A goal from Claude Makelele gave Real Madrid CF a 1-0 win at combative Sevilla FC to keep them top of the Primera División in Spain tonight on goal difference from Valencia CF, who also won 1-0 at CD Tenerife.
The French international, who was lurking behind the Sevilla defence seemingly in an offside position, redirected an Iván Helguera shot into the far corner in the 23rd minute and despite the protests of the home side, the goal was allowed to stand.
The result means that Madrid lead the table on 59 points, the same points total as Valencia, who have an inferior goal difference though to the Spanish first division champions.
Once Madrid had taken the lead the Andalucians could not respond and were reduced to long-range efforts to try and level the game. The home side threatened briefly when a Fredi free-kick skimmed the bar, but the game degenerated into a bad-tempered affair after the break as Sevilla resorted to reckless challenges as they tried to dispossess Madrid's midfield players.
Argentinian midfield player Pablo Aimar was on hand to score a spectacular 25-metre goal in the 77th minute at Tenerife in Spain's late fixture, a result that keeps Valencia still very much in the title hunt.
Third-placed RC Deportivo La Coruña fell further behind leaders Madrid following their 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad. Iñigo Idiakez had given relegation-threatened Real a surprise 34th minute lead, latching on to a neat through-ball from midfield, the Real forward outpaced Deportivo's back four before steering the ball round the advancing José Molina to make it 1-0.
With leading striker Diego Tristán serving a one-match suspension, Deportivo looked short of ideas in attack and it was not until the second period that they came to life and managed to snatch an equaliser. Dutch forward Roy Makaay rose above the Sociedad defence to head down to Juan Valerón, who clipped the ball past goalkeeper Sander Westerveld to level on 54 minutes.
RC Celta de Vigo closed to within just a point of Deportivo as a result of their 3-0 win at home over Deportivo Alavés, Vágner Rogério breaking the deadlock with only 15 minutes remaining of the match. Five minutes later Spanish international striker Catanha made the game safe and despite Argentinian defender Fabricio Coloccini pulling one goal back for the visitors almost immediately, Vágner was on hand to grab his second and Celta's third on 88 minutes.
FC Barcelona missed out on a great opportunity to stay in touch with fourth-placed Celta when they failed to beat UD Las Palmas at Camp Nou, despite taking a 21st-minute lead through captain Luis Enrique. With their mind clearly on this Wednesday's UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie with Panathinaikos FC, the Catalans allowed Orlando Suárez to grab a 54th-minute equaliser before both Patrick Kluivert and Ángel Ruano were dismissed near the end.
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