Real Madrid have opened up a five point lead over Barcelona after Guardiola's side were held to a 1-1 draw by city rivals Espanyol in the last match on Sunday evening. Barça's away form this season has been their weak point, and they could have gone behind early on when Valdés pushed out a shot from Verdú, and Piqué cleared his follow up off the line with the keeper beaten. A mistake by Cristian Alvarez could have gifted a goal to the visitors had Messi not controlled the ball with his hand, but with a quarter of an hour on the clock Fàbregas headed in a Dani Alves cross to put Barça ahead. Neither side was able to carve out clear cut chances after that though, and with four minutes to go Thievy header over a Raúl Rodríguez centre for Alvaro Vázquez to head home the equaliser. That set up a frenetic finish, and in the last minute Piqué fired a shot against the bar, and Pedro had a penalty appeal turned down when his follow up shot hit Raúl Rodríguez on the hand. There was still time for Rodríguez to head a corner just over the bar, but the game ended seconds later, much to the delight of the local fans.
Madrid were in fact the only one of the top ten teams to win, third placed Valencia held to a 2-2 draw by their neighbours Villarreal. New coach Molina saw his side race in to a two goal lead with less than twenty minutes on the clock, Marco Rubén picking up a return pass from Nilmar to lift a shot over Diego Alves, and Gonzalo losing his marker to head in a Borja Valero free kick. Four minutes before the break Feghouli headed in Miguel's cross in a move which was reminiscent of beach football, but a couple of minutes later Zapata missed a chance to restore the two goal cushion when he headed over with the goal at his mercy. Valero and Nilmar also brought good saves out of Diego Alves after the restart, but Soldado shot just wide at the other end, and with three minutes to go Aduríz drove home the equaliser after Zapata could only play his previous header back in to his path.
Sevilla stay out of the European spots after they were beaten 2-1 by Rayo Vallecano on Sunday lunchtime. Fazio got the ball in the net early on only to see his strike ruled out incorrectly for offside, and Luna went close a couple of times for the Andalusians after that. However with the first half coming to an end Fazio suddenly ducked under an innocuous long ball from Casado to allow Varas to collect, and the surprised keeper could only push the ball out for Michu to head it back in to the net. Six minutes after the interval Tamudo controlled a long ball from Piti to make it two, and Lass almost scored a third when he got free only to shoot wide. But Escudé got one back after Dani Jiménez could only block a shot from Rakitic, and Negredo came close to saving a point when his shot came back off the bar near the end.
Later in the afternoon Athletic Bilbao drew 0-0 at Getafe, the fourth game to end without goals this weekend. The locals had the better of the first half, with Iraizoz saving from Miku, and Güiza firing a long shot over the top. Miku and Rafa both struck shots over the bar after the break, but Toquero brought a first save out of Moyà, and Aurtenetxe got the ball in the net following a set piece free kick only for have the strike ruled out for offside The best chances though were saved for last, Susaeta hitting the bar and then the post with a shot from a wide angle, and Miku heading against the bar from Abdel's corner near the end.
Betis are back up to the top half of the table after they won 2-0 against Sporting Gijón, who themselves stay in next to bottom spot as a result of the defeat. Juan Pablo had to be at his best to keep out Rubén Castro before Santa Cruz controlled Beñat's pass to open the scoring midway through the first half. Casto had to save from De las Cuevas soon afterwards, but Castro hit the post at the other end in reply. The Asturians were left with ten men just before the break when Lora picked up a second yellow card for a foul on an active Jefferson, but even so Barral went close either side of half time. Juan Pablo had to keep out Castro and Molina after the break however, and with the game already in injury time Molina wrapped things up with his side's second. It was too much for Carmelo, who also got himself sent off for a second yellow card shortly before the final whistle. (08.01.12)
Real Madrid moved six points clear of Barcelona pending their game on Sunday after an easy 5-1 victory over Granada on Saturday evening. Özil flicked on a Cristiano Ronaldo cross to set up Benzema for the opener, and although Mikel Rico headed in Uche's cross to equalise three minutes later, Sergio Ramos restored the lead before the break with a powerful header from Özil's corner. The 5,000 or so travelling fans continued to cheer their side on, but any chance they had of taking something from the Bernabeu stadium ended when Madrid scored twice in the first five minutes of the second half, Higuaín taking advantage of some poor defending to score the third and Benzema collecting a long ball from Özil to make it four. After that Mourinho rested some of his key players for the midweek cup match, but even so Ronaldo completed the "manita" near the end.
Other than that though the other four games on Saturday only produced one goal between them, with Levante holding on to fourth place after drawing 0-0 with Mallorca. Both teams had lost in the cup midweek, and chances were few and far between in a dull first half . After the restart Nsue fired a shot over the bar and Munúa had to make saves from Bigas and Víctor Casadesús, and it was not until midway through the second half that the locals got near Aouate's goal, Xavi Torres shooting over the top and Koné turning in a shot from Del Horno close to goal only for the strike to be ruled out for a narrow offside.
Osasuna stay four points behind Levante after they drew 0-0 at neighbours Real Sociedad. They have Andrés Fernández to thank in large part for the point however, the keeper making saves in the first half from Zurutuza, Cadamuro and Griezmann, with Agirretxe, Vela and Griezmann also going close as the locals dominated the first 45 minutes. Carlos Bravo was hardly troubled in the Real goal, and Andrés was called upon again after the break to keep out Griezmann and Ifrán in particular.
A 0-0 draw as well between Málaga and Atlético Madrid later in the evening, a first point for new coach Diego Simeone who replaced Gregorio Manzano during the winter break. His keeper Courtois was in action early on to save from Buonanotte and Rondón, with Diego crashing a deflected shot against the crossbar in reply. After the restart Falcao had a headed goal ruled out for a previous foul, and Cazorla blocked a Godín header on the line with the keeper beaten. A point apiece in the end though, which takes Málaga back up to the European spots, with Atlético still five points behind them in the table.
Further down the rankings Racing Santander climbed out of the relegation spots after a 1-0 victory against bottom club Zaragoza. Manolo Jiménez was in charge for the first time for the visitors after taking over recently from Javier Aguirre, but his team hardly got going in a first half without too much action. Shortly before the break though Roberto had to tip a dipping shot from Colsa over the bar, and from the resulting Diop corner Bernardo ran in to headwhat was to prove the winning goal. The Maños could have saved a point in the end though had Oriol Riera's shot not come back off the crossbar later on. (07.01.12)