FC Barcelona reclaimed first place in the Spanish league after beating last-place Gimnastic Tarragona 3-0 on goals from Javier Saviola, Ludovic Giuly and Andres Iniesta yesterday.
The win, Barcelona's first of 2007 and only its second in its last six matches, moved the defending champion above Sevilla on goal difference. Sevilla had held first place since December 17.
Real Madrid, again lacking Ronaldo and David Beckham, beat Mallorca 1-0 courtesy of Jose Antonio Reyes' 78th-minute goal and moved level on points with Barcelona and Sevilla but behind on goal difference.
Also, David Villa scored his 10th goal of the season to help Valencia beat Real Sociedad 1-0 and move two points off the lead.
Barcelona, Sevilla and Madrid each have 38 points, although Barcelona has a game in hand - a visit to Betis next Wednesday. Valencia has 36 points, one more than Atletico Madrid.
Also, it was: Zaragoza 0, Recreativo Huelva 0; Getafe 1, Celta Vigo 0; Levante 0, Athletic Bilbao 0; Betis 1, Racing Santander 1; and Deportivo La Coruna 0, Espanyol 0.
Saviola, whose six goals from the last three league and Copa del Rey games earned him a place over Eidur Gudjohnsen in the starting lineup, took only 18 minutes to score again.
Gimnastic's badly played offside trap allowed the Argentine to receive the ball from defender Oleguer Presas, playing his 100th league game for the club. Saviola controlled the ball on his chest before swiveling to volley home from close range.
Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard's decision to replace Saviola with Gudjohnsen in the 65th brought whistles of disagreement from sections of the Camp Nou crowd.
Yet Gudjohnsen contributed to Giuly's goal three minutes later with a header which was cleared off the line before the French forward shot home.
Iniesta, a 57th-minute substitute for Deco, scored Barcelona's third in the 81st after goalkeeper Albano Bizarri had left his goal to push the ball away from Ronaldinho.
Gimnastic's defeat was its 14th in 19 games and leaves it looking like a favorite for relegation at the end of the season.
Madrid's victory brought some relief at the end of a tough week for the club.
Club president Ramon Calderon was forced to apologize after criticizing Beckham and the rest of the team on Tuesday. Two days later, the team was knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Real Betis.
Madrid coach Fabio Capello again omitted Ronaldo, who is reportedly close to a move to AC Milan. Beckham, who hasn't been picked since he recently announced he would join Los Angeles Galaxy in August, wasn't considered as he has a left thigh strain.
Madrid lacked six other injured players, including captain Raul Gonzalez and Roberto Carlos.
Mallorca, which has won only one of 10 league games at home this season, dominated the first half but almost fell behind in the 20th minute when defender Sergio Ramos hit the bar with a header.
Madrid's problems appeared to worsen in the 58th when Ramos limped off following a collision with Mallorca defender Fernando Navarro.
However, Reyes won the game with a perfectly executed free kick from just outside the area which gave goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya no chance.
The goal was only Madrid's fourth in six league games.
Villa curled in a free kick from the edge of the area in the 29th minute to bring Valencia its sixth straight league win and consolation for Wednesday's Copa del Rey elimination by Getafe.
Sociedad's Savio Bortolini, who joined on loan from Flamengo last week, came close to equalizing after making his debut as a 51st-minute substitute.
The former Brazil winger had a shot cleared off the line by Valencia defender Roberto Ayala in the 68th and then hit the post with a free kick just before time.
Valencia's victory at Anoeta stadium at the halfway stage of the season increased its chances of winning its third league title in six seasons.
Zaragoza's draw with visiting Recreativo extended its winless run to three games, two in the league and one in the Copa del Rey.
Recreativo, which won its past two away games, almost made it three in a row when striker Javi Guerrero hit the post with a 61st-minute header.
Getafe striker Daniel "Guiza" Gonzalez followed his two goals against Valencia in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday by creating his team's winning goal for Manu Del Moral after only 41 seconds.
Levante's first game under coach Abel Resino against fellow struggler Bilbao ended in a goalless draw.
Betis, which eliminated Madrid from the Copa del Rey on Thursday, drew with Santander.
Ezequiel Garay converted a penalty for the visitors in the 85th, with Betis' Xisco Munoz leveling two minutes later.
Deportivo striker Angel Arizmendi missed a chance from point-blank range and had a goal disallowed in his team's goalless draw with Espanyol.
On Saturday, Sevilla drew 0-0 at Villarreal, while Atletico beat Osasuna 1-0.Reuse content