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Since 1st March, 1999
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Deportivo close in on Real
Roy Makaay hattrick opens up championship race in Spanish League

Madrid: Roy Makaay struck a hattrick as Deportivo Coruna closed to within a point of misfiring leaders Real Madrid with a 5-0 win at home to Recreativo Huelva on Sunday.

Real, who suffered a shock 1-5 defeat at home to Real Mallorca on Saturday, continue to lead the standings with 64 points from 32 matches.

With six games left to play, they now have two sides breathing down their necks on 63 points, though, after Real Sociedad’s 1-0 win at home to Sevilla on Saturday and Deportivo’s demolition of Recreativo Huelva.

A Juan Carlos Valeron header set Depor on their way in the 25th minute and Victor added a second a minute later.

Makaay added a third from the penalty spot and made it 4-0 before halftime with a stunning volley. The Dutch striker completed his hattrick as he burst past two defenders and thumped in for Depor’s fifth after 59 minutes.

Valencia slipped out of the fourth and final Champions League qualification place on Sunday after a surprise 1-2 defeat away to Racing Santander.

Valencia, the defending Spanish champions, fell behind to a Rodolfo Bodipo strike after 11 minutes. Francisco Rufete equalised within a minute but Bodipo scored his second midway through the first half to clinch victory.

Celta Vigo could not take full advantage as they were held to a goalless draw away to Alaves.

It was still enough to take them level on 53 points with Valencia and into fourth place by virtue of their better head-to-head record. “We didn’t do what we set out to do,” said frustrated Valencia coach Rafa Benitez. “We can’t afford any more slip-ups now.”

The weekend saw a shake-up in the race for sixth place, and the final Uefa Cup qualification slot, with Malaga, Sevilla, Real Betis and Atletico Madrid all losing ground.

Mallorca’s stunning win over Real was enough to take them into sixth on 44 points. Athletic Bilbao moved up to seventh, also on 44 points, after a 5-1 success away to relegation threatened Osasuna.

Barcelona, in 12th place at the start of play, also had a good weekend as their 3-0 win at home to Rayo Vallecano moved them up to eighth on 43 points.

Luis Enrique gave the Catalans the lead after 68 minutes, finishing off a one-two with Patrick Kluivert with a stunning volley into the bottom right-hand corner.

Kluivert had a hand in the second nine minutes later, weaving his way into space on the edge of the box and sliding a perfect pass through for Marc Overmars to slot the ball through the keeper's legs.

Javier Saviola made it 3-0 in the second minute of injury-time as he received the ball just inside the Rayo half, raced forward and tucked in his shot.

Bayer hopeful

In Germany, Brazil defender Lucio kept alive Bayer Leverkusen’s hopes of escaping relegation by scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over fellow strugglers Arminia Bielefeld on Sunday.

Last season’s runners-up remain 16th of 18 and in the danger zone but are just one point from the first safe spot with three games left. Visiting Bielefeld, who dropped one place to 13th, could still go down. Midfielder Ansgar Brinkmann put them ahead from the penalty spot on 34 minutes before receiving his marching orders for a second bookable offence in the 63rd minute.

Lucio, who returned to action recently after a long injury break, equalised with a thunderous free kick from 30 metres out four minutes later before putting the home side ahead from just outside the area in the 69th minute.

Midfielder Hanno Balitsch completed a precious win in the 71st minute. Hansa Rostock boosted their chances of staying up by climbing three places up to 11th with a 3-1 victory over Schalke 04 in the other match played on Sunday.

Uruguay midfielder Gutavo Varela put Schalke 1-0 ahead at halftime but the northerners stepped up a gear after the interval with goals from strikers Rade Prica and Magnus Arvidsson followed by a late penalty from midfielder Rene Rydlewicz.

Schalke, who had defender Tomasz Hajto sent off for a second booking 10 minutes into the second half, remain sixth and face a struggle for a place in the Uefa Cup.

Bayern Munich, already crowned champions, beat mid-table Kaiserslautern 1-0 on Saturday and are 13 points ahead of second-placed VfB Stuttgart.

In France, Monaco stumbled to a 1-2 defeat at Paris St Germain on Sunday, leaving Olympique Lyon alone at the top in the final sprint for the French Ligue 1 title.

Lyon scored an emphatic 4-0 victory away at Racing Strasbourg on Saturday and now lead Olympique Marseille by two points and Monaco by three with three games left until the end of the season. Marseille beat Bastia 2-1 on Saturday.

Monaco had not been beaten away from their Louis II stadium since November and had not lost in the French capital since 1998. Congo’s Shabani Nonda opened the scoring for Monaco in the 41st minute.

But PSG fought back and Fabrice Fiorese levelled in the 58th minute after a perfect cross from defender Frederic Dehu. But PSG, determined to keep playing a role in the outcome of the title race, made the best of their few chances and in the 75th minute Monaco defender Patrice Evra was forced to bring Alioune Toure down inside the box. Brazil’s Ronaldinho made no mistake from the spot.

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