RC Celta de Vigo enhanced their chances of a place in European competition next season with a 3-2 home win against UD Las Palmas on Sunday.
Catanha on target
Celta, who began the game eight points behind leaders Valencia CF in sixth place, looked to be cruising to victory as goals from Catanha and Aleksandr Mostovoi put them 2-0 up at the break. Catanha slotted home from inside the five-metre box after 21 minutes following good work by Mostovoi and Vágner Rogério to open the scoring, before Russian midfield player Mostovoi doubled the hosts' advantage eight minutes before the break when he fired home from level with the penalty spot after an incisive one-two with Vágner.
Las Palmas, currently languishing in 16th place, hit back in the second half to draw level thanks to strikes from Orlando Suárez and Paqui. Orlando handed his side a foothold in the match eleven minutes after the break and Paqui levelled matters with a header on 72 minutes. However, the parity lasted only five minutes before Valery Karpin fired a superb speculative strike to clinch the points for Celta, who have now moved up a place to fifth.
Valencia waste chance
Valencia wasted the chance to regain top spot as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of bottom club Rayo Vallecano. Valencia are still level on points with leaders Real Madrid CF but trail the reigning champions on goal difference. Miguel Angulo put Valencia ahead with a glancing header from Salva's cross in the 28th minute, but a Mauricio Pellegrino own goal on the stroke of half-time restored parity. Sergio Corino headed home Míchel's corner to make it 2-1 twelve minutes into the second half and Rayo hung on, despite having Pablo Sanz sent off for a second yellow card.
Athletic Club Bilbao moved up into sixth place in the table with a remarkable 3-2 away win against Deportivo Alavés at the Mendizorroza stadium in Vitoria. A thrilling encounter saw Alavés lose a two-goal lead and have three men sent off as Bilbao claimed the three points in a high-octane Basque derby.
Jordi Cruyff scored twice in the opening 12 minutes as Alavés, who started the game one place below Athletic in eighth, threatened to swamp their local rivals. The match was turned on its head in the five minutes before the break, as striker Mocelin Magno was given his marching orders and Tiko reduced the deficit in the 43rd minute. Ismael Urzáiz headed home for the equaliser, before Alavés were reduced to nine men when Rubén Navarro picked up his second yellow card in first-half stoppage-time. The home side manfully held out in the second half until 17 minutes from the end when Urzáiz went down inside the area under a challenge from Óscar Téllez, who duly became the third Alavés player to be sent off, and Athletic defender Aitor Larrazábal stepped up to fire the winner from the spot.
Kovacevic the hero
A first-half strike by Darko Kovacevic gave new Real Sociedad coach Roberto Olabe a 1-0 victory at home to RCD Espanyol. The Yugoslavian international collected a pass from Francisco de Pedro in the 18th minute, dribbled around visiting goalkeeper Juan Mora before scoring with a left-footed shot. But it proved to be a nervy second half for Olabe, who replaced John Toshack as coach last week, as Sociedad squandered chances to kill their opponents off.
Villarreal leave it late
Two late second-half goals ensured Villarreal CF grabbed a share of the spoils in a 2-2 draw against Real Valladolid. Having allowed the visitors a two-goal advantage going into the break, Villarreal worked hard and fought back with goals from Javier Calleja and Rodolfo Arruabarrena in the final ten minutes. Málaga CF moved into ninth place as they beat Sevilla FC 2-0 at the Sánchez Pijuán stadium. Two second-half strikes by Julio Dely Valdés proved enough to see Malaga take maximum points at the expense of their mid-table rivals.
A goal midway through the second-half by Dani was enough to give fourth-placed Real Betis Balompié a share of the spoils away at Real Zaragoza. The 20-year old striker calmly side-footed the equaliser from Denílson's pass having been left unmarked inside the area in the 70th minute. CD Tenerife and RCD Mallorca ground out a goalless draw at the Heliodoro Rodríguez López stadium. In a game lacking composure and creativity, the desperate need for points was much in evidence as the two struggling sides scrapped it out.
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