The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Spanish title chase hots up

Madrid: Deportivo La Coruna and Real Sociedad closed to within a point of first division leaders Real Madrid after securing comprehensive victories on Sunday.

Deportivo La Coruna striker Roy Makaay brought his total of goals for the season to 24 as he netted twice in his side’s 3-1 victory over Sevilla, while Sociedad striker Nihat Kahveci also grabbed a neat double as the Basque team thrashed bottom club Rayo Vallecano 5-0 at Anoeta.

Winger Javi de Pedro and midfielder Valery Karpin converted spot kicks either side of half-time to give Sociedad a comfortable 2-0 lead by the 51-minute mark.

Nihat then took over by adding two well-taken strikes before substitute Tayfun Korkut weighed in with a fifth deep into injury time.

The results mean that Real Madrid, who were held to a 1-1 draw by arch-rivals Barcelona at the Bernabeu on Saturday, lead the table on 61 points from 30 games, while Deportivo and Sociedad are now breathing down their neck on 60.

Deportivo’s Galician neighbours Celta Vigo displaced defending champions Valencia from the final Champions League berth after their 2-0 win over struggling Osasuna thanks to two classy goals from Egyptian striker Mido.

At the other end of the table, Javier Clemente’s Espanyol staged a near-miraculous comeback to recover from 0-3 down at half-time to draw 3-3 at home to Athletic Bilbao and extend their unbeaten run to seven games.

Alaves, however, continued their wretched form as they slipped to a 1-0 defeat at home to Malaga after Uruguayan striker Dario Silva poked in from close range a minute into injury time to give the Andalucians the win.

The result means that Alaves have now taken just two points in their last eight games and face the real threat of dropping out of the top flight for the first time since 1998.

Recreativo Huelva, who were unlucky to slip to a 0-1 defeat at Racing Santander, and Rayo Vallecano accompany the Basque side in the relegation slots.

But it was not until four minutes before the break that the home side got the breakthrough.

Makaay raced down the left wing and beat two defenders before chipping a neat pass across the area for midfielder Victor to clip in unopposed.

The Dutchman then extended his side’s lead in the last minute of the first half when he scored from the penalty spot after Sevilla defender Zoran Njegus was penalised for a foul on winger Fran.

Sevilla fought back bravely after the break and played some fine passing football before forward Antonito ghosted in at the far post to make it 2-1 on 51 minutes.

But the Andalucians were reduced to 10 men when defender David was red carded for cutting out a Deportivo counterattack with his hand and Makaay showed just why he is the leading scorer in the first division when he struck again with a trademark goal 18 minutes later.

Racing on to a fine through ball from Valeron he drew Antonio Notario off his line and then curled a pin-point shot round the Sevilla keeper and inside the far post to make it 3-1.

The Dutchman was treated to a standing ovation by the Deportivo fans when he was substituted seven minutes from time.

Monaco now on top

In Paris, Monaco edged Olympique Lyon off the top of the first division table on Sunday with a confident 2-0 home win over RC Strasbourg.

With four games to go until the end of the championship, both Monaco and Lyon are on 61 points but Monaco’s goal difference is eight better.

Lille held defending champions Lyon to a goalless home draw on Saturday.

Olympique Marseille, 1-0 winners over RC Lens in a late game on Sunday, moved up to third place ahead of Girondins Bordeaux who thrashed AC Ajaccio 6-1 on Saturday.

Marseille won at Lens through a penalty dispatched by skipper Frank Leboeuf, his second of the season, after Russian teenage striker Dmitry Sychev was brought down by Daouda Jabi.

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