Málaga stay in fifth spot after a 4-2 win over Rayo Vallecano on Thursday evening. The Andalusians started the day just a point ahead of their opponents in the table, and although they fell behind to an early Diego Costa penalty after Jesús Gámez fouled Armenteros in the area, goals either side of half time by Rondón turned the scoreline around. Maresca made it three later in the second half with a header from Gámez's cross, and although Trashorras converted a second penalty after Caballero brought down Diego Costa, Duda made sure of the final result with a long shot over the head of Joel near the end.
Málaga move four points above sixth placed Espanyol, who were held to a 1-1 draw at Betis. They were thankful for a point in the end however as late substitute Pandiani scored the equaliser in the third minute of injury time. The Catalans had had the better of things after a dull first half, with Fabricio having to keep out long shots from Albín, Romaric and Coutinho. But Rubén Castro got on the end of a Jonathan Pereira cross to head the opener past Kiko Casilla, and it looked as if they were going to take the three points until Pandiani struck.
No less than seven teams are within four points of Espanyol though, including Sevilla, who beat struggling Racing Santander 0-3. Jesús Navas started things off after Mario blocked a shot from Negredo ten minutes before the break, and Manu del Moral added a second soon after the restart following a quickly taken Reyes free kick. Manu hit the post soon afterwards, but the Cantabrians were starting to get back in it when Diop was sent off for a tackle from behind on Trochowski. Manu wrapped things up though with his second of the evening in injury time. (22.03.12)
Real Madrid are starting to feel the pressure, and for the second time in four days they were pegged back to 1-1 by a late free kick. This time their opponents were Villarreal, and although Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 100th goal for his club after combining with Özil on the hour mark, Marcos Senna saved a valuable point for his new coach Miguel Angel Lotina late on. Madrid ended with nine men as Sergio Ramos and Özil were sent off in the closing minutes (as were Mourinho and his assistant Rui Faria), and they are now only six points ahead of Barcelona coming in to the weekend games.
Valencia have also been losing steam recently, and their third spot is in danger after they were beaten 1-2 by bottom club Zaragoza. The Ches took the lead early on when Pablo Hernández turned in Soldado's cross, and it looked all over when Pablo Alvarez was sent off for bringing down Aduríz. But Apoño levelled the scores from the penalty spot after Dealbert handled in the area on the half hour mark, and Roberto pulled off a string of saves before Apoño got the winner on a quick breakaway late on. Zaragoza ended with nine men after Zuculini was also sent off, and the local fans showed their disgust after the final whistle.
Fourth placed Levante are now only three points behind their city neighbours after coming from behind to beat Real Sociedad 1-3. The Basque side went ahead in the fifth minute when Carlos Vela ran on to Xabi Prieto's long ball to beat Munúa, but just five minutes later Barkero equalised from the penalty spot after Iñigo Martínez brought down El Zhar as he cut in to the area. With the first half coming to a close Koné got free on a quick breakaway to fire an angled shot past Bravo, and after Elustondo was sent off, Xavi Torres wrapped things up in injury time.
Athletic Bilbao lose ground on the European spots though after they were beaten 2-1 by an Atlético Madrid side who themselves move above their opponents to seventh. Chances were few and far between in the first half, but five minutes after the restart Falcao opened the scoring after Iraizoz could only push out Adrián's shot. Koke and Falcao went close before Falcao headed his second of the night from Juanfran's cross. Athletic finally woke up late on, Perea having to clear off the line from Susaeta before Muniain and De Marcos combined to set up Javi Martínez in the last minute, but it was too late to change the result.
Mallorca are now only a point behind Athletic after a 2-3 win against struggling Sporting Gijón. The Asturians pegged their opponents back twice, Colunga equalising the first time with a chip over keeper Aouate after Nunes had opened the scoring following a corner. Two minutes after the restart Pedro Orfila turned Nsue's cross past his own keeper, but once again Botía levelled the scores after Mendy set him up. Substitute Alvaro restored the lead for a third time though with an individualist run, and although Colunga headed wide late on, this time was there was no way back. (21.03.12)
It was Barcelona's turn to go first in the midweek round of matches, and they momentarily closed the gap on Real Madrid to five points after a 5-3 win over Granada on Tuesday evening. Xavi and Messi appeared to have set up an easy victory with first half strikes, the first after Messi headed back Cuenca's cross, and the second with a shot in off the post from another Cuenca assist. But a Mainz header and a Siqueira penalty after Dani Alves brought down Dani Benítez levelled the scores within six minutes of the restart. Messi restored the lead though with a record 233rd goal for his club, and with five minutes to go Messi set up Tello for the fourth and then completed his hat-trick himself. There was still time for Siqueira to convert a second penalty after Dani Alves handled in the area, the full back picking up a second booking for the offence, but the game ended soon afterwards.
Osasuna and Getafe kicked off Tuesday's matches with a 0-0 draw, a result which took the home side up to sixth pending the rest of the midweek games. The man of the match though was visiting keeper Moyà, who made important saves throughout the ninety minutes, in particular from Nino and Raúl García. The visitors only troubled the local defence with a couple of tame efforts from Pedro Ríos and Diego Castro near the end, but Moyà's performance helped his side to a point which takes them safely up to mid-table. (20.03.12)