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Match round-up - First Division, Day 24

Real Sociedad beat Mallorca 1-0 in the Monday night game to move up the table to eighth. Both teams started level on points with the European spots in their sights. However the windy conditions made play difficult at first, and only a couple of efforts from Tamudo and Zurutuza caused any problems for Aouate and his defence before the break. Ten minutes after the restart though Tamudo got in front of his marker to head Estrada's cross past the keeper, and Xabi Prieto almost made it two with a long shot against the bar after Aouate came out to clear from Zurutuza. Mallorca's only replies were a shot from left of goal by substitute Aki Ienaga which Bravo saved, and a De Guzmán free kick which sailed over the bar. Aranburu and Agirretxe wasted chances late on to add to the lead, but Real had done enough for a third straight home win which takes them to the brink of the Europa League places. (21.02.11)

Barcelona hold on to their five point lead over Real Madrid after beating fifth placed Athletic Bilbao 2-1 on Sunday night. Guardiola's side took the lead in the fourth minute when Dani Alves played a Xavi pass in to the path of Villa for him to shoot low past Iraizoz, the referee turning down appeals for offside by the Brazilian full back. Messi had a penalty appeal turned down before Villa chipped a shot over the keeper on to the bar, but a few minutes later Llorente brought the save of the night out of Pinto, who had stepped in after Víctor Valdés injured himself in training. Four minutes after the restart Athletic levelled the scores with an Iraola penalty after Busquets (playing in the centre of defence) tripped Llorente in the area. But Messi had another penalty claim rejected and Villa went close before Messi got on the end of another Alves cross to score the winner with a quarter of an hour to go.

Villarreal stay in fourth spot after they were held to a 1-1 draw by bottom club Málaga earlier in the evening. A win would have taken them level with Valencia, but Pelegrini's side were also desperate for points, and the two teams traded chances in the first half hour. However with ten minutes to go to the break Marco Rubén turned the ball in to the net to open the scoring after new keeper Willy Caballero could only push Rossi's centre across goal. Caballero did well to save from Nilmar though a few minutes after the restart, and later on he kept out another effort from Cazorla after the Spanish international winger had fired a free kick against the bar. But Málaga had their chances as well, and with eight minutes to go Sebas Fernández got on the end of a Rondón cross to steer a shot past Diego López and save a valuable point for the Andalusians.

Osasuna's new coach José Luis Medilibar got off to the best possible start with a 4-0 victory over sixth placed Espanyol. Positive feelings about a change of coach were confirmed when Pandiani headed wide early on, and a few minutes later Nekounam got on the end of Calleja's corner to head the first past Kameni. Sergio García responded with a cross from the right which bounced off the crossbar, but ten minutes after the interval Duscher cut out a high cross with his hand, and Nekounam stepped up to score his second of the evening from the penalty spot. Pandiani came close to a third when Kameni beat out his shot later in the second half, but with ten minutes to go Lolo turned the ball in on the far post after Soriano headed on a corner, and with the game coming to an end soriano wrapped things up from Masoud's cross. It was a fourth defeat in a row for Espanyol, and the win takes the Pamplona based side out of the relegation spots.

Sevilla move to within three points of the Catalans after a 1-0 victory over Hércules later in the evening. The Andalusians were looking to bounce back after their Europa League defeat on Thursday, and Luis Fabiano hit the bar in the opening minutes and then almost caught out Calatayud with a lob. And midway through the first half Rakitic ran through to score his first goal for his new club after Negredo chested across a long pass from Luis Fabiano. Fazio and Negredo both headed over before the break, and early in the second half Calatayud had to be on his guard to keep out Navas and Negredo. The visitors had not scored away from home though since the end of October, and only a couple of efforts from Trézéguet caused any problems for Javi Navas as Manzano's side defended their lead to the final whistle.

Racing Santander move away from the danger zone after beating Getafe 0-1, their second win in a row under returning coach Marcelino. The locals had lost three of their last four games before this, and although they had most of the ball, the best chances of the first half fell to Kennedy and Ariel. Giovani had a goal disallowed early in the second half for a borderline offside, and Toño was only tested by a couple of shots from Miku later on. With a couple of minutes to go though Marcano got himself sent off for pushing over Giovani as he advanced on goal, and Pinillos stepped up to fire home the resulting penalty, a win which takes the visitors to within three points of their hosts in the table.

The Cantabrians are now two points ahead of Deportivo, who snatched a last minute 1-1 draw at Almería thanks to a headed goal from their keeper Aranzubia. The locals had the better of the first half, with Aranzubia having to save from Ulloa and Piatti, and Kalu Uche failing to find the target a couple of times. And just two minutes after the restart Piatti picked up a pass from Mbami and curled a long shot over the head of the keeper in to the far corner of the net. Manuel Pablo almost caught out Diego Alves with a long shot a few minutes later, but with a much needed home win on the cards, Aranzubia sneaked in to the area to score what was apparently the first ever headed goal by a keeper in the history of the first division. (20.02.11)

Real Madrid closed the gap at the top of the table to two points pending Barcelona's match on Sunday after beating Levante 2-0 on Saturday evening. Mourinho rested several of his first choice players for the upcoming Champions League clash at Olympique Lyon, but even so they went ahead early on when Di María cut through the five man defence before setting up Benzema for the easiest of goals. Cristiano Ronaldo went close a couple of times and Munúa did well to keep out Di María and Benzema, but late in the first half Carvalho got on the end of Ronaldo's wide free kick to make it two. After the restart an excellent Munúa prevented Madrid from extending the lead, the keeper saving from Khedira, Benzema, Ronaldo and Özil, and Adebayor had a last minute goal ruled out for offside. But Mourinho's run of nine years without a home defeat was never at risk, and Barça are now in their sights.

Earlier in the evening third placed Valencia were held to a dull 0-0 draw by Sporting Gijón, leaving the way open for Villarreal to catch Unai Emery's side in the table. The Asturians employed the same defensive tactics which had thwarted Barcelona the week before, and the only chances in the first half were efforts wide by Sangoy and Chori Domínguez. Diego Castro tried his luck two or three times early in the second half, and the locals didn't test Cuéllar until the keeper had to save a couple of speculative shots from Tino Costa and new signing Jonas in the last five minutes or so. Sporting had what they wanted though, and the point keeps them away from the drop zone for another week at least.

And in the last match of the day, Atlético Madrid beat Zaragoza 0-1 to move back up in to the Europa League spots. Quique's side needed a result after four defeats in a row, and they started strongly, with Reyes, Raúl García and Kun Agüero all going close in the first five minutes. Leo Franco saved a couple of efforts from Agüero and Gabi cleared a Tiago header off the line, and Gabi then led the fight-back with a couple of long shots which failed to find the target. After the interval Reyes shot just wide, but the locals were putting on the pressure until Agüero picked up Forlán's pass and ran on past Ponzio to beat Leo Franco with an angled shot. Uche (making his first appearance since September 2009) and Bertolo both rattled the crossbar in the dying minutes as Aguirre's side tried to save a point, but in the end they couldn't prevent a first loss in five games which leaves them just a point above the relegation spots. (19.02.11)