Villarreal's brief revival under new coach Molina has stuttered recently, and they ended the weekend just three points away from the relegation spots after 1-2 defeat against Getafe in the Monday night game. Within five minutes they were behind, Miku turning the ball across for Diego Castro to score after a good run by Abdel Barrada down the right wing. A few minutes later Moyà saved a Borja Valero penalty after Michel had fouled Jaume Costa in the area, and Marcos Senna fired a free kick against the crossbar before Nilmar converted a second penalty after Cata Díaz had brought down Nilmar himself on the stroke of half time. But after the restart Diego López had to save from Miku and Mané, and with twenty minutes to go Pedro León played on Diego Castro's cross for Abdel to poke a shot past the local keeper. A much needed win for Luis García's side, and they move five points clear of their hosts as a result. (12.03.12)
No change in the ten point gap at the top of the table after Barcelona won 0-2 at Racing Santander on Sunday. Fresh from their 7-1 thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen, Guardiola's side dominated from start to finish, with Pedro shooting wide, Iniesta hitting the bar, and second choice keeper Mario (replacing the suspended Toño) saving from Messi and Fàbregas before Xavi and Fàbregas combined to set up Messi for the opener. Soon after the restart Mario kept out Messi and Cuenca, and ten minutes in to the second half Messi got his second of the night and his seventh of the week (!) from the penalty spot after Cisma pulled back Fàbregas. Cuenca hit the post and Mario had to make a couple more saves from Messi and Pedro as Barça came looking for the third, and the only time that Valdés got a close look at the ball was when Adrián ran a rebound in to the net only to be pulled up for offside. Racing stay in the relegation spots, and on this showing new coach Alvaro Cervera has a lot of work to do if he is to keep them up.
Barça are now sixteen points clear of Valencia, who threw away a two goal lead and ended up drawing 2-2 against Mallorca. The Ches are losing their grip on third spot after only winning one of their last four league games, although they stay four points above fourth placed Málaga after other results this weekend went in their favour. It was as they say though a game of two parts, with the locals dominating the first 45 minutes. Aouate had to be at his best to keep out Soldado, Tino Costa hit the bar with a free kick and Chico cleared off the line from Aduríz before Tino Costa opened the scoring with a shot which Nunes deflected past his own keeper. Guaita had to be his toes to keep out a Sergio Tejera free kick, but a few minutes later Aouate only cleared a poor Tejera back pass in to the path of Aduríz for him to score the second. After the break though Mallorca came back, Nsue latching on to Pereira's pass to beat the local keeper and then crossing in for Víctor Casadesús to equalise. It was all too much for Tino Costa, who got himself sent off for a lunging tackle on Alfaro near the end.
Athletic Bilbao were brought back to Earth after their midweek win in Old Trafford, a 2-1 defeat against neighbours Osasuna leaving them right out of the European spots. With the return leg against Manchester United in mind though, Bielsa left some of his star names on the bench, and they went behind early on when Iturraspe headed a long Puñal free kick past his own keeper. De Marcos hit the post at the other end, but with just over half an hour gone Raúl García headed another Puñal free kick past Iraizoz, and Nino, Nekounam and Cejudo could all have added to the lead before half time. Bielsa brought on Ander and Llorente at the break, and within ten minutes they combined for Llorente to fire a fierce shot past Andrés. But although Ibai Gómez and Muniain went close, young substitute Manuel Omwu could have wrapped things up had he been able to beat Iraizoz when free on goal in injury time.
Osasuna move a point above their rivals to sixth, still two points above Atlético Madrid and Espanyol, who occupy eighth and ninth spots respectively after winning their Sunday lunchtime matches. Atlético Madrid returned to winning ways after beating Granada 2-0, thereby ending a run of five league games without a victory. The midweek Europa League game took its toll though, and they were unable to make much headway against a depleted opponent until Miranda put them ahead with an acrobatic shot after Koke headed back Gabi's cross following a short corner. Julio César did well to keep out Falcao after the restart, but again there was little action until Henrique got himself sent off for a hard tackle on Koke, and Falcao finally put the home fans' minds at rest with a second goal in injury time.
Espanyol had also gone five games without a win, but they got their European campaign back on track with a 5-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano. The Madrid based side had edged past them in the table, but by half time the Catalans were four up, Kalu Uche heading the first in only the third minute after Javi López crossed in from the right wing. Coutinho connected with Sergio García's cross to score his first goal for his new club, and soon afterwards he got another after cutting past three defenders to beat Joel. And with the first half coming to a close Uche netted his second of the day after controlling Sergio García's pass before scooping a shot over the visiting keeper. Tamudo got one back after the restart against his old club, making him the first player to score in Espanyol's three grounds, Sarría, the Olympic stadium and Cornellà, but a few minutes later Uche connected with another Sergio García assist to complete his own hat-trick. (11.03.12)
Real Madrid beat Betis 2-3 in a hard fought last game on Saturday evening to keep up their push for title. The Andalusians took the lead through Jorge Molina in the tenth minute after Nacho and Rubén Castro combined to set him up. Higuaín equalised a few minutes later after Özil put him through, but Casillas had to be at his best to tip a Salva Sevilla free kick on to the crossbar soon afterwards. Before the half time whistle Cristiano Ronaldo beat the offside trap only to shoot wide, but six minutes after the restart he put Mourinho's side in front after Marcelo lifted the ball across for him to turn a shot past Fabricio. Betis levelled the scores again, Jefferson Montero drilling a shot past Casillas after Arbeloa could only chest a corner in to his path, and the visiting keeper did well to keep out Castro and Montero minutes later. However Ronaldo won it for Madrid in the end after Fabricio could only push out a Sergio Ramos header from Kaká's corner, although the locals felt they were unlucky not to have at least one penalty after Xavi Alonso and then Sergio Ramos both handled in the area. As Mourinho said after the game, it could have gone either way, but his team won it to extend the gap over Barcelona once again to thirteen points pending their game on Sunday.
Earlier in the evening Málaga beat Levante 1-0 to move ahead of the Valencia based side to fourth. Pellegrini's side are back in the running for the Champions League spots after winning their last two games, and they had the better chances in the first half, with Rondón, Isco and Eliseu going close, and Joaquín and Rondón testing Munúa. Ghezzal caused some problems for the local defence either side of half time, but six minutes after the interval Joaquín floated in a long free kick, and between Ghezzal and Rondón the ball ended up in the back of the net. Later on in the game Rondón and Seba Fernández both failed to hit the target when free on goal, and in the dying minutes Caballero had to save from Cabral and El Zhar volleyed a shot over the bar. A tight match between two serious contenders for the European places, but the Andalusians had the edge this time.
Sporting Gijón are now just three points away from safety after beating Sevilla 1-0 in the Molinón stadium. The pre-match build up was more about the bad feelings between new coaches Javier Clemente and Michel than anything else, but that was forgotten when the two teams took to the field. Barral could have put the locals ahead early on when he intercepted a bad back pass only to come up against Palop, and the visiting keeper did well to save a Trejo free kick as the Asturians dominated the opening minutes. Perotti headed against the post at the other end however, and Manu fired a shot over the bar, but with just over half an hour on the clock André Castro controlled a long ball from Colunga before poking a shot past the keeper from a wide angle. Juan Pablo tipped an effort from Reyes over the bar and Rakitic shot wide either side of half time, but Sporting could have increased the lead in the end when Palop had to keep out Bilic, and Mendy shot across goal.
Real Sociedad left Zaragoza even further anchored to the bottom of the table after a comfortable 3-0 win over the Maños on Saturday evening. All the goals came in the first half, Agirretxe having a shot saved before opening the scoring after Roberto could only push out Zurutuza's cross in the eighteenth minute. Three minutes later Carlos Vela intercepted Lanzaro's clearance and fired in a shot which took a deflection off the Italian defender, and with six minutes to go to the break De la Bella won the ball off Edu Oriol and crossed in for Agirretxe to score his second of the evening. Roberto made a couple of saves from Vela after the restart, and substitute Llorente could also have added to the result a couple of times later on, but the visitors were already beaten, and to add to their woes Lanzaro got himself sent off for a second bookable offence with eight minutes to go. (10.03.12)