The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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10-man Valencia hold Sociedad
- Title race delicately poised with two rounds left to play

Madrid: International midfielder Xabi Alonso scored a 34th-minute goal as league leader Real Sociedad drew 1-1 with defending champion Valencia Sunday and moved one point clear in the Spanish League standings with two rounds remaining.

French midfielder Anthony Reveillere levelled two minutes later for Valencia, which played the last half an hour with 10 men after the ejection of Argentine central defender Roberto Ayala.

In another 36th-round game, midfielder Juan Carlos Valeron netted the winning goal as a 10-man Deportivo La Coruna defeated Atletico de Madrid 3-2 to keep their faint title hopes alive.

With two rounds to play, Sociedad have 73 points, one more than Real Madrid. Deportivo have 69 points.

In the remaining rounds, Sociedad visit Celta de Vigo and host Atletico de Madrid. Real Madrid play at Atletico and entertain Athletic de Bilbao, while Deportivo visit Bilbao and host Espanyol.

Also, Rayo Vallecano, Recreativo de Huelva and Alaves were relegated to the second division.

A 57th-minute goal by striker Fernando Fernandez gave Real Betis a 1-0 win at Alaves, a Uefa Cup finalist in 2001, which lose their first-division place after five seasons.

Rayo drew 1-1 at Mallorca with Rayo forward Roberto Peragon scoring in the 70th minute and Uruguayan striker Walter Pandiani levelling with a penalty 10 minutes from time.

A 50th-minute goal by Sevilla midfielder Marcos Vales sentenced Recreativo to a swift return to the second division, a season after it gained promotion.

Sociedad, coached by Frenchman Raynald Denoueix, edged nearer to their first title in 21 years although they failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage following Ayala’s ejection.

Slack marking in the Valencia defence allowed Sociedad’s international midfielder Alonso to open the scoring with a header from an inswinging corner by midfielder Javi de Pedro.

The Basque team’s joy was short-lived as Reveillere quickly levelled with a shot from the edge of the area which took a deflection off central defender Igor Jauregi.

After Ayala received his second yellow card for handling a cross by left back Sergio Boris, Sociedad dominated the rest of the match with Jauregi wasting their best chance, heading wide from a corner in the 80th minute.

Valencia stay fifth with 57 points, one less than Celta.

Deportivo made a poor start when Moroccan international defender Noureddine Naybet received his marching orders for bringing down Atletico striker Jose Mari Romero. Italian midfielder Demetrio Albertini converted the resulting penalty.

Deportivo left back Enrique Romero equalised seven minutes later with a header from midfielder Victor Sanchez cross.

Atletico went 2-1 up in the 76th minute when Uruguayan substitute Fernando Correa headed home after Deportivo goalkeeper Jose Francisco Molina had dropped a cross by forward Luis Garcia.

Two minutes later, the league’s leading scorer Roy Makaay levelled from a cross by substitute Alberto Luque for his 28th goal of the season, with Luque then setting up to Valeron for his 85th-minute winning strike.

Bilbao, placed sixth, increased their chance of a berth in next season’s Uefa Cup with a 1-1 draw at Villarreal.

Barcelona, who are in the eighth spot, also boosted their Uefa Cup hopes thanks to Gaizka Mendieta’s 67th-minute game-winning penalty.

Barcelona’s argentine striker Javier Saviola headed home in the 24th minute for his 12th goal of the season. Malaga’s Panamanian striker Julio Cesar Dely Valdes levelled with a 56th-minute penalty.

First-half goals by midfielder Cesar Palacios and forward Valdo Lopez earned 17th-place Osasuna a 2-0 victory at Valladolid which, ensured their first-division survival.

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