The gap between the top two and the rest widened to eight points after third placed Valencia lost 2-1 to Sevilla on Sunday. Negredo opened the scoring for the Andalusians in the twentieth minute after Escudé headed on a Perotti corner, and the Spanish international striker netted his second of the night on the hour mark, lobbing César after picking up a back-heel pass from Jesús Navas. David Villa hit the post and Mata tested Palop as the visitors fought back, and David Navarro headed a late goal after Mata played the ball back in following a good save by the keeper. The visitors could have saved a draw had the referee seen an injury time foul on Villa by Palop, but in the end it was three points for the locals, who move back in to the Champions League spots just three points now behind their opponents.
Mallorca drop out of the top four however after a 2-1 defeat at the hands of bottom club Xerez. Webó gave the visitors the lead with a diving header from a Chori Castro cross midway through the first half. And Manzano's side should have been further ahead when they were awarded a penalty for a foul by Athami on Aduríz, Renan guessing correctly to save the striker's spot kick. Seven minutes after the restart though Carlos Calvo caught out Aouate with a long shot from outside of the area, and after Bermejo and Antoñito went close, Castro picked up Antoñito's pass and rounded Mattioni to score his second of the night. It was a second win of the season for the Andalusians, and a good start for new coach Gorosito on his home debut.
Getafe stay in seventh place after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Racing Santander. With both sides facing cup semi-finals midweek, the managers could be excused for fielding weakened line-ups. But it was still a lively match, with the two keepers the busiest men on the pitch. Codina was in action early on to make a couple of saves from Tchité, with Pedro León and Soldado keeping Coltorti on his toes at the other end. Rafa headed against the crossbar before the break, and Pedro León curled a corner on to the bar after the restart. Racing were left with ten men when Moratón picked up a second booking in the second half, but the Cantabrians held on to maintain their unbeaten record since the start of the new year.
Racing's opponents in the semi-final will be Atlético Madrid, and they continued to disappoint after a 0-2 defeat to Málaga. The visitors had not won in Madrid in 57 years, and had not taken the three points in an away game all season. But with only three minutes gone Duda got on the end of a Jesús Gámez cross to open the scoring, and Caicedo could have added to the lead with a bit more luck before the break. With twenty minutes to go to the final whistle Javi López made it two after Perea could only head a Baha centre across goal, and Atlético's only reply was a couple of late efforts from Jurado and Domínguez. The crowd booed their players off at the end, and they finished the weekend only three points above Málaga and six off the drop zone. Coach Quique Sánchez Flores has to turn things around quickly if he is not to follow Abel Resino in to the dole queues.
It was a bad weekend for managers elsewhere as well, with Villarreal's Valverde and Valladolid's Mendilibar both getting the sack after poor performances by their respective sides. Villarreal lost 0-2 to Osasuna, a result which took Camacho's side level with their opponents in mid-table. Juanfran started things off with a quarter of an hour on the clock, turning in a long cross from Monreal on the far post. And only a couple of top class saves by Diego López prevented Azpilicueta and Masoud from increasing the lead before the interval. The introduction of Ibagaza and Escudero at the break livened things up, but with five minutes to go Juanfran picked up a pass from Camuñas and rounded the keeper to score his second of the evening, and Valverde was history.
Valladolid fared a bit better, drawing 1-1 with Almería, but with his side only a point above the drop zone Medilibar still had to go. Crusat put the visitors ahead in the twelfth minute, steering a shot past Justo Villar after Goitom crossed in from the right. And things got worse for the locals when Manucho was sent off shortly before half time after catching an opponent with a flying elbow. Piatti missed a couple of chances to extend the lead soon after the restart, and the unfortunate Mendilibar was shown a red card himself for protesting. But with ten minutes to go César Arzo at least saved a point for the hosts with a glancing header from Mendunjanin's free kick. Mendilibar's replacement will be Onésimo Sánchez.
Curiously all three of the teams currently in the relegation spots were promoted last summer, although Zaragoza are now only a point away from safety after a 1-3 victory at Tenerife took them level with the Canary Islanders in the table. All the goals came after the break, with the home side taking the lead after Juanlu got behind the defence to sweep Pablo Sicilia's cross past Carrizo. The visitors replied though with three goals in six minutes, new boy Suazo levelling the scores from the penalty spot after Luna brought down Arizmendi. Another recent signing Adrián Colunga got the second after Gabi put him through, and Lafita wrapped things up with an impressive shot from outside of the area which went in off the far post. (31.01.10)
Barcelona started the second half of the season with a 0-1 victory at Sporting Gijón, keeping up their unbeaten record in the league to date. Guardiola preferred Pedro to Henry in his starting line up, and it proved a good decision as the young forward scored the only goal of the match, albeit that he may have been in an offside position when Iniesta put him through on the half hour mark. After that the visitors wasted several chances to extend their lead, Messi going close either side of half time, ex Barça B defender Botía clearing in front of goal from Ibrahimovic and Juan Pablo saving well from Pedro. The Asturians didn't really trouble Valdés until the final minutes, although there were some nervous moments late on as they pushed forward to try and save a point.
Real Madrid stay five points behind the leaders after a 1-3 win at Deportivo later in the evening. The Merengues had not won in the Riazor for 18 years, but after Raúl missed a couple of early chances, Granero headed them in to the lead when Laure could only head back a ball in from Raúl Albiol. And five minutes before the break a clever back-heel by Guti left Benzema free to drill home the second. Depor got one back with a hotly disputed Riki penalty after the striker fell under a challenge from Sergio Ramos four minutes before the end, but Benzema put the result beyond doubt with his second of the night after Arbeloa set him up in injury time.
Espanyol kicked off the weekend beating Athletic Bilbao 1-0 to move away from the danger zone. Luis García got the only goal with just under an hour on the clock after Gorka Iraizoz could only push out a shot from Javi Márquez. The Catalans had dominated the first half before that, with Osvaldo missing a good chance and Javi Márquez bringing a couple of good saves out of the keeper, and the only real reply from the visitors was a shot over the top from Susaeta later on. (30.01.10)