Athletic Bilbao are up to sixth in the table after a 3-0 victory over Hércules on Monday evening. The Basque side took control early on, Javi Martínez getting above the defence to head in a David López corner in the fifth minute. López tested Calatayud a few minutes later and fullbacks Koikili and Iraola went close, and the visitors didn't approach Iraizoz's goal until Valdez tried his luck a couple of times either side of half time. Soon after the interval Toquero looped a header on to the bar, and with just under an hour gone Llorente headed in his side's second from Iraola's cross. Five minutes after that Muniain intercepted a bad pass in midfield and ran on to score a third, and Hércules were beaten. (24.01.11)
Real Madrid stay four points behind leaders Barcelona after beating Mallorca 1-0 on Sunday evening. The Balearic Islanders were difficult opponents though (they were the only team not to lose to Madrid or Barcelona in the first half of the season), and they could have taken the lead early on when Nsue burst through only to see his shot hit the post with Casillas beaten. Mourinho had made several changes to his line up to rest key players, but at half time he had to resort to Xabi Alonso and Özil. Even so Casillas had to be on his toes to keep out Webó before Madrid finally took control, Ronaldo having a couple of efforts blocked before Benzema picked up Granero's pass to score what was to be the only goal. After that Ronaldo headed against the bar and Benzema brought a good save out of Aouate, but in the end it was up to Casillas to ensure the three points with an injury time stop from Webó.
Villarreal stay in third spot after coming from behind to beat Real Sociedad 2-1 in the last match on Sunday. Claudio Bravo had to keep out efforts from Cazorla, Rossi and Borja early on, but Estrada looped a long shot on to the crossbar. And with half an hour on the clock the visitors went ahead, Aranburu's header from Llorente's headed pass hitting the bar and going in off the back of Diego López. Five minutes before the break however Cazorla won the ball off Markel and ran on to set up Rossi for the equaliser, and two minutes after the restart the pair repeated the act, this time Cazorla tackling Xabi Prieto and passing the ball through for the striker to poke a shot past the advancing keeper. Cazorla hit the bar after that and Marco Rubén and Rossi brought a couple of good saves out of Bravo, but Villarreal had done enough to give them the points they need to go back above Valencia in the table.
Espanyol consolidated fifth spot with a 1-3 victory at Getafe, their third win in a row. The locals went ahead at first though, Miku running on past Víctor Ruíz to score after Boateng had headed back a long clearance from Kameni. Pedro Ríos and Manu both wasted chances to increase the lead, as did Dani Parejo when he got free in front of Kameni on the stroke of half time only to shoot wide. But Callejón and Víctor Ruíz had both tested Ustari before the break, and seven minutes after the restart Sergio García forced his way past two defenders before crossing in for Luis García to equalise. That kick-started the Catalans in to action and in the next ten minutes they scored two more, Callejón heading Luis García's quickly taken free kick past the keeper and Sergio García latching on to Callejón's centre to make it three. Manu hit the post and Pedro Ríos forced another good save out of Kameni, but they couldn't prevent another defeat which left Michel's side with only one point from their first for matches in 2011.
Things are tight at the bottom of the table though after Sporting Gijón, Zaragoza and Almería all won, and only five points now separate twelfth place Hércules from nineteenth placed Málaga. Sporting picked up their second victory in a row, this time beat a poor Atlético Madrid 1-0 to move up to fifteenth in the table. The Asturians dominated the match from start to finish, Barral causing problems for the visiting defence early on and Diego Castro and Rivera failing to hit the target before the interval. Five minutes in to the second half though Miguel played a long centre by Lora in to the area, and Raúl García and Perea both hesitated, allowing Barral to pick up the ball and beat De Gea. The visiting keeper had to be at his best after that to save from Miguel, Castro and Cases, and Atleti didn't trouble Cuéllar until the very last minute, when the keeper had to push a Valera header over the bar following a Forlán free kick. Quique's side stay in sixth spot though pending Athletic's game on Monday.
Zaragoza also beat Deportivo 1-0, their third home win in a row, to move out of the bottom three for the first time in four months.. Both sides started nervously, and the only chances came from long shots which didn't cause too many problems for either keeper. However with seven minutes to go to half time Boutahar scored what was to prove the only goal of the game, his long free kick taking a deflection off the defensive wall to wrong-foot Aranzubia. The visiting keeper had work to do after the restart, making saves from a Gabi free kick and a couple of efforts from Braulio. But for the third time in a row his forwards were unable to help him out, and the Galicians end the weekend just two points ahead of their opponents in the table.
Almería moved off the bottom of the table, ahead now of Levante and Málaga, after a 3-2 win over Osasuna. The Andalusians had not won at home all season in the league. But their good cup run has given them confidence, and within ten minutes they went two up, Carlos García heading in a Bernadello corner and Ulloa turning in a cross from Kalu Uche. Aranda got one back midway through the first half with an impressive volley over Diego Alves, but soon after the restart Ulloa restored the two goal cushion, heading in Jakobsen's cross for his second of the evening. Piatti came close to increasing the lead further after that, but a headed goal from Lekic in injury time put the result in doubt until the final whistle. (23.01.11)
Barcelona moved seven points clear at the top of the table pending Real Madrid's game tomorrow after beating Racing Santander 3-0 on Saturday evening. The first goal came with only a minute and a half on the clock, Pedro chesting the ball over the line after Messi chipped a cross in from the left by-line. Messi had a goal ruled out soon afterwards for a borderline offside, and Toño had to produce first class saves from Messi, Puyol and Adriano before Henrique tripped Villa in the area, Messi slotting home the resulting penalty kick. Adrián González tested Valdés with a strong header just before the break as Racing looked to get back in the game, but ten minutes after the restart Iniesta fired home the third after Pedro laid back Villa's cross. It could have been more if Toño had not kept out Villa, Messi and Iniesta in the next few minutes, but with a cup semi-final coming up next Wednesday it was time after that to run down the clock.
An amazing game between Valencia and Málaga to round off Saturday night, with the home side running out 4-3 victors in the last minute to make it five league wins in a row. Rondón gave the visitors a surprise lead in the tenth minute, but five minutes later Demichelis was sent off after bringing down Mata in the area, the striker converting the resulting penalty himself to equalise. Rondón put Málaga back in front before the break after Camacho played across Duda's free kick. But half time substitute Soldado levelled the scores again, and when Helder was also sent off for a rude gesture at a linesman, and then Banega fired the home side ahead, it appeared to be all over. However Baptista bravely battled through to beat Guaita for a third time with ten minutes to go, and it looked as if the Andalusians had saved a point before Aduríz shattered their hopes in the last minute.
Sevilla moved up to seventh in the table pending Sunday's games after beating Levante 4-1 in the first match of the weekend. Luis Fabiano was given a rare start up front, and he brought a good save out of Reina before steering a header past the keeper from a Navas cross to open the scoring. With seven minutes to go to the break Escudé headed in the second from Romaric's corner, and four minutes later Luis Fabiano got his second of the evening from the penalty spot after Javi Venta pulled down Fernando Navarro inside the area. Xisco Muñoz ran on to Caicedo's through ball to pull one back for Levante a few minutes after the restart, but ten minutes later Luis Fabiano picked up a long pass to complete his hat-trick with a shot from outside of the area. (22.01.11)