Sevilla kept alive their hopes of a return to the European spots after a 0-3 victory over neighbours Granada on Monday evening. Borja cleared an early shot from Negredo off the line, but Palop had to make a couple of saves from Uche as both teams battled for control. The visitors scored twice though either side of half time, Negredo picking up a pass from Reyes before lobbing Roberto, and then laying the ball back for Manu del Moral to fire an angled shot in off the post. Michel's side could have gone further ahead, Rakitic firing a shot just over, Negredo chipping another effort on to the bar and Jesús Navas testing Roberto with a header, but it was not until the second minute of injury time that Manu got the third after the local keeper saved again from Navas. The win takes the Andalusians up to ninth, now just four points below the top six. Granada though slip to seventeenth place, just two points above the relegation zone. (26.03.12)
Real Madrid and Barcelona are all but mathematically sure of filling the top two spots this season, but the rest of the European places are still wide open after Valencia's defeat yesterday. Málaga are now level with Unai Emery's side after they came from behind to beat Espanyol 1-2, despite going behind early on when Coutinho caught everybody out with a low free kick under the defensive wall. An injury to Caballero meant that Kameni came on to make his debut for his new side, as fate would have it against the club he left this winter, and he made a couple of good saves to prevent the locals from extending the lead. Maresca headed a free kick against the post though, and Cazorla fired another free kick just over before Van Nistelrooy equalised just two minutes after coming on as substitute, knocking in the rebound after Casilla saved from Isco. A couple of minutes later Demichelis got the winner after the local keeper had saved a Rondón header following a corner, and Málaga had their fifth win in six games.
Levante though drop to fifth after a 0-2 defeat at home to Osasuna. Raúl García volleyed home the first on the quarter hour mark after Nino played back a long throw-in, and the ex Atlético midfielder brought a good save out of Munúa soon afterwards. Visiting keeper Andrés had to be at his best though to stop efforts from Koné and Xavi Torres before the break, and Torres, Barkero and Koné after the restart. But Raúl García forced Munúa in to another good save later on in the second half, and with a quarter of an hour to go Nino picked up García's assist to round Cabral and score his side's second. The win takes Osasuna above Espanyol to sixth, now just a point behind their hosts in the table.
The other contenders for the Euro spots all failed to win however, with Atlético Madrid losing 1-0 to bottom club Zaragoza. Simeone's side felt themselves unlucky not to be ahead at the break, Adrián hitting the bar and Falcao the post. But the locals were looking to build on their midweek win at Valencia, and Obradovic, Dujmovic, Pinter and Postiga all failed to find the target. The game though appeared to be heading for a draw until Godín bundled over Postiga inside the penalty area in the second minute of injury time, and Apoño stepped up to give the Maños a win which takes them level with Racing and Sporting in the table.
Sporting Gijón themselves picked up a point after they held Athletic Bilbao to a last minute 1-1 draw. Javier Clemente's side started well, Colunga testing Iraizoz with an early free kick. The locals should have taken the lead though when Botía brought down Llorente in the area later in the first half, but Juan Pablo guessed correctly and saved Muniain's penalty kick. With twenty minutes to go De Marcos did find the net for Bielsa's team after Muniain set him up, but with the game coming to an end Lora equalised with a shot which took a deflection off Iturraspe to wrong foot the local keeper.
The bottom three are still six points away from safety however after Villarreal won 0-2 at Rayo Vallecano. The "Yellow Submarine" seems to be on the road to recovery under new coach Lotina, and they took the lead on the half hour mark, Marco Rubén following up after Cani's lob came back off the crossbar. Joel did well to keep out Rubén and Valero after the restart, and Armenteros headed a good chance straight at Diego López in reply. With six minutes to go though Angel made it two after Rubén passed across, and Diego López ensured the three points with late saves from Movilla and Diego Costa.
Struggling Racing Santander have not won a game since the midpoint of the season, but they did pick up another point thanks to a 1-1 draw at Betis. The Andalusians themselves are not out of danger though, and Jonathan Pereira and Beñat went close before Pereira put Santa Cruz through to open the scoring in the eighteenth minute. Mario did well to keep out Jorge Molina and Iriney either side of half time, and the visiting keeper made further saves after that from Rubén Castro and Santa Cruz. But with twelve minutes left on the clock substitute Stuani got on the end of a Munitis cross to head the equaliser, and many of the disappointed local fans left the ground before the final whistle after a sixth game in a row without a win. (25.03.12)
Calmer waters in the Bernabeu stadium tonight after Real Madrid thrashed Real Sociedad 5-1 on Saturday evening. After drawing their last two games in frenetic circumstances there were some doubts as to whether they could regain their composure, but when Higuaín opened the scoring in the sixth minute they were back on track. Cristiano Ronaldo went close a couple of times before he picked up a long pass from Kaká to make it two, and soon afterwards Benzema got a third after controlling a long ball from Xabi Alonso on his chest to lob a shot over the head of Claudio Bravo. Xabi Prieto got one back before half time with a shot from outside of the area which Sergio Ramos could only head back in to his own net, but within ten minutes of the restart Madrid had scored two more, Benzema latching on to Khedira's pass to fire a shot over the keeper, and Ronaldo turning in a cross from Higuaín. After that Mourinho (from wherever he was serving out his one match ban) gave orders to rest a couple of his key men and give a run out to the likes of Sahin, Coentrao and promising youngster Jesé, and the game ended without further incident. A balsamic win for Madrid against a complacent opponent, and the six point gap at the top of the table is maintained.
Barcelona had kicked off the weekend with a 0-2 victory at Mallorca which momentarily took them to within three points of their rivals. Without any of his first choice full backs, Guardiola lined up in a 3-4-3 formation. Even so though Aouate had to be at his best to save from Messi before the Argentinian forward fired in a free kick which bounced past everyone in to the net midway through the first half. Alexis came close to a second when his deflected shot came back off the bar, but a few minutes in to the second half the visitors were left with ten men when Thiago was shown a second yellow card for what the referee considered was a hand ball. For a few minutes Caparrós's side came looking for the equaliser, Valdés having to save from Víctor Casadesús and from Hemed. But with ten minutes to go a shot from Messi came back off the post, and Piqué was there to steer the ball back in to the net. A seventh win in a row for the Catalans, and despite Guardiola's statements to the press that the league is lost, there is still a long way to go.
Later in the evening Getafe beat Valencia 3-1, a result which puts the Ches' third spot in danger. Soldado did give them an early lead, running on to a Jonas through ball before firing a shot wide of his old team-mate Moyà, but a few minutes later Pedro Ríos equalised with an acrobatic header from Gavilán's cross. Midway through the first half Miku put the home side in front with a looping header from another Gavilán cross, and with half an hour on the clock Bruno could only divert a wide Gavilán free kick over the head of his own keeper in to the net. After the restart Lacen fired a shot over the top, and Valencia replied with a couple of efforts from Soldado, Mathieu and Aduríz. Emery's side couldn't prevent a second defeat in a row though, and either Levante or Málaga could catch them up by the end of the weekend. (24.03.12)