the one responsible for throwing away two points. The second half
substitutions (and tactics) I made were wrong. We should have played to
conserve our 1-0 lead, " said brutally honest Osasuna coach Javier
Last season's second division champions Cadiz have been in danger of
going straight back down again since the start of 2006 but their hopes
of staying up got a big boost with a 2-1 win at Real Zaragoza.
Celta Vigo moved up to fifth place with a 2-0 win at Real Betis thanks
to goals from Jorge Larena and Jesus Perera.
League leaders Barcelona got back to winning ways, after three
consecutive draws, with a scrappy 1-0 victory over Villarreal on Friday
night and could wrap up the title next weekend.
Spanish first division top scorer Samuel Eto'o got the only goal of the
game after 11 minutes, the African Player of the Year's 24th of the
Barca need to win at Sevilla next weekend and Valencia have to drop
points at Athletic Bilbao to confirm the Catalans as champions for the
second successive season.