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Match round-up - First Division, Day 30

Athletic Bilbao are back up to fifth in the table after coming from behind to beat Almería 1-3 in the Monday night game. Piatti gave José Luis Oltra's side the lead early on after picking up a pass from Crusat to beat Iraizoz. But Gurpegui headed wide from a corner before going one better a few minutes later, this time Diego Alves only able to push out his header as far as Muniain, who thrashed home the equaliser. Bernadello and Ulloa went close before the break, but six minutes after the restart Toquera picked up a pass from Llorente and turned past Luna to score. And ten minutes later Orbaiz thundered in a shot from just over the halfway line which went past the keeper so quickly that the cameras were only able to pick up the ball as it was coming back out of the net. It signalled another defeat for the locals who are now three points adrift at the bottom of the table, and Oltra's job is now hanging by a thread just four months or so after he took over from Juanma Lillo. (04.04.11)

With the top four all playing on Saturday, the Sunday games featured teams vying for the three Europa League spots. Sevilla moved up to the first of those spots, beating Zaragoza 3-1 thanks in part to two second half penalties. The Andalusians dominated the opening minutes, with Leo Franco having to make a couple of good saves from Negredo and Rakitic, and Kanouté and Negredo going close. With two minutes to go to the break Perotti got on the end of a Navas cross to give the locals the lead, but Jarosik headed the equaliser from Gabi's wide free kick soon after the restart. Kanouté restored the lead from the penalty spot though after Ponzio pushed over Cáceres, and Sevilla could have scored again before Negredo completed the scoring with a second penalty after Da Silva tripped the striker in the area with the game already in injury time.

Espanyol drop to sixth after a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Racing Santander earlier in the evening. The Catalans have been off form recently, but they must be wondering how they lost this one after controlling the game for so long. Callejón caused some problems for Toño and his defence in the first half with two or three free kicks, and eight minutes before the interval they went ahead with an Osvaldo penalty after Cisma handled Luis García's high cross in the area. Five minutes after the restart though the Cantabrians equalised in their first real attack of the game, Colsa finishing off after Henrique headed the ball back in to the area following a corner. And although Espanyol tried without too much success to restore the lead, the visitors won it when Giovani got enough of a header on the ball to take it over Kameni after Lacen played a corner back in to the goalmouth.

Atlético Madrid are now only one point behind the Catalans after beating Osasuna 2-3 in the last match of the evening. Diego Costa took advantage of a rare start to score a hat-trick in a 25 minute period either side of half time, but before that Quique's side had suffered, De Gea having to make a triple save from Soriano before Kike Sola got on the end of Cejudo's cross to volley a shot past the keeper on the half hour mark. Costa ran on to Juanfran's through ball to equalise though before the break, and Ricardo made a good save from Reyes before Costa added two more in two minute period a quarter of an hour in to the second half. Reyes should have scored a fourth when the keeper saved his penalty kick after Monreal brought him down, but Nekounam converted another penalty late on after tiago handled in the area to set up a nail biting finish.

The battle to avoid relegation is hotting up, and Hércules showed they are not down and out just yet after a 1-3 victory at Real Sociedad. The Alicante side were under new management after Miroslav Djukic took over from Esteban Vigo earlier in the week, and they matched their opponents for chances in the first half. And with twenty minutes to go Portillo got on the end of Kiko's cross to head past Claudio Bravo, his team's first away goal in over one thousand minutes of football. After that the reinstated Drenthe added two more with good runs before Ifran got a late consolation for the Basque side.

Hércules are now level with Málaga after the Andalusians lost 3-1 at Levante. In the absence of the injured Caicedo, Stuani took up the mantel, and with five minutes on the clock he ran on to a Rubén Suárez pass to score. And three minutes later Rubén himself headed the second after a mix-up between Caballero and Eliseu gifted the ball to Valdo. Both keepers were in action later in the first half, but a quarter of an hour after the restart Sebas got one back for the visitors. However Stuani was there again ten minutes later to restore the two goal cushion and take his team safely up to ninth in the table.

Zaragoza's defeat leaves them just a point above the drop zone, but Deportivo moved four points clear after coming from behind to beat Mallorca 2-1. Webó headed the Islanders in to a first half lead from Martí's cross. But Valerón came on at the break to mastermind the turn-around, setting up goals for Xisco and Lassad. Riki, Lopo and Adrián could all have added to the lead after that, but Depor had already done enough for a much needed win. It was too much though for Webó, who was sent off in the last minute after an off the ball incident with Rubén Pérez. (03.04.11)

One of the biggest surprises of the season on Saturday, with Real Madrid virtually handing the title to Barcelona after a 0-1 defeat at home to Sporting Gijón. Missing several key players, Madrid never really got going, although things could have been different had the referee not ruled out a first minute strike by Carvalho, deciding that the ball had gone out of play in the build up. After that though the only chances in the first half were a couple of efforts off target from Di María and Khedira, with André Castro and Novo replying for the visitors. After the break Juan Pablo did well to keep out Özil, Di María and substitute Higuaín, but with twelve minutes to go a quick passing move by the Asturians ended with De las Cuevas turning a shot in off Casillas's near post. Madrid threw everything forward after that, but Juan Pablo and his defence held firm to end Mourinho's incredible nine year run of 150 home league games without defeat.

Later in the evening Barcelona themselves beat Villarreal 0-1 to extend the gap at the top to eight points. Guardiola too was forced to put out a weakened side, and only a couple of magnificent saves from Víctor Valdés prevented Rossi from opening the scoring early on. Barça's first effort at goal didn't come until shortly before half time, Diego López comfortably collecting Adriano's long shot. The visitors picked up the pace after the restart though, the local keeper doing well to save from Iniesta and Afellay, and Thiago and Villa going close. And midway through the second half Piqué finally beat Diego from near to goal after Busquets headed on a corner, the referee giving the defender the benefit of the doubt for a possible hand ball in the play. Soon afterwards substitute Messi came close to a second with a free kick which Diego pushed clear, but in the end it was Valdés who made sure of the three points for his team with the save of the night from Cazorla.

Villarreal drop back down to fourth after Valencia won 2-4 at Getafe to move back above them in the table. Michel's side had not won in seven games, but they took the lead in the twelfth minute when Mosquera laid the ball back with his heel to Manu, who curled a shot wide of César. Manu tested the keeper again a few minutes later, but Jonas and Soldado brought good saves out of Ustari at the other end, and just a minute in to the second half Mata slipped the ball through for Soldado to level the scores. That was just the beginning though, and the ex Getafe striker scored three more in the next half an hour against his old side to sink them further down in the table. Young substitute Adrian Sardinero did get a late second consolation for the locals after Manu set him up, but by then there were few fans left in the ground to see it. (02.04.11)