Real Madrid moved another step closer to their 31st La Liga title with an uninspiring 1-0 victory over relegation bound Murcia. Barcelona have more or less said adios to their title hopes after only drawing at Recreativo, but the big news this week is the almost certain sale of Ronaldinho to AC Milan. The Brazilian will reportedly be on a meagre â‚¬150,000 a week for his new club. Villarreal slipped back down to third place after losing 1-0 at Almeria.
Bernd Schuster decided to bring back Robinho to the starting lineup in place of Higuain, and Torres came in at right back for the suspended Sergio Ramos. Torres, however, only lasted 20 minutes before being sent off for a tackle from behind on Aquino. With just ten men Madrid found it hard to create chances against a well ordered Murcia who only came to defend. Then in the 58th minute a throw in from Pepe was flicked on by Raul and Sneijder took advantage of the defence’s failure to clear to hit a fine right-footed strike past Carini in the Murcia goal. Murcia failed to react to the goal and Madrid held on comfortably, with a nine point advantage over nearest rivals Barcelona, it will take a monumental collapse now for Madrid not to win the title.
Barcelona once again threw away a victory through poor defending and a failure to take control of a game against weaker opponents. Samuel Eto’o twice put the Catalans in front away at Recreativo only for Marcos Ruben twice to equalize for the Andalucians. Eto’o has now bagged fourteen in fourteen games and perhaps if he hadn’t missed three months through injury he would be challenging Luis Fabiano for the Pichichi top scorer award. Unfortunately for Eto’o his team mates were not so inspired, the only good news for Barça was the return to action of Leo Messi who played the last 25 minutes and will surely be fully fit to play Manchester United in the Champions League. Click here for a full report on Recreativo-Barcelona
Villarreal paid the price of a mistake by goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 16th minute of their game at Almeria. He failed to control a back pass from Javi Venta and was forced to bring down Crusat who had robbed the ball. Lopez was sent off but fortunately for Villarreal Negredo blasted the penalty over. Villarreal held on until the 84th minute when Acasiete finally beat substitute keeper Juan Carlos to give the home team a 1-0 victory which leaves Villarreal ten points behind Real Madrid.
Atletico Madrid stay in fourth place but missed out on victory at Valladolid due to an Ogbeche goal in the 91st minute. Maxi Rodriguez gave Atletico the lead in the 69th minute after a counter attack led by Diego Forlan. Luis Garcia and Forlan then missed chances to seal the victory and Ogbeche’s late equalizer made it 1-1 at the final whistle.
Racing Santander moved to within a point of Atletico with a 1-2 win at Valencia who find themselves falling into a relegation battle. Racing had the better of the first half but didn’t take the lead until the 60th minute when Colsa’s header was superbly saved by Hildebrand but Colsa was on hand to hit home the rebound. David Villa equalized from the penalty spot four minutes later after Morientes was brought down, and Morientes had two great chances to put Valencia ahead, hitting the crossbar and later the post. In the 84th minute Racing won it with a swift move which ended with Tchite getting on the end of a Pablo Alvarez cross to score at the far post.
Sevilla kept up their challenge for a Champions League spot with a deserved 2-3 win at Mallorca. Renato gave the visitors the lead just before half time after a mistake from Mallorca keeper Moya. Güiza equalized straight after half time but then goals from Kanoute and Alves put the result beyond doubt despite a late consolation goal from Webo.
Espanyol suffered their fourth defeat on the trot going down 0-1 at home to Osasuna, and now find themselves six points below the Uefa cup placings. Espanyol keeper Carlos Kameni failed to hold a cross in the 30th minute and the ball bounced into the net off Astudillo for the game’s only goal. For Osasuna it was an important win which will relieve their relegation worries.
Deportivo now look to be safe after a comfortable 3-0 win at home to Athletic Bilbao. Depor have looked a much better team since Lafita and Wilhelmsson came into the team and have taken 19 points from their last eight games. Coloccini, Sergio and Filipe scored their goals this week.
Zaragoza are still looking the most likely to accompany Levante and Murcia in the drop after only managing a point in a 0-0 draw at Getafe. Michael Laudrup made several changes to the Getafe lineup after their agonizing Uefa Cup exit to Bayern Munich and they are now concentrating on Wednesday’s Copa del Rey final with Valencia. Zaragoza’s hopes of taking advantage of Getafe’s possible relaxation ended when Matuzalem was sent off after 70 minutes.
Finally, Levante are still just holding on to their Primera Division status after a 0-1 win at Betis. A goal after 52 minutes from Pedro Leon gave the bottom team a victory which ends any slight chance Betis might have had of making it into next season’s Uefa Cup.
Top Six: Real Madrid 69, Barcelona 60, Villarreal 59, Atletico Madrid 54, Racing Santander 53, Sevilla 51.
Bottom Six: Valencia 39, Valladolid 39, Recreativo 37, Zaragoza 34, Murcia 29, Levante 22.
Top Scorers: Luis Fabiano 23, Güiza 18, Raul 16, Diego Milito 15, Nihat 14.