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Match round-up - First Division, Day 24

The gap between the top two and the rest opened up to a massive 13 points after third placed Valencia lost 4-1 to fellow Europa League qualifiers Atlético Madrid on Sunday. David Silva put the visitors ahead with twenty minutes on the clock, but ten minutes later Diego Forlán equalised from the penalty spot after Marchena was sent off by referee Pérez Burrull for handling in the area. César was forced to make a string of saves from Simao, Reyes and Agüero after the restart, but he couldn't stop a limping Agüero from heading in Simao's corner with twelve minutes to go. And with Valencia down to nine men after Miguel was sent off for a foul on Valera, Jurado set up Forlán for the third and then scored the fourth himself.

Fourth placed Sevilla moved to within three points of Valencia after drawing 0-0 with Athletic Bilbao earlier in the evening. The stars of the match were the two keepers, with Gorka Iraizoz saving from Perotti early on and Palop keeping out De Marcos soon afterwards. Gorka was the busier of the two before the break, stopping efforts from Perotti again and from Stankevicius. But after Romaric was sent off for pulling over Iturraspe after the restart, Palop had to be at his best to foil Gabilondo and Llorente. Athletic were the happier of the two with the result though, the draw restoring some confidence after they were dumped out of the Europa League on Thursday.

Villarreal also bounced back after their elimination from the Europa League, the East-coasters beating Deportivo 1-0 to move up to eighth in the table. Juan Carlos Garrido's side dominated the first half, and they went ahead shortly before half time when Nilmar lifted the ball across for Llorente to turn the ball in to the net from close range. Only a couple of good saves by Aranzubia prevented Nilmar and Fuster from increasing the lead before the half time whistle, but Depor could have equalised late on had Diego López not kept out Bodipo at the other end. The Galicians ended the weekend in sixth spot, even though they have not scored away from home since the start of the new year.

Mallorca moved above Deportivo to fifth however after a 1-2 victory at Valladolid. The Islanders had the better of the first half, with Chori Castro hitting the post, Víctor having a goal disallowed and Aduríz seeing another effort saved by Villar. But four minutes after the restart they went behind when Alberto Bueno turned in Keko's cross for his first goal of the season. César Arzo had a goal ruled out for offside soon afterwards, but Rubén levelled the scores with a header from a Julio Alvarez corner, and Alvarez got the winner himself after latching on to Webó's pass with a few minutes to go. Onésimo's side stay in eighteenth spot, now four points away from safety.

Sporting Gijón are back up to the top half of the table after beating Osasuna 3-2. Miguel De las Cuevas fired the Asturians in to an early lead after picking up a pass from Canella. But goals by the visitors either side of half time turned the scoreline around, Nekounam converting a penalty after Morán fouled Monreal, and Vadocz drilling a deflected shot past Juan Pablo soon after the restart. Barral made it all square again though after substitute Kike Mateo set him up, and Diego Castro fired home another penalty late on after Mateo was brought down to take his side a point above their opponents in the table.

Almería are just a point behind Osasuna in thirteenth place after a 0-2 victory over Racing Santander. Tchité hit the bar for the Cantabrians early on, but Soriano headed the visitors in to the lead from Crusat's cross on the half hour mark. Canales rattled the bar again from a well struck free kick before the interval, and Xisco had a strike disallowed for offside after the restart. Piatti made sure of the three points however after Crusat set him up midway through the second half, and a frustrated Miguel Angel Portugal was shown his second red card in four games for protesting near the end. His team have only picked up two points in their last five games, whereas his opposite number Lillo has inspired his side to three wins and two draws in the same period.

Racing are now just two places above the drop zone, and Espanyol are only one spot above them after they could only draw 1-1 at bottom club Xerez. Osvaldo cut in from the right to beat Renan and open the scoring for the Catalans in the eighteenth minute. But Víctor Ruíz and Iván Alonso were unable to covert chances either side of half time, and after the interval the hosts fought back. With the rain falling heavily, Mendoza tested Kameni with a shot from outside of the area, and from the resulting corner Bermejo equalised after Ruíz could only block Gioda's header on the line. Iván Alonso almost won it for the visitors with a late header over the bar, but it was not to be. (28.02.10)

Barcelona stay two points clear at the top of the table after beating Málaga 2-1 in the last game on Saturday evening. Guardiola's side monopolized play for much of the match, but they were unable to score until Pedro caught out Munúa with a long shot midway through the second half. Iniesta hit the bar as the locals pushed for a second, but with ten minutes to go Valdo equalised after combining with Obinna in a quick breakaway. Three minutes later however Barça were back in front after a quick passing move between Xavi and Alves left Messi with an easy tap-in, and Ibrahimovic got the ball in the net again a few minutes later only to have the strike ruled out for a previous foul.

Earlier in the evening Real Madrid had temporarily moved a point above their arch-rivals after thrashing Tenerife 1-5. Higuaín got the first two in the first half, the opener after Marcelo put him through and the second from Garay's cross. Alfaro brought a good save out of Casillas in between though, and the Canary Islanders got one back when Ayoze headed the ball out of the keeper's hands just a minute after the restart. Kaká quickly restored the two goal cushion however after Higuaín set him up, and Cristiano Ronaldo made it four from the penalty spot after Luna handled in the area with ten minutes to go. Alfaro hit the bar soon afterwards, but with the game in injury time substitute Raúl wrapped things up for Pellegrini's side.

The weekend opened with Zaragoza beating Getafe 0-2 to move four points clear of the drop zone pending Sunday's games. New signing Suazo got both the goals early on, the Chilean striker intercepting a bad back-pass from David Cortés to beat Codina in the third minute, and then heading in Gabi's wide free kick a quarter of an hour later. Roberto was making his debut in goal in place of the off-form Carrizo, and he made first class saves from Soldado and Pedro Ríos either side of half time. And the visitors could have won by a bigger margin after Ander and then Arizmendi hit the woodwork at the end of each half. (27.02.10)