Valencia go in to the winter break in third spot after a 2-0 win over Málaga on Sunday evening. Soldado scored a goal in each half to send another message to Del Bosque that he is the man to step in for the injured David Villa in the Spanish squad, the first after Jonas put him through, and the second with an impressive volley from Jordi Alba's cross. The game had been fairly even before the first goal, with Rondón and Banega firing shots over the top, and later on Isco and substitute Van Nistelrooy both put Diego Alves to the test. Soldado made the difference though, and the striker could have completed his hat-trick had he not lobbed a shot wide when free in front of Caballero near the end. A good win though to open the gap on city rivals Levante to four points, and Málaga drop out of the European spots having only taken one point from their last three games.
Levante do stay in fourth place however despite a 2-1 defeat at Granada. The Andalusians took the lead ten minutes before the break, Siqueira converting a penalty after Barkero blocked Abel's wide free kick with his arm. Nyom had to clear off his own line a few minutes later after a defender deflected Koné's cross towards goal, but with the first half coming to a close Abel made it two after Ighalo's shot came back off the upright. A quarter of an hour in to the second half Koné headed one back from a Rubén Suárez corner, but Munúa had to keep out a long shot from Mikel Rico, and Nano blocked a header from Ighalo with the keeper beaten. The last chances fell to the visitors though, and Ballesteros came close to saving a point when he hit the foot of the post with a long shot near the end.
Osasuna moved up to fifth in the table, now only four points behind Levante, after they came back from a goal down to beat Villarreal 2-1. Andrés had to be on his toes to keep out an early Valero free kick, but otherwise the local keeper had little work to do, and the locals could have taken the lead when Diego López could only parry a long shot from Lamah, Nino putting the rebound wide. Nekounam rattled the crossbar with another long shot soon after the restart, but with just over an hour gone Marco Rubén got on the end of a Cani cross to slide the ball past Andrés. Ibrahima levelled the scores soon afterwards though after Lamah's cross came to him off a defender, and Sergio headed the winner from Timor's corner with ten minutes left on the clock.
Atlético Madrid lose more ground on the teams above them however, the Colchoneros now five points away from the top six after they lost 0-2 to Betis on Sunday lunchtime. Defending an unbeaten home record, the locals had the better of the first half, with Falcao putting two early chances wide and Casto making a couple of good saves from Arda Turan. But ten minutes in to the second half Pozuelo picked up a cross from Rubén Castro, and as Domínguez lost his footing the youngster went past him to open the scoring. A few minutes later Pozuelo was sent off for a second bookable offence after blocking the ball with his arms, and Atleti went for broke. But Casto made a great save from Adrián as his defence held fast, and in the last minute Santa Cruz wrapped things up, getting past Juanfran to score after his first shot came back off the bar. The win takes Betis level with their opponents in the table, and Gregorio Manzano is looking ever more likely to be the next coach to join Spain's long unemployment queue.
Down in the lower reaches of the table, Racing Santander stay in next to bottom spot after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Real Sociedad. Despite the result both teams had their chances, Bravo doing well to save from Alvaro and Adrián González, Griezmann hitting the post, and Toño having to keep out Griezmann and Vela before the interval. Eight minutes after the restart the Basque side were left with ten men after Iñigo Martínez was sent off for a second bookable offence, but the locals were unable to take advantage, their only real chance coming when a long cross from Alvaro bounced off the crossbar. And in the end it was the visitors who came closest to winning it, the active Griezmann going close a couple of times and Ifrán almost catching out Toño with a long shot in the dying minutes. (18.12.11)
Real Madrid bounced back from last weekend's defeat against Barcelona with a resounding 2-6 victory at Sevilla on Saturday evening. Benzema and Di María both brought saves out of Javi Varas before Cristiano Ronaldo beat him with an angled shot to open the scoring in the tenth minute. Casillas pushed a shot from Manu on to the post and then kept out another effort from Trochowski, but Callejón got on the end of a long ball from Di María to make it two, and Ronaldo scored a third with an unstoppable shot from outside of the area a few minutes later. Pepe was sent off though shortly before half time after picking up a second booking for a foul on Negredo, but although Callejón was taken off to make room for Albiol, Di María latched on to Benzema's pass to score a fourth soon after the restart. Jesús Navas pulled one back for the hosts, but numbers were evened up when Manu was also sent off, and Ronaldo completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Benzema was brought down a few minutes later. Substitute Altintop made it six near the end after connecting with a return pass from Xabi Alonso, and Negredo scored a second for the Andalusians in injury time for a repeat of last season's scoreline. The result takes Madrid back to the top of the table for the year end, once more three points clear of their eternal rivals.
Earlier in the evening Espanyol beat Sporting Gijón 1-2 to move up to seventh, now just a point behind Sevilla and Málaga in the table. The Catalans took the lead in only the second minute, Thievy picking up a pass from Sergio García and turning past his marker before beating Juan Pablo with an angled shot. The local keeper had to save from Thievy, García and Galán after that, but his opposite number Cristian alvarez did well to tip over a shot from De las Cuevas, and another effort from André Castro hit Barral as it was going in. After the restart Barral equalised from a De las Cuevas corner, but Sergio García restored the lead with an impressive volley after Verdú had headed on Didac's lifted pass. The defeat leaves the Asturians further down in the bottom three.
Athletic Bilbao stay just two points behind Espanyol after a 2-1 victory over bottom club Zaragoza, their first home win in four games. The Basque side have struggled against the lower ranked teams this season, but Susaeta brought a couple of good saves out of Roberto before he ran through from midfield to open the scoring in the seventh minute. Midway through the first half referee Pérez Montero awarded the visitors a penalty and sent off Javi Martínez for bringing down Lafita, even though the midfielder-turned-defender had played the ball first, and Ponzio stepped up to level the scores from the penalty spot. But numbers were evened up when the referee sent off Lanzaro for a rather harsh second yellow card, and a few minutes later De Marcos got the ball in the net only for his strike to be ruled out for a questionable offside. A draw seemed to be on the cards however until four minutes from the end, when Toquero got on the end of a De Marcos cross to force home the winner and hand Javier Aguirre's side their fifth defeat in a row.
Further down the rankings Getafe move away from the danger zone after a 1-2 win at Mallorca, their first victory away from home in the whole of the year. Ramis headed the locals in to the lead from Pereira's corner in the tenth minute, but a quarter of an hour later Abdel Barrera equalised with a shot which took a deflection off a defender following a Pedro Rios cross. Chori Castro tested Moyà a few minutes later, but with the first half coming to an end Abdel scored his second of the evening after Ríos and Miku combined to set him up. With rain falling in the second half, Ríos fired an impressive shot against the upright, and Moyà kept out Castro again, but in the end the visitors held on for a win which takes them a point above their opponents in the table. (17.12.11)