Real Madrid responded to Barcelona's victory at Valencia with a crushing 7-0 win over next to bottom Málaga on Thursday night. A shake of hands ended the crossfire between the two coaches in the pre-match build up, but Pellegrini had clearly decided that this match against his old team was not a priority in his new club's agenda to save themselves from relegation, his line-up including many changes. Madrid had already won 19 home games in a row, and by half time it was all over as Mourinho's side netted three times. Benzema started things off from Xabi Alonso's free kick, and Özil hit the post with another free kick before Manolo failed to cut out Marcelo's through ball, allowing Di María to score the second. Di María turned provider to set up Marcelo for a third, and five minutes after the break Özil put Cristiano Ronaldo through to make it four. Only Willy stood between Madrid and a massacre, but Benzema headed a fifth, and Ronaldo completed the set with a penalty after Manolo was sent off after picking up a second booking for cutting out Marcelo's cross with his arm. Willy made two more brilliant saves from Benzema and Ronaldo before substitute Cala was stretchered off, Pellegrini unable to replace him with all three substitutions already made. A minute later Ronaldo too had to leave the field with an injury, but not before he finished off his hat-trick from a cross by young substitute Canales. Referee Pérez Lasa called it a day without adding a minute of extra time. This one was already over.
Earlier in the evening Almería were held to a 1-1 draw by Racing Santander, a result which left the locals firmly anchored to the bottom of the table and the Asturians eight points above them in twelfth place. Marcelino's side were left with ten men with only a quarter of an hour on the clock when Henrique was sent off for a foul on Piatti. But even so they took the lead shortly before the interval, Colsa scoring from close to goal with an acrobatic shot after Ariel had headed on Arana's long free kick. Racing should have increased the lead on the stroke of half time when they were awarded a penalty after Carlos García brought down Ariel in the area. However Diego Alves saved Adrián's soft spot kick, and twenty minutes in to the second half José Ortíz played the ball across for Crusat to level the scores. (03.03.11)
Barcelona moved ten points clear at the top of the table pending Real Madrid's game on Thursday after beating third placed Valencia 0-1 on Wednesday evening. The first chances fell to Messi, but the forward was denied three times in a row by Guaita and his defence. Jordi Alba was unlucky to be pulled up for a non-existent offside as he advanced on goal a few minutes later, but once again Messi broke free only to see his lob cleat the crossbar, and shortly before half time Villa just failed to find the target against his old club. Valencia had been playing without an orthodox striker, but at half time Emery brought on Soldado, and almost immediately he and Pablo fired shots just wide of Pinto's goal. Messi went close again on the hour mark with an angled shot, but a quarter of an hour later he finally found the net, connecting with Adriano's cross to strike home a shot which Guaita couldn't prevent from entering the net. That made it twenty away games without a loss, equalling a record set a quarter of a century ago by Real Sociedad.
Earlier in the evening Villarreal closed to within a point of Valencia after a 1-0 win against regional neighbours Hércules. The home side had not won in four games, but Cazorla and Rossi both went close before Rossi ran on to Cani's through ball with just over twenty minutes gone to shoot past Calatayud and open the scoring. The visiting keeper did well to stop Rossi and Cazorla either side of half time, and Nilmar, Cazorla and Marco Rubén all wasted chances to add to the lead after that. But they were up against a poor Hércules side who had not scored away from home in their last ten games, and the only time Diego López was tested was when substitute Cristian drove in a long shot near the end. The Alicante based side ended the day just a point above the relegation spots.
Sixth placed Athletic Bilbao are now twelve points behind Villarreal though after losing 2-1 at Zaragoza. As usual their starting line-up was made up entirely of Basque players, although for the first time in their 113 years history there was not one player from the local province of Vizcaya. Not that it mattered though as Susaeta hit the post with an early cross before Llorente got on the end of Gabilondo's free kick to force the ball past Doblas with his knee. Ander Herrera (who actually is from Vizcaya and who will be joining Bilbao in the summer) fired a shot over the top though, and three minutes after the restart Jarosik equalised after his first effort was blocked by Ekiza. And seven minutes later Uche dragged Gabi's centre past his marker to run on and score his first goal in almost two years after a long injury lay-off, giving his side three vital points which takes the Maños out of the bottom three once again.
The other three games on Wednesday ended all square, a late goal from new signing Elías giving Atlético Madrid a 1-1 draw at city neighbours Getafe. The two sides are still in the running for the European spots, although both have been struggling since the start of the new year, with only three wins between them. Michel's team got the early advantage though, Manu firing an angled shot in off the crossbar after Miku laid the ball back in only the third minute. De Gea had to be on his toes to keep out Gavilán and Manu later in the first half, although Reyes and Raúl García could have levelled the scores either side of half time before Elías finally saved a point for his side with a well aimed header from Forlán's cross.
A 1-1 draw as well between Real Sociedad and Levante, ex Athletic Bilbao full back Del Horno scoring his second goal of the season against his old rivals to keep the Valencia based team three points above the drop zone. Neither side created too many chances until Griezmann shot wide just before the break. Eight minutes in to the second half though Aranburu won the ball in midfield and slipped the ball through for Zurutuza to steer a low shot past Munúa. That seemed to be enough for a fourth home win in a row until a clearance fell to Del Horno, whose long shot took a slight deflection off Ansotegi to fly past Bravo in to the top corner of the net.
Osasuna and Deportivo stay down in the nether regions of the table after their match ended without goals, the Galicians just three points above the relegation spots and their hosts two points below them. With only 21 goals to their name this season Lotina's side have scored less than anyone, and for the sixth time their long suffering fans had to endure a game without a single goal by either side. To make matters worse Medilibar was missing his two first choice strikers Pandiani and Aranda, and Aranzubia had little to do until he had to save from Nelson midway through the second half. Substitute Kike Sola did hit the post late on, but that was about it. (02.03.11)
The intense league programme continues, with a round of midweek games this week. Espanyol and Mallorca kicked things off on Tuesday evening, with Michael Laudrup's team coming from a goal down to beat the Catalans 1-2. The Islanders could have gone ahead early on when they were awarded a penalty after Jordi Amat tripped Webó, but Kameni dived well to save Chori Castro's spot kick. And soon afterwards youngster Alvaro Vázquez gave the locals the lead, picking up Callejón's through ball to beat Aouate. Callejón and Sergio García went close after that, but Webó had a headed goal disallowed for the positional offside of a colleague, and Kameni had to save again from Ramis before Webó got on the end of a wide Tejera free kick to head home the equaliser. Later in the second half Webó hit the post, and with eight minutes to go Nsue got the winner from close up after Kameni could only push out a shot from Aki Ienaga.
The win keeps Mallorca in the running for a European spot, although they are still four points behind seventh placed Sevilla after the Andalusians beat Sporting Gijón 3-0 later in the evening. Luis Fabiano was an early menace for the visiting defence, bringing a couple of good saves out of Cuéllar before winning himself a penalty after Eguren brought him down in the area. The midfielder was sent off for the challenge, and the Brazilian striker stepped up to convert the spot kick himself. Soon afterwards Fazio headed against the bar, and a few minutes later Perotti made it two with a low volley after Gregory headed away a cross. Twenty minutes in to the second half Negredo scored a third after picking up an assist from Rakitic, and with the Asturians resigned to defeat, the locals could have added to their total late on. (01.03.11)