Espanyol are up to sixth in the table after a 1-0 victory over Betis on Thursday evening. The Catalans have won their last three games by a single goal, and they find themselves in the Europa League spots after only scoring eight goals in their first nine matches. The two keepers were the stars of the match, Cristian Alvarez saving from Beñat, Cañas and Santa Cruz in the first half, and Casto keeping out Javi Márquez, Verdú and Alvaro Vázquez. After the break Vázquez came up against the visiting keeper again a couple of times, and Sergio García headed against the upright. With twenty minutes to go though Pochettino brought on Walter "The Rifle" Pandiani, and just five minutes later he got on the end of Didac's cross to head home the winner. A fifth defeat in a row for Betis, and their good form at the start of the season is now distant history.
Later in the evening Athletic Bilbao beat Atlético Madrid 3-0 to move up above their opponents to eighth place. There was an initial flurry from the visitors, with Reyes, Falcao and Filipe Luis bearing down on Iraizoz's goal, but after that nothing from a side who have yet to score away from home in the league. Courtois did well to tip a shot from Llorente over the top later in the first half, and De Marcos tried his luck on a couple of occasions either side of half time before setting up Llorente for a shot which deflected in to the net off Filipe Luis. That opened the floodgates, and in the next eight minutes Athletic added two more, Toquero crossing in for Llorente to head his second of the evening and then scoring himself from Ander's wide free kick. A seventh game for Atlético without a win, and Manzano may soon be history if he can't get things back on track. (27.10.11)
Levante are not going to give up their top spot without a fight, and they will be there for another few days at least after coming from behind to beat Real Sociedad 3-2 on Wednesday night. Estrada put the visitors ahead in only the third minute after Munúa's clearance from an Aranburu cross fell to him, and in the next five minutes Griezmann forced the keeper in to a good save and De la Bella fired a shot against the bar. Barkero tried his luck a couple of times for the locals, but with the first half coming to a close Real could have gone further in front when Estrada headed against the bar. That was it for the visitors though, and soon after the restart Nano equalised with more than a bit of luck, his shot from wide on the right taking a deflection off the boot of Demidov to loop over Claudio Bravo in to the net. Five minutes later Valdo steered a header in to the net from Barkero's cross, and although Iñigo Martínez equalised near the end, Rubén Suárez won it with an impressive free kick in the third minute of injury time. The dream lives on!
Levante stay a point ahead of Real Madrid, who beat a struggling Villarreal 3-0 later in the evening to at least climb back above Barcelona to second spot. All the goals came in the first half hour, Benzema opening the scoring in the fifth minute after controlling a long ball from Di María on his chest before turning a shot past Diego López. Kaká made it two with a left footed shot after picking up another assist from Di María, and after Benzema headed straight at the keeper, Di María ran on to a Benzema pass following a quick breakaway to score the third. Before the break Ronaldo felt he should have had a penalty when his free kick hit a defenders arm in the defensive wall, and although the locals slowed the game down after the restart, Arbeloa could have added to the lead later on. With results elsewhere going against them Villarreal drop in to the relegation zone, and coach Juan Carlos Garrido is in big trouble. His woes were compounded when Rossi went off with a serious knee injury, and with Nilmar out as well, his hopes of turning things round are looking slim.
Sporting Gijón move above Villarreal after a 1-2 victory at Mallorca, a second win in a row for Manuel Preciado's side after failing to take the three points in any of their first seven games. The home team got off to the better start, Nsue going close a couple of times before Pereira chipped over for Chori Castro to head in on the far post with quarter of an hour gone. Barral got himself in to trouble shortly before half time after the locals had put the ball out of play for an injured player to be attended to, the striker trying to lob the keeper rather than return the ball to his opponents, and Preciado replaced him at the break with Bilic, who equalised within four minutes of the restart from Lora's cross. A few minutes later Joao Víctor turned a De las Cuevas cross in to his own net, and although Pina hit the post later on there was no way back for Caparrós's side.
Valencia returned to the Champions League spots after a 0-1 victory at Zaragoza, although the match had little to recommend it throughout the ninety minutes. Only a couple of shots off target in the first half from Ponzio and Dani Parejo, and the first time either keeper was in action was when Roberto saved a deflected free kick from Banega early on in the second half. The only goal came eight minutes from the end when Bruno chipped a speculative pass in to the box and Jordi Alba got ahead of the keeper to hook the ball in to the net, and Guaita didn't see any action until his own defender Dealbert almost turned the ball past him near the end. Soldado did come close to a second with a spectacular overhead kick, but Roberto was standing right in his way.
Rayo Vallecano are up to seventh, now only a point behind Málaga after beating the Andalusians 2-0. Tamudo brought a good save out of Willy Caballero before Botelho headed in Piti's corner in the seventh minute. And with eight minutes to go to the break the visitors were left with ten men when Eliseu caught Lass with a flying elbow, the forward appearing to exaggerate the level of contact to convince referee Ayza Gámez. Rayo continued to attack after the interval, Michu hitting the post and Willy having to save from Dani Pacheco soon afterwards. Málaga's only reply was a header from Van Nistelrooy which bounced over the crossbar, and with twenty minute to go Tamudo controlled a chipped pass from Trashorras to score his side's second. A third defeat in a row for Pelegrini's side, and they lose out on the European spots as a result.
Osasuna are just a point behind Rayo after they held Getafe to a 2-2 draw in the Alfonso Pérez Coliseum. Ibrahima twice put the visitors ahead, the first in the seventh minute with a looping header from a Raúl García cross, local keeper Moyà slipping on the grass as he changed direction to try and save. Diego Castro went close a couple of times before the break, and soon after the restart Abdel came up against Andrés before second half substitute Güiza levelled the scores with a shot from the edge of the area. Ibrahima headed the Pamplona based side back in to the lead four minutes later, and came close to completing a hat-trick minutes later with another header just off target. But Güiza struck again ten minutes later with a header from a Miguel Torres cross to save a point for his side. "The Archer" is back, and Getafe really need him right now! (26.10.11)
Barcelona kicked off the midweek round of games with a 0-1 victory at Granada, a result which takes them to top spot in the table pending the rest of the midweek matches. Once again though Guardiola's side had problems scoring against an ultra-defensive line up, and the only goal came when Xavi beat Roberto with a well struck free kick with just over half an hour on the clock. Up to that point Messi, Pedro, Abidal and young debutant Isaac Cuenca had all created work for Roberto in the local goal, whereas Víctor Valdés was a mere spectator at the other end. Eight minutes after the restart the locals were left with ten men when Jaime Romero picked up a second booking, but even then Barça couldn't score, Mainz clearing a shot from Messi off the line with Roberto beaten, and Cuenca coming up against the keeper once again. With the game in injury time Dani Benítez also got himself sent off after picking up a petulant second yellow card, but Barça still played safe to ensure the three points. After all, that's what counts in the end.
Later in the evening Sevilla were almost caught out by Racing Santander, and only a last minute header from Manu del Moral saved a 2-2 draw. Manu had opened the scoring late on in the first half, heading in a Campaña free kick, and Toño had to be on his toes to keep out a Spahic header before the break. Jairo put a good chance over the top though, and with just over an hour gone Ariel got on the end of an Adrián González cross to level the scores. Now Racing were on top, and six minutes later Diop put Jairo through to give the Cantabrians the lead. It looked like all their hard work in the Nou Camp at the weekend was going to be undone until Manu appeared again to head Rakitic's cross past Toño. A point saved, but against a team languishing down in the relegation spots they must have expected to do better. (25.10.11)