A vital win for Zaragoza in the Monday night game, a 1-0 victory over bottom club Almería taking the Maños out of the relegation spots. Javier Aguirre's side could have won by a bigger scoreline though, with Braulio in particular bringing a couple of good saves out of Diego Alves and Pellerano clearing off the line from Diogo before the break. Luna headed another effort from Da Silva off the line after the restart, and substitute Sinama-Pongolle hit the post. However when the goal came it was the utmost fortune, Gabi's long shot coming back off the post and rebounding in to the net off the back of Alves. Gabi almost sneaked another after that, but in the end the visitors could have saved a point, Doblas tipping a Carlos García header on to the bar and Da Silva clearing a Piatti lob off the line with the keeper beaten. Zaragoza ended with ten men when Ander was sent off for a tackle from behind on an opponent, but the final whistle went a couple of minutes later. (25.04.11)
Sevilla kept alive their hopes of a Champions League spot with a 3-2 victory over fourth placed Villarreal in the last match on Sunday night. With only a quarter of an hour on the clock the Andalusians were already two up, Rakitic beating Diego López with a well struck free kick and Negredo lobbing the keeper after getting ahead of Català to latch on to Perotti's cross. Marchena got one back after Català set him up ten minutes after the restart, but Romaric restored the two goal cushion after running on to Negredo's headed pass on the hour mark. It proved to be just enough to keep them in sixth spot, eight points behind their opponents in the table, although there were some nervous moments as Rossi scored a second for the visitors after a quick passing move and then hit the post soon afterwards.
Atlético Madrid are level with Sevilla on points after beating Levante 4-1 earlier in the evening. Elías opened the scoring with an impressive free kick in the eighteenth minute, but scores were level at the break after Caicedo was fouled in the area by Mario Suárez and converted the resulting spot kick. Only a great save from De Gea prevented Jefferson from putting the visitors ahead a couple of minutes after the restart, but almost immediately play went up the other end and Agüero latched on to a loose ball after his first effort was blocked to drill a shot past Munúa. Twenty minutes later Agüero scored his second of the night from the penalty spot after Ballesteros tripped Diego Costa, and Raúl García rounded things off with a near post header from an Elías corner which Munúa turned in to his own net.
Espanyol are now four points off the Europa League spots after a 1-0 defeat at Sporting Gijón. It was an emotive day for coach Manuel Preciado after his father died shortly before the match, and the players dedicated to him a win which virtually ensures their salvation for another year. Chances fell to both sides before the break, Juan Pablo punching up a long shot from Luis García and Kameni saving well from Diego Castro, and Osvaldo brought another good save out of the local keeper from a second half header. With twenty minutes to go though Raúl Rodríguez could only head back a long cross from José Angel, and Nacho Novo picked up the ball on the far post to score what was to prove the only goal of the game.
Sporting's win takes them on to a fairly safe 41 points, but with five games to go the nine teams below them are all still in danger of going down. Getafe for example (currently the subject of a Middle East take over bid) ended the day just four points off the bottom three pending Monday's match between Zaragoza and Almería after a 2-0 defeat at Mallorca. Michael Laudrup's side dominated throughout, Ustari having to make two or three saves from Nsue and Webó before the unmarked Nunes headed in Tejera's corner in the 25th minute. Aouate was tested for the first time by Pedro Ríos after the interval, but midway through the second half Aki got on the end of another Martí corner to head home the second and take his side up to ninth in the table.
Deportivo are only a point above Getafe after a 1-0 defeat at Hércules, and with Atlético, Barcelona and Valencia to play in their last five games they are by no means safe. The Alicante based team themselves desperately needed points to escape the drop zone, and the game got off to a nervous start, with neither side really creating clear cut chances in the first half. Early in the second half though Thiago Gomes tested Aranzubia with a long shot, and with an hour on the clock the Portuguese midfielder ran in from behind to head in Kiko Femenía's cross following a rapid counterattack. Lotina reacted bringing on Adrián, who managed a couple of timid shots at goal, but Trézéguet should have put the result beyond doubt when he shot wide with the goal at his mercy later on.
Hércules will remain in the relegation zone for another week or so though after Málaga beat Racing Santander 1-2 to stay three points above them in the table. The early chances fell to Rosenberg and Giovani, but Rondón hit the bar at the other end, and with half an hour gone Baptista picked up the ball outside of the area and fired an unstoppable shot in to the top corner of the net. Just three minutes later Seba Fernández made it two following an overhead pass from Baptista, beating Toño at the second attempt after his first header was saved, and the striker came close to a third goal after the restart. Rosenberg got one back though after good work by young substitute Luque, and Toño almost saved a point late on when he came up for a corner. It was not to be though, and Racing are now only a point above the Andalusians in the rankings. (24.04.11)
Barcelona and Real Madrid took a break from their epic four match face-off to play their league matches this weekend, both winning to maintain the eight point gap between them at the top. Real Madrid kicked off first at Valencia, Mourinho seemingly abandoning the league by making nine changes from his cup final line up. Nothing could have been further than the truth though, the big-money front three of Benzema, Higuaín and Kaká sharing six goals between them as they thrashed the third placed side 3-6. By half time they were already four up, Benzema opening the scoring midway through the first half after Guaita failed to cut out Higuaín's cross. A few minutes later Higuaín took advantage of slack defending to squeeze between Mathieu and the keeper to make it two, and the "trident" combined twice more to set up goals for Kaká and Higuaín before the break. Higuaín completed his hat-trick soon after the restart, and although Soldado got one back from a Jonas assist, Kaká completed the "set" soon afterwards. Madrid eventually too their foot off the gas, allowing Jonas and Jordi Alba to save some pride for the locals, but many fans had already left by then.
Barcelona do not have Madrid's luxury of a strong bench though, and a tired side struggled at times to beat Osasuna 2-0 later in the evening. Villa, Afellay and Jeffren all failed to take their chances before Villa got on the end of Jeffen's cross to score his first goal in eleven games. However the visitors could have equalised before the break, Nekounam and Vadócz both going close and Valdés pushing an effort from Damià against the post. Guardiola had rested some of his key players for Wednesday's Champions League semi-final, but he had to resort to Iniesta and Messi and Xavi after the restart, and although Iniesta did cause some problems, Messi only wrapped things up for the leaders with three minutes to go. The defeat leaves Osasuna just two points above the drop zone, and they could find themselves in the bottom three if results go against them later this weekend.
The evening finished with the derby game between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad, the first between the two sides in the San Mamés stadium in four years. And Athletic ran out 2-1 winners in the end to consolidate fifth spot and leave their neighbours floundering after a seventh away defeat in a row. With Iraizoz suspended, Raúl Fernández was making his league debut, and the young keeper was in action early on to punch away a dangerous Real attack. But Bravo had to turn a shot from David López round the post soon afterwards, and although the keeper saved Llorente's header from the resulting corner, Muniain reacted quicker than anyone to scramble the ball in to the net. Ten minutes later the locals went two up, Toquero scoring with an angled shot after Llorente set him up, but the visitors replied immediately, Javi Martínez turning Griezmann's cross past his own keeper. Demidov and Martínez both could have scored after the break, but in the end the honours went to Caparrós's side. (23.04.11)