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Match round-up - First Division, Day 21

Racing Santander and Valencia drew 1-1 in the Monday night game, a result which kept the Cantabrians three points above the drop zone, and the visitors four points clear of Espanyol in fourth spot. Racing's new owner was there to see Rosenberg hit the post before Ariel nipped in to head the opening goal after a corner was played back in to the area. Unai Emery took off his wide men at the break to put on Soldado and Chori Domínguez, and Soldado and Aduríz both went close before Tino Costa fired home the equaliser after picking up a long corner on the edge of the area. Before that David Navarro had been shown a red card for protesting whilst still on the substitute's bench, and the referee produced two more red cards in the dying minutes, one to Ricardo Costa for a second bookable offence, and one to Lacen for arguing. After that Soldado had a late chance to give the Ches a sixth straight win, but Toño held his ground to ensure a much needed point for his side. (31.01.11)

A surprise 1-0 defeat at Osasuna on Sunday evening left Real Madrid seven points behind leaders Barcelona. Madrid needed to win to keep in touch with their rivals, who had beaten Hércules the day before. But the locals were also in need of points to move clear of the drop zone, and they had the better of things in the first half, with Pandiani heading the best chance over the top with only the keeper to beat. Benzema and Ronaldo tested Ricardo close to half time, but with just over an hour gone Aranda played the ball through for Camuñas to lift a shot past Casillas. Mourinho immediately made a triple change, bringing on Xabi Alonso, Kaká and new signing Adebayor, and Madrid pushed forward looking for the equaliser. Özil and Benzema went close and Ronaldo brought another good save out of Ricardo, but the local defence held fast, and they could have won by a bigger margin in the end had Arbeloa not cleared a late shot from Vadócz off the line.

Third placed Villarreal closed to within six points of Madrid after a 0-1 victory at fifth placed Espanyol, only the second time that the Catalans had dropped points at home this season. Both sides had chances in a lively first half, Gonzalo firing a shot over the bar from close to goal following a corner and Kameni having to tip an effort from Marco Rubén on to the bar, and Diego López tipping a shot from Sergio García on to the post then saving from the striker and from Verdú. With a minute to go to the break though Rossi controlled a long pass from Bruno and surprised Kameni with a fierce shot in to the near top corner of the net to put the visitors ahead. The Cameroonian keeper did well to keep out Mario after the interval, and Rossi curled a shot off the top of the bar, with Alvaro and David García replying for the hosts. A good win for Villarreal though, and questions were asked whether the recent sale of Víctor Ruíz and Didac had weakened the Espanyol defence.

Earlier in the day Athletic Bilbao beat Atlético Madrid 0-2 to move five points clear of their opponents in sixth spot. Both keepers were in action early on to save from Reyes and Toquero, and Forlán struck a shot on the turn just over the bar. Late in the first half the visitors were awarded a penalty after Perea pulled down Llorente, the defender picking up a red card for the foul. But Llorente fired his spot kick wide, and Forlán could well have given the home side the lead when he broke free in front of Iraizoz only to shoot wide of the target. With the first half coming to a close though, Toquero got free of his marker to connect with Iraola's long pass and steer a shot wide of De Gea. And twenty minutes in to the second half the pair combined again for Toquero to slide home his second of the night. Another disappointing result for Atlético, and at the final whistle the few fans who were left in the ground booed off their own players. (30.01.11)

Barcelona kept up the pressure on Real Madrid with a 0-3 victory over Hércules on Saturday evening. The Alicante based side were the only team to beat the defending champions in the first half of the season, and Guardiola gave them the respect they deserved putting out his strongest line up despite being in the middle of a two leg cup semi-final. As usual Barça had most of the play, but they only went close with a couple of efforts from Messi and Pedro, and Trézéguet could have scored at the other end with a bit more luck. With two minutes to go to the break however Pedro picked up a pass from Xavi to open the scoring, and after the restart the forward got the ball in the net again only to have the strike ruled out for offside. The result was in doubt though until the last five minutes, when substitute Farinós was sent off for a second bookable offence. Two minutes later Messi cut across the area to curl a shot in off the post, and two minutes after that Messi was there again to turn in a Dani Alves cross to make sure of a fifteenth league win in a row, equalling a record set by Di Stéfano's Real Madrid some fifty years ago.

Later in the evening Deportivo and Sevilla played out a thrilling 3-3 draw, a result which left the Andalusians two points off the European spots and the home side four points above the drop zone. Lassad gave the Galicians the lead on the quarter hour mark with an impressive shot from outside of the area, and things seemed to be going Depor's way when Palop was sent off early in the second half for handling outside of the area, and then Lassad scored again from Adrián's assist soon afterwards. But Negredo got one back just a minute later after latching on to a loose ball in the area, and after Adrián had a goal ruled out for a borderline offside, Escudé equalised after Aranzubia failed to hold on to a long Luis Fabiano free kick. Five minutes later Negredo picked up a long pass from substitute Zokora to make it three, and it looked as if the ten men had turned things around until Laure levelled the scores again with two minutes to go, a goal which set off the protests of the visitors after a linesman raised his flag during the play.

Real Sociedad are now just two points behind Sevilla after a 2-0 victory over Almería on a rainy night in San Sebastian. With Llorente out for the rest of the season with a serious injury, Tamudo took over the centre forward's shirt, and he hit the side netting with a shot early on. Ulloa hit the post though at the other end after a mix-up between Claudio Bravo and Labaka gifted him the ball, and Bravo had to be on his toes soon afterwards to keep out Kalu Uche. With a minute to go to half time however the Basque side went ahead after a corner fell to Tamudo (who was probably offside at the time), Ansotegi running in to head his cross wide of Diego Alves. After the restart Kalu Uche fired a good chance wide, and Tamudo felt he should have had a penalty when he was pulled down in what was gradually turning in to a swimming pool. But with ten minutes to go the ex Espanyol striker finally got his name on the scoresheet after Ansotegi headed an Elustondo free kick across goal, a goal which left the Andalusians back down in next to bottom spot in the table.

Levante move off the bottom of the table though after a 2-0 victory over a Getafe side who have only picked up one point since the beginning of the new year. The locals themselves had an even worse record after losing their last five matches, but they started well, Caicedo and Valdo bringing good saves out of Ustari before the break. Two minutes in to the second half Valdo put them ahead after Caicedo touched on a cross from Juanlu, and soon afterwards Caicedo ran on to another Juanlu through ball to lob a second over the advancing Ustari. Local keeper Munúa didn't have to make a real save throughout the game, the closest the visitors got being a couple of shots off target from Dani Parejo and Miku late on.

As a result Málaga find themselves back at the foot of the table after a 1-2 defeat against Zaragoza. The Andalusians actually went in front when Duda volleyed a spectacular shot past Leo Franco on the quarter hour mark, and a few minutes later the Portuguese winger hit the post from a free kick. But Diogo brought a good save out of Sergio Asenjo with a header from close up a few minutes later, and five minutes before the break Bertolo headed the equaliser after Asenjo misread a wide Gabi free kick. Both keepers were in action after the interval to save from Sinama-Pongolle and Baptista, but with three minutes to go Sinama ran on to a long ball from midfield and turned past Helder before steering a shot wide of Asenjo. A third win in a row for Aguirre's team, who are now four points clear of the relegation spots.

Sporting Gijón also clocked up their third win in a row and their first this season away from home, beating Mallorca 0-4 to stay level with Zaragoza in the table. The Asturians took the lead in the fourth minute, Diego Castro running in to head Lora's high cross past Aouate, and Barral came close to adding a second soon afterwards. Chori Castro missed a couple of chances for the locals before the interval, but a quarter of an hour in to the second half Diego Castro and Canellaworked a quick passing move down the left flank which ended with Kevin turning Canella's shot in to his own net. A few minutes later new boy André Castro ran on to a through ball from his namesake Diego to score a third, and Nacho Novo wrapped things up near the end after André Castro put him through. (29.01.11)