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Match round-up - First Division, Day 31

Zaragoza moved three points clear of the relegation spots after beating Getafe 2-1 in the Monday night game. Ponzio gave the locals the lead in the fourteenth minute, picking the ball up in midfield and running on to fire in a long shot which Ustari got a hand to but couldn't stop from entering the net. The visitors felt they should have had a penalty when Diogo deflected a shot with his arm inside the area, but a few minutes later Uche set up Bertolo for the second. The visitors got one back though on the stroke of half time, Casquero driving the ball back in to the net after a defender had cleared a Colunga header off the line, and Doblas made sure of the three points with a great save from Casquero later on in the second half. The win takes Aguirre's side to within a point of their opponents in the table. (11.04.11)

The big match on Sunday was the clash between regional rivals Valencia and Villarreal, who are competing for the third spot in the league which gives the incumbent automatic access to the Champions League. In the end though it was no contest as the locals ran out 5-0 winners to increase the gap over their rivals to six points. Soldado started things off early on with his fifth goal in eight days, running on to Miguel's pass to beat Diego López. And only a couple of good saves by the visiting keeper prevented the striker from adding more before the break, Pablo also missing an easy chance and Nilmar and Valero testing César at the other end. Ten minutes after the restart though Mata picked up a return pass from Banega to make it two, and Banega himself scored a third after Pablo set him up soon afterwards. César did well to keep out Marco Rubén, but Mata and Soldado added two more in three minutes to make it clear who are the top dogs in the region at the moment. Villarreal are still looking good for the fourth Champions League spot though, Juan Carlos Garrido's side eight points clear of fifth placed Sevilla.

Atlético Madrid are now just a point behind Sevilla after beating Real Sociedad 3-0 earlier in the evening. Quique Flores's side dominated from start to finish, Agüero bringing a good save out of Claudio Bravo before a clever back-heel from Diego Costa set up Filipe Luis to open the scoring. Bravo was in action later in the first half to save from Reyes and Costa, and on the stroke of half time Mario Suárez made it two after a good run by Reyes down the left flank. The pressure continued after the restart, Tiago heading wide and Costa coming up against Bravo once again, but with twelve minutes to go Tiago headed clear a Real corner as far as Agüero, who picked up the ball in his own half and outstripped his markers to score a third. De Gea was finally tested in injury time by an Ifrán free kick, but otherwise the Basque side were poor, and with a difficult run-in to the end of the season they are by no means safe.

Espanyol drop out of the European spots for the first time in almost six months after they were held to a 0-0 draw at Hércules earlier in the evening. The Catalans had lost their last four games away from home, but they came close to taking the lead when Calatayud just got a hand to a clever flick from Osvaldo midway through the first half. Kameni had some problems keeping out Portillo at the other end close to half time, but Espanyol felt themselves unlucky not to go ahead soon after the restart when Osvaldo lifted the ball over the keeper in to the net only for the strike to be ruled out for a non-existent offside. The locals had their chances as well though, the best when Valdez headed Drenthe's cross against the bar, but in the end both sides had to settle for a point which didn't help either of them in their respective objectives.

Hércules stay down in the relegation spots, level on points with Zaragoza (who play Getafe tomorrow) and Málaga, who also drew 0-0 with Deportivo. Pellegrini's side needed a win to climb out of the bottom three, and Rondón went close a couple of times early on. Guardado fired a shot just wide for the visitors, but Portillo brought a good save out of Aranzubia, and Sebas got the ball in the net only for the goal to be ruled out for a foul on the keeper. With a couple of minutes to go though to the break Depor were left with ten men when Laure picked up a second booking, and Lotina was forced to take off Valerón to bring on an extra defender. Even so they had the best chance of the second half, Willy Caballero having to be at his best to keep out a shot from Xisco. A result though which favoured the Galicians rather than their opponents, and they stay five points clear of the drop zone for the time being.

Depor ended the weekend level on points with Real Sociedad and with Osasuna, who lost 1-0 at Sporting Gijón. The Asturians were on a high after their win against Real Madrid last week, although honours were shared in a dull first half, with chances few and far between. Twenty minutes in to the second half though Lolo inexplicably allowed a long pass from substitute Diego Castro through to Barral, who gratefully steered an angled shot wide of Ricardo. Mendilibar threw on all his fire power, but they nearest they came to equalising was when Nekounam headed over later in the second half. An important win for Manolo Preciado's side, and they move safely up to mid-table, now three points clear of their opponents in the rankings.

Levante also appear to be on track for another season in the top flight after a 1-1 draw at Racing Santander. Both teams had chances early on, but the Cantabrians took the lead when Nano headed Cisma's cross over his own keeper with just over half an hour on the clock. A few minutes later Toño produced the save of the night when a defender headed back a Xavi Torres free kick, and Reina responded by keeping out Giovani, Adrián and Pinillos after the restart. But a home win appeared on the cards until the last minute, when Torrejón failed to clear Juanlu's cross and Rafa Jordà took advantage to force a shot past Toño. Another point for Luis García's team, who incredibly have the third best record of the league in the second half of the season. (10.04.11)

No change at the top of the table after Real Madrid and Barcelona both won on Saturday evening. Real Madrid kicked off the weekend with a 0-3 victory at fifth placed Athletic Bilbao, a match which signalled the return of Kaká to the Spanish stage after a long injury lay-off. The Brazilian forward converted two penalties, the first in the twelfth minute after Iraizoz brought down Di María as he advanced in to the area. Higuaín was also making his first start for some time in a much changed line-up, and only a good save from the keeper prevented him from adding a second a few minutes later. Muniain responded for the Basque side with a shot which Casillas kept out, and the visiting keeper was in action again to save headers from Llorente and Javi Martínez either side of half time. But soon afterwards Kaká fired home a second penalty after Castillo pushed over Di María, and Cristiano Ronaldo came on to wrap things up with a third goal later on.

Later in the evening Barcelona beat bottom club Almería 3-1 to maintain the eight point gap at the top pending the meeting between the two La Liga giants next Saturday. Guardiola's team had more problems than expected though against a side who appear to have regained some confidence under new coach Roberto Olabe, and after failing to find a way past a well ordered defence in the first 45 minutes, they fell behind early in the second half when Corona beat Ponto on a rapid counter-attack. Just three minutes later however Messi equalised from the penalty spot after Diego Alves brought down David Villa, and Pedro and Villa both missed chances before Thiago ran in to head a second from Messi's corner. Still it was not over, and the visitors kept themselves in the game until the second minute of injury time, when Marcelo Silva allowed Messi to pick up Keita's long clearance and run on to score a third.

Athletic's defeat means Sevilla are now fifth after a 2-2 draw at Mallorca in the last match on Saturday. Aki Ienaga opened his account for the islanders, the Japanese forward running in to head a Chori Castro cross wide of Javi Varas with just over a quarter of an hour gone. Fifteen minutes later Negredo equalised from the penalty spot after he was brought down from behind by Ramis, but De Guzmán restored the lead with a low shot from outside of the area just before the interval. The Andalusians came out strongly after the restart, Aouate pushing a shot from Diego Capel round the post and Negredo missing a couple of easy headers. But midway through the second half Aouate spilled a cross from Martín Cáceres in to the path of Rakitic, who drilled the rebound past the keeper to level the scores once again. (09.04.11)