A great start for Abel Resino, a 2-1 victory over regional neighbours Málaga in the Monday night game giving the new Granada coach a second win in a row since he took over from Fabri two weeks ago. Results earlier in the weekend had left the Andalusians back in the bottom three, and they were up against difficult opponents who needed a win to get them back up to the European spots. The match got off to a lively start, Maresca shooting over the top, and Mikel Rico replying for the locals with a header which Caballero did well to keep out. Buonanotte had a penalty appeal turned down and Demichelis saw Julio César tip his header over the bar, and Martins kept Caballero on his toes with a couple of long shots either side of half time. With just under an hour on the clock Ighalo headed Granada in to the lead from a Mikel Rico cross, but Rondón equalised soon afterwards after Seba Fernández and Monreal combined to set him up. Iñigo López got the winner though with ten minutes to go after Caballero could only push out a long shot from Siqueira, and a frustrated Demichelis left Pellegrini's side with ten men for the last few minutes when he was sent off for a hard tackle on new signing Henrique. (06.02.12)
With the teams above them all failing to win, Atlético Madrid started their match against third placed Valencia on Sunday night knowing that a victory would take them up to fourth. In the end however they will have to settle for seventh spot after the game ended 0-0. The team have shown a new lease of life since Simeone took over four weeks ago, and Adrián brought an early save out of Diego Alves with a well aimed header. Piatti responded with a long shot which Courtois kept out, but Falcao and Gabi went close either side of half time, and Rami somehow cleared an angled shot from Falcao off the line with the keeper beaten. Jordi Alba and Diego tried their luck at either end after that, but in the end both teams had to settle for a point. A good result for Emery's side though against a possible direct rival for the Champions League places come the end of the season.
Other than the top two, the European spots are wide open, with only four points separating fourth placed Levante from ninth placed Osasuna, who picked up another point in a 1-1 draw at Sporting Gijón on Sunday lunchtime. The Asturians had changed their coach midweek hoping to turn around their fortunes, with Tejada taking over from his boss Manolo Preciado. For a while they dominated, Cases missing a good chance and Andrés having to save from André Castro before Carmelo got on the end of Canella's cross to open the scoring. Mendilibar brought on Nino at the break however, and he caused a few problems for Juan Pablo from the off. André had to save from De las Cuevas and Gregory headed the resulting corner just wide, but a few minutes later Lekic got on the end of Marc Bertrán's cross to head the equaliser. Not the result Tejada wanted, and Sporting slip further down in to the drop zone.
Sevilla should be battling for the top six as well, although a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Villarreal left them down in the bottom half of the table. The visitors needed points to get out of the relegation spots, and Borja Valero gave them the lead after getting on the end of Angel's cross midway through the first half. Both keepers made some excellent saves, Javi Varas in particular making a triple stop following a Valero free kick, and Diego López responding by tipping a Kanouté header over the bar. With ten minutes to go to the break the Andalusians equalised, Bruno turning a Jesús Navas cross past his own keeper. But Molina's side could have restored the lead with efforts either side of half time, Varas saving from Joselu and Valero, and Musacchio firing a shot against the post. Diego López had to be at his best to keep out another header from Negredo, but a few minutes later Camuñas fired home what was to prove the winner after Cani laid the ball across. It was a fifth game in a row without a win for Sevilla, and coach Marcelino may soon be on his way if things don't improve quickly.
Villarreal's win means that bottom club Zaragoza are now ten points away from safety after they lost 1-2 to Rayo Vallecano, and with half of the season yet to go they are already looking doomed. Once again though they started well, and Postiga went close a couple of times before beating Rayo's new keeper Joel with an acrobatic scissors kick. But after the restart Postiga and Aranda were unable to add to the scoreline, and with a quarter of an hour to go it was another of Rayo's new on-loan signings from Atlético Madrid, Diego Costa, who levelled the scores with a well directed header from Casado's cross. Lafita tested Joel from long range a few minutes later, but play went up the other end and Michu latched on to yet another Casado centre to fire home the winner. For the third match in a row Zaragoza had thrown things away after taking the lead, and their demoralized players had to be consoled by coach Manolo Jiménez as they trudged off the pitch at the end. (05.02.12)
Real Madrid kept up the pressure on Barcelona with a 0-1 victory at neighbours Getafe on Saturday. Luis García's side had already beaten Barcelona in the Alfonso Pérez stadium, and Abdel could have scored when he fire a shot over the bar in the first minute. A quarter of an hour later though Sergio Ramos got on the end of Özil's corner to head past Moyà, and Madrid were in front. Kaká and Benzema went close, and Moyà had to be on his toes to save a Ronaldo free kick, but the locals replied with a header from Miku which Valera just couldn't turn in to the net. After the restart Benzema brought another good save out of Moyà, but Pepe was very fortunate to be let off a penalty appeal when he blocked Diego Costas's shot with his arm. Otherwise though Getafe hardly troubled Casillas in the whole of the second half, and Higuaín could have added to the scoreline had Moyà not pulled off another great stop near the end. Six league wins in a row now for Mourinho's team, and with Barcelona playing later in the evening, the gap at the top has opened up to ten points.
That was back to seven though later in the evening after Barcelona beat Real Sociedad 2-1. With league and cup games coming in quick succession, Guardiola freshened up his side with players from the B team. And it was one of the young talents who opened the scoring early on, Tello running on to Messi's through ball to clip a shot past Bravo in the ninth minute. Messi had come up against the visiting keeper before that, and he and Thiago both tested him again later in the first half, and Fàbregas and Alves both failed to hit the target before the break. Real's only chance in the first half came early on when Valdés saved well from Ifrán, and the local number one was in action soon after the interval to keep out Griezmann. Messi should have scored after that two or three times, and in another incident Cuenca hit the bar and Tello's follow up hit Dani Alves in an offside position on its way in to the net. Eventually Messi did get his name on the scoresheet, but two minutes later Carlos Vela scored at the other end, and there were some nervous moments before the referee finally blew the whistle to end the game.
Levante stay in fourth place despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Racing Santander earlier in the day. José Ignacio Martínez's side had not won in 2012, and once again the early chances fell to the visitors, with Munitis in particular firing a shot over the top. Midway through the first half the locals took the lead when El Zhar and Xavi Torres combined to set up Koné for him to head in on the far post, and before the half time whistle Koné and Botelho both brought good saves out of Mario Fernández, who had stepped in for the suspended Toño. With an hour on the clock Arana equalised with a first time shot from the edge of the area after Adrián González played back a long cross. Levante came back, Alvaro lucky to be let off a penalty appeal when he blocked a cross with his hands, Valdo firing the rebound over the top. But even with new signing Ghezzal on the park the locals couldn't break through, and Racing held on for another valuable point in their fight to avoid the drop.
Sixth placed Athletic Bilbao and fifth placed Espanyol could both of taken over fourth spot had they been able to win, but in the end they stayed where they were pending the rest of the weekend's games after a thrilling 3-3 draw. Llorente had a headed strike disallowed for what the referee considered was a previous foul, but a few minutes later De Marcos battled through to open the scoring. Iraizoz saved from Héctor Moreno at the other end however, and soon afterwards Romaric equalised after latching on to a square pass from Weiss. Before half time Moreno headed the ball in to the net from Verdú's cross only for the referee to rule it out for a questionable offside, and a couple of minutes after the restart Weiss put the visitors ahead with a spectacular shot from outside of the area. Athletic came back with headed goals by Llorente and Javi Martínez, the first from Susaeta's free kick and the second from a centre by Ander, and Susaeta hit the post minutes later. But with the game in the second minute of injury time Kalu Uche played Didac's pass over the top for Albín to crash a shot in off the crossbar. A point apiece in the end, and on this form both teams are likely to be up there when the season ends.
It was a day for cold weather in Spain, and ground staff had to remove snow from the pitch at Mallorca before the kick off of the game against Betis. In the end the match went ahead, although the conditions made play difficult, and Casto almost allowed Hemed's shot past him early on. The keeper did well to save from Pereira a few minutes later, but midway through the first half he could do nothing when Chori Castro curled a wide free kick in off the far post for what was to prove the only goal of the game. Víctor and Pina went close either side of half time, and Casto had to tip a Ramis header over the bar later in the second half. But after that the main talking points were the red cards, Mario getting his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card, and Ramis and Víctor Casadesús following him down the tunnel later on for the same reason.1-0 to Mallorca though, and they move above their opponents to twelfth place as a result. (04.02.12)