Valencia CF beat Real Zaragoza 1-0 to reclaim the Spanish league leadership on Sunday, while Barcelona moved back into the UEFA Champions League places as Patrick Kluivert notched a hat-trick in their 5-1 win over Málaga CF.
An 27th-minute goal from Francisco Rufete was enough to give Valencia a valuable away victory and take them a point clear of Real Madrid CF at the top. With 28 games played, Valencia lead the standings with 50 points with Madrid on 49 following their 1-0 win at RC Celta Vigo on Saturday. RC Deportivo La Coruña, who also scraped a 1-0 away win on Saturday at Sevilla FC, are third on 47, with Barça up to fourth a point further back thanks to their victory at home to Málaga.
Barcelona's success marked a return to form following defeats by Valencia in the league and AS Roma in Europe. Philip Cocu converted a Rivaldo corner in the third minute to give Barça the lead and Javier Saviola made it 2-0 with his eleventh of the season on 25 minutes. Saviola was then brought down in the area and Kluivert converted the resulting spot-kick. The Dutchman's second, on 77 minutes, also came from the penalty spot and restored the hosts' three-goal advantage after Ivan Leko had pulled a goal back. Kluivert completed his hat-trick in the final minute, sweeping the ball home from Rivaldo's lay-off.
At the other end of the table, RCD Mallorca climbed out of the bottom three after goals from Samuel Eto'o and Veljko Paunovic secured a 2-0 win against their relegation rivals in Madrid. Real Sociedad are ahead of Mallorca on goal difference after a 1-1 draw at Club Atlético Osasuna. Luiz Alberto's 71st-minute header cancelled out Fernando Sánchez's strike early in the second half for the home side.
Espanyol hold on
Ten-man RCD Espanyol held on for a 1-1 draw at the bottom club, CD Tenerife, following the 68th-minute dismissal of Argentinian defender Pablo Rotchen for a second bookable offence. Argentinian striker Esteban Fuertes gave Tenerife the lead inside three minutes with a low drive into the corner, but Raúl Tamudo levelled for the visitors in the 20th minute.
Delfi Geli netted twice for Deportivo Alavés as they came from behind to defeat Real Valladolid 3-1 while in Sunday's night game Club Athletic Bilbao climbed to sixth by beating UD Las Palmas. Francisco Yeste, Joseba Etxebarria and Tiko were all on target for Athletic.
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