Atlético Madrid moved back up to sixth in the table after a 3-0 victory over Mallorca on Monday night. By half time Quique's side were two up, Valera heading in a Reyes corner early on and Forlán running on to Tiago's pass to make it two on the half hour mark. Midway through the second half though Antonio López was sent off for bringing down Nsue in the area, but De Gea dived low to bring off an impressive save from Webó's penalty kick. Chori Castro hit the post as Laudrup threw his men forward, but with a few minutes to go De Guzmán was also shown a red card for a tackle from behind on Juanfran, and with the game in injury time Reyes picked up a pass from the new signing to beat Aouate for a third time. (17.01.11)
A record breaking Barcelona confirmed the honorary title of winter champions after beating Málaga 4-1 in the last match on Sunday evening. At the halfway stage of the season Guardiola's side have beaten their own record points haul from only last year, as well as clocking up a best ever seventeenth win in a row and a run of 28 games without defeat. With only eight minutes gone Iniesta latched on to a Dani Alves cross to fire in a shot off the post, and after Xavi hit the bar, David Villa ran on to Messi's pass to score a second under the legs of Sergio Asenjo. Pedro added a third with ten minutes still to go to the break after Asenjo saved from Iniesta, and the keeper had to be at his best to stop a couple more efforts from Messi before the half time whistle. After the restart the new look Málaga did get one back with a well struck Duda free kick, but Villa scored his second of the night after Xavi set him up a few minutes later to take their total tally in La Liga this campaign to a record 62 goals.
Real Madrid are now four points behind the leaders after they were held to a 1-1 draw by bottom club Almería earlier in the evening. The midweek cup tie against Atlético seemed to have taken its toll, and their only chances in the first half were a couple of efforts by Cristiano Ronaldo which Diego Alves had no problem keeping out. Sergio Ramos headed wide early in the second half, but the home side went ahead on the hour mark after Piatti was blocked by Ramos in the area, the ball falling to Ulloa who turned a shot wide of Casillas. Ronaldo felt he should have had a penalty soon afterwards, but with a quarter of an hour left substitute Granero picked up a pass from Benzema to equalise. With the game coming to an end Ronaldo saw his free kick hit Mbami on the arm, and although the wall was standing inside the area, referee Pérez Lasa awarded another free kick just outside of the box. This time though Ronaldo's kick came back off the crossbar, and the game ended seconds later. The draw meant that Madrid had themselves set their new points record for the first half of the season, but nobody was celebrating.
Valencia kicked off the Sunday games beating Deportivo 2-0 to make sure of fourth spot. The Galicians had clearly come to Mestalla to defend, and the locals only got near to Aranzubia's goal with two or three long shots from Miguel, Pablo and Mata. After the interval though Depor came forward, Guaita having to turn a shot from Lassad around the post and Adrián going close a couple of times. But Soldado saw an effort cleared from in front of goal by Colotto with Aranzubia beaten, and with twelve minutes to go Matieu ran on to Tino Costa's lofted pass to beat the keeper from a wide angle. A few minutes later Aranzubia did well to keep out Soldado on a rapid counter attack, but with the game in the third minute of injury time Pablo Hernández picked up a pass from Mata to beat the advancing keeper and ensure the three points. (16.01.11)
With the top two playing tomorrow, third placed Villarreal closed the gap on the leaders to eight points after a 4-2 victory over Osasuna. After a period of pressure from the home side, Marco Rubén opened the scoring with a header from Borja Valero's cross in the twentieth minute. Vadócz levelled the scores two minutes after the restart following a Camuñas corner, but three minutes later Cani restored the lead with what could be the goal of the season, beating Ricardo with a shot from the halfway line. A few minutes later Capdevila headed a third on the goal line after Marco Rubén headed across a Valero corner, and although Calleja got another one back from a Camuñas cross, Gonzalo wrapped things up with another header from another Valero corner.
Later in the evening Espanyol beat Sevilla 1-2 to move up level with fourth placed Valencia pending their game on Sunday. Kanouté and Luis Fabiano were unable to beat Kameni as the Andalusians pushed forward early on, and with four minute to go to the break Callejón beat the offside trap to run on to a long ball from Javi Márquez to put the visitors ahead. Márquez and Alvaro both brought good saves out of Javi Varas after the restart, and Kameni was in action again to keep out a shot on the turn from Luis Fabiano. With twelve minutes to go though the local defence were caught out again by a quick Luis García free kick which allowed Callejón to score his second of the night, and a late strike by Negredo was scant consolation for Gregorio Manzano's team.
Athletic Bilbao are up to sixth pending Atlético's game on Monday after a 2-1 victory over Racing Santander. The Basque side went two up in the first ten minutes, Javi Martínez repeating the late goal he scored at Málaga last weekend with a back header from a David López free kick, and Muniain running in to connect with Toquero's low cross and curl a shot past Toño. Munitis fired a shot over the top and Kennedy rattled the crossbar with a long shot as the Cantabrians tried to get back in the game, but David López could have extended the lead shortly before the break with a free kick which came back off the post. Racing did get one back when Bolado headed Kennedy's cross past Iraizoz late on, but their challenge ended soon afterwards when Munitis was red-carded for elbowing Javi Martínez.
Getafe drop down to eighth though after they were thrashed 0-4 by Real Sociedad. Xabi Prieto gave the visitors the lead from the penalty spot after Miguel Torres handled in the area in the ninth minute, but Michel's side thought they should have had a penalty themselves when a cross hit Rivas on the arm a few minutes later. Prieto hit the outside of the post however with a wide free kick soon afterwards, and with just over half an hour gone Griezmann volleyed home the second from Llorente's cross. Dani Parejo and Manu went close either side of half time, but with the game coming to an end substitute Aranburu connected with two crosses from Prieto to add two more, ending a run of four defeats in a row.
Further down the table Sporting Gijón moved out of the relegation zone thanks to a 2-0 victory over Hércules. Once again Manolo Preciado was on an ultimatum to get a result, but within a minute his side were ahead after Barral headed Canella's cross past Calatayud. And with just under half an hour gone the Asturians went two up when youngster Nacho Cases fired a long shot wide of the keeper. Cuéllar saved from Tote and Sendoa at the other end before the break, but Eguren almost added a third when he poked a shot just wide of the post after the restart. And after that Sporting shut up shop, only troubled by a couple of efforts from Valdez and by substitute Drenthe, now back in favour after going AWOL a few days ago in protest about not being paid for the last few months.
Zaragoza stay level on points with Sporting, albeit that they remain in the bottom three, after beating Levante 1-0. Thick fog meant that the game was in doubt until shortly before kick off, but when it got going Gabi and Rafa Jordà both went close before Gabi ran through to open the scoring on the stroke of half time. After the interval substitute Valdo came close to equalising when he fired a volley over the bar from close up, and Leo Franco did well to keep out an effort from Xisco Nadal soon afterwards. But the key point of the match came with four minutes to go, referee Alvaro Izquierdo disallowing a late goal by Rubén from a quickly taken free kick which would have saved a draw for the visitors. As it was, Zaragoza move a point above their opponents in the table. (15.01.11)