Real Betis Balompié moved a point clear of FC Barcelona and into fifth spot in the Primera División this evening following a goalless draw at Rayo Vallecano, while Athletic Club Bilbao suffered another heavy defeat, this time 5-2 at Villarreal CF.
Betis are only two points off the coveted fourth and final UEFA Champions League spot in Spain, which is currently being occupied by RC Celta de Vigo, but were grateful that a controversial last-minute strike by Míchel was ruled out for offside, despite the striker appearing level with Betis full-back Iulian Filipescu. As a result, Vallecano remain deep in trouble in 17th position.
Alberto Luque gave RCD Mallorca three vital points with a second-half goal to seal victory over RCD Espanyol at the Son Moix. Luque scored in the 64th minute to pull the islanders away from the relegation zone.
Level at the break
Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto'o capped a bright opening spell by Mallorca with the opener in the 27th minute only for Raúl Tamudo to equalise five minutes before half-time, before Luque scored the all-important winner.
Real Zaragoza remain in the bottom three though after a disappointing 0-0 draw with Real Valladolid at La Romareda. The hosts had undoubtedly the better of the game, but lacked a cutting edge in the final third. The closest they came to taking all three points was a Martín Vellisca effort in the 61st minute that was ruled out for offside.
Bilbao travelled south with a pledge to restore some pride after their embarrassment in front of their home crowd last weekend when Celta hit them for six, but their plan lasted just six minutes. For the third time in as many weeks, Bilbao conceded at least two goals in the first 20 minutes - and let in their eleventh goal in two Spanish first division games.
Villarreal scored with the first real chance of the game, Jorge López playing a neat pass into Víctor, who shot low into the bottom corner past Iñaki Lafuente. Five minutes later and Víctor's corner from the right was headed home by Quique Álvarez with the Bilbao defence static.
Two for Víctor
The third came as Víctor and Sergio Ballesteros combined on the left-wing to present a chance for López, who converted with ease from just inside the box. Víctor hit a fourth in front of a disbelieving home crowd after half an hour, beating two defenders and firing a powerful shot past a weary Lafuente and Antonio Guayre rubbed salt into their wounds with four minutes still to play in the opening period after a through ball from Víctor.
Carlos García finally broke through for Bilbao with a 25-metre blast into the top corner, but insult was added to injury seven minutes from time when Aitor Larrazabal hit the bar from the spot after Javier Roca brought down Ismael Urzaiz. However, when Roca struck again two minutes from time, upending David Karanka, it was Urzaiz who stepped up to slot the ball low to the goalkeeper's left.
Paying the penalty
Second-half penalties from Málaga CF strikers Julio Dely Valdés and Darío Silva condemned Club Atlético Osasuna to their fourth straight defeat and left them with relegation worries to think about. Dely Valdés sent keeper Juan Unzué the wrong way from the penalty-spot six minutes after the break and Darío Silva chipped in a cheeky second from the spot to ensure a 2-0 victory for the visitors.