Real Madrid CF dropped two points for the second week running as they were held to a 1-1 draw by struggling Athletic Club Bilbao on Sunday.
Madrid, who let a lead slip in the final moments of their derby match against Club Atlético de Madrid seven days ago, seemed as if they were going to move back to within three points of leaders Real Sociedad when Ronaldo put them ahead on 57 minutes. But Asier Del Horno equalised for the home side with 19 minutes left to give Real a five-point advantage.
Reigning champions Valencia CF are themselves within two points of Madrid after beating Sevilla FC 1-0. With the club currently in a closely-fought presidential race, Valencia's players showed they were not distracted. They dominated the game and claimed the points with Pablo Aimar's 32nd-minute winner.
Barcelona fall further
But FC Barcelona are now just three points above the relegation zone following a 2-0 loss at sixth-placed RC Celta de Vigo. Gustavo Lopez missed a first-half penalty for Celta, but that proved academic as Jesus Jesuli scored on 48 minutes and Silvinho added a second to leave Louis van Gaal's side in 12th, ten points outside the UEFA Champions League places.
Espanyol hit form
RCD Espanyol belied their relegation-threatened status as they secured a 3-1 win against RC Deportivo La Coruña. Roy Makaay gave the visitors a third-minute lead but the game had turned before the half-hour mark thanks to goals from Espanyol's Antonio Soldevilla, Roger and Angel Morales, who helped their team climb to 18th.
Real Betis Balompié took advantage of Deportivo's defeat to claim fourth place by beating Villarreal CF 2-1. Betis were missing ten players, but Denilson's presence proved crucial as he scored in each half. Carlos Aranda's goal seven minutes from time proved to be merely a consolation.
The bottom club, RC Recreativo de Huelva, secured a rare victory as they came from behind to beat Rayo Vallecano 2-1 to move within four points of their opponents, who fell to 19th, Loren scoring the winner with just six minutes remaining.
Osasuna secure points
Elsewhere, Club Atlético Osasuna moved three points away from the relegation zone with a 3-1 win against Real Racing Club Santander, while Deportivo Alavés also gained a crucial victory by the same score against Real Valladolid. Finally, RCD Mallorca's hopes of securing a Champions League place suffered with a 1-0 loss to Málaga CF.
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