Sevilla are back in the race for the European spots after a 3-1 victory over Mallorca in the Monday night game. A heavy rainstorm before the kick-off made play difficult early on, but the locals made the best of it, and only a couple of good saves from Aouate kept the scores level at the break. Five minutes after the restart though Negredo got on the end of a Reyes corner to head in the opener, and ten minutes later Navas put Manu del Moral for him to score the second. Navas himself added the third soon afterwards from another pinpoint Reyes pass, and only a good stop from Aouate prevented Fazio from heading in a fourth. Hemed did get one back a few minutes later from a Cáceres cross, and Alfaro and Pereira went close for Joaquín Caparrós's side as the Andalusians eased up. A third win in a row though for Michel and his boys, and they move level with Atlético, just a point outside of the top six. (02.04.12)
With eight games still to go, Real Madrid and Barcelona are already mathematically sure of occupying the top two spots after third placed Valencia were held to a 1-1 draw by city neighbours Levante on Sunday evening. After three defeats in a row Unai Emery was under pressure to get a result, and Dani Parejo and Mathieu both went close before Aduríz and Feghouli combined to set up Jonas to open the scoring. Eight minutes after the restart however Koné made it all square after Valdo headed back Barkero's long cross, and although Jonas tested Munúa with a couple of long shots, Guaita had to be on his toes to prevent Koné from scoring a second. With the game coming to a close Piatti hit the bar with a cross from the left, and young substitute Paco Alcácer just failed to beat the visiting keeper when free on goal. But Levante had the point they needed to stay fifth, and there were whistles and boos from the home fans as the players left the field of play.
Valencia stay third however as none of the four teams below them were able to win, Espanyol staying outside of the top six after they could only draw 0-0 at Villarreal. González González was partly responsible for the fact that there were no goals though, the referee ruling out a strike by Marco Rubén on the half hour mark for what he considered to be dangerous play after Casilla had dropped a corner at the striker's feet. González also turned down a clear penalty appeal by the locals when Borja Valero was brought down by Forlín midway through the second half, and he also disallowed goals later on by Raúl Rodríguez and Rubén again for a previous foul and offside respectively (both of which were correct, albeit borderline, decisions). Otherwise though neither keeper had much to do, Diego López making a couple of saves from Sergio García Kalu Uche, and Casilla keeping out the active Rubén. The draw leaves Villarreal down in seventeenth place, just four points above the drop zone.
Atlético Madrid were the big winners of the weekend, a 3-0 victory over neighbours Getafe earlier in the day taking them to within a point of the European places. The visitors started the game level on points with their hosts, and Miku and Alexis went close before Salvio got on the end of a Filipe Luis cross to loop a header over Moyà and in to the far corner of the net. Diego Castro headed a good chance wide before the interval, but after the restart Falcao brought a couple of good saves out of Moyà and then had a goal disallowed for a borderline offside. With just over an hour gone Diego celebrated his return to the starting line up after a long injury lay-off with his side's second, following up after his first header from Falcao's cross came back off the bar, and Falcao himself wrapped things up with the third after Koke and Juanfran combined to set him up.
Real Sociedad moved closer to safety after a 4-0 win over Rayo Vallecano, a relief for coach Philippe Montanier after the disastrous performance last week against Real Madrid. Agirretxe put them ahead early on after Estrada set him up, and visiting keeper Joel had to save from Illarramendi and Agirretxe again before Zurutuza headed the second with half an hour on the clock after Agirretxe headed over a long ball from Estrada. Eight minutes in to the second half it was all over, Griezmann making it three after Elustondo put him through, and Carlos Vela running on from midfield to beat Joel for a fourth time. Piti, Trashorras and Tamudo all tried their luck at the other end as Real slowed down the pace, but they couldn't prevent a victory which takes the Basque side to within a point of their opponents in the table. (01.04.12)
Real Madrid stay six points clear at the top of the table after an easier than hoped for 1-5 win at Osasuna on Saturday evening. Mourinho's side were expecting a hard fight at one of the most difficult grounds in the league, but within seven minutes Benzema gave them the lead with a spectacular far post volley after Cristiano Ronaldo crossed in from the left wing. Later in the first half Ronaldo made it two with a long swerving shot which fooled Andrés, and Higuaín added a third before the break with a chip over the keeper after Granero put him through. Mendilibar had already been sent off before that for protesting, but he brought on Lekic at the interval, and three minutes after the restart Nino headed one back from Roversio's cross. With twenty minutes to go however Ronaldo got his second of the night with a free kick which took a deflection off Lekic to wrong-foot the keeper, and Higuaín rounded things off with a header from another Ronaldo cross, a record breaking 100th goal in the league to date.
That meant that Barcelona had to win their game against Athletic Bilbao later in the evening to stay in touch, and they duly obliged with a 2-0 victory. The vagaries of the calendar meant that Bielsa's side had to play less than 48 hours after their gruelling Europa League tie with Schalke, and the coach left several of his big guns on the bench at the start. Their replacements though were unable to make much headway, and despite having more possession than most in the Nou Camp, they hardly troubled Valdés until Piqué cleared off the line from Muniain with ten minutes to go. Thiago had a strike ruled out for a borderline offside though and Aurtenetxe headed an effort from Piqué off the line at the other end, and after Iraizoz flung himself across to keep out a quick Messi free kick, Iniesta finally opened the scoring after running on to Messi's through ball five minutes before the break. Bielsa brought on Muniain and Ander at half time and Llorente a few minutes later, but even so it was more of the same, Iraizoz saving from Tello before the youngster won his side a penalty which Messi converted. After that Keita hit the bar and Messi and Pedro brought more good saves out of the keeper, but the job was already done, and thoughts turned to Tuesday night's Champions League game with Milan.
Málaga missed out on a chance to go third after they were surprisingly beaten 0-2 by local rivals Betis. Pelligrini's side had gone six games without defeat, whereas their opponents were dropping close to the danger zone after six without a win. And for the first half hour or so the locals dominated play, Cazorla missing an easy chance and Rondón going close with a couple of headers. With six minutes to go to the break though Rubén Castro got on the end of a long Beñat free kick to steer in a header which Kameni couldn't keep out, and with the first half coming to an end Santa Cruz headed a Beñat corner back in to the goalmouth, and although Amaya was tackled, the ball fell to Dorado who fired a low shot past the keeper. The second half was all Málaga, with second half substitutes Duda, Van Nistelrooy and Buonanotte all testing Fabricio and his defence, but Betis held on for three vital points which takes them seven points clear of the relegation spots.
The first two matches of the evening involved the bottom four clubs, with Granada moving six points above the bottom three after a last minute 0-1 win at Racing Santander. Abel Resino's side had the better of the opening minutes, with Ighalo hitting the post and then bringing a good save out of Mario soon afterwards. The local keeper had to be at his best to save from Abel and Dani Benítez before the break, and Uche and Mikel Rico after the restart, and Racing's only replies were headers wide by Stuani and Torrejón either side of half time. The game appeared to be heading for a draw though until Bernardo pushed over Uche in the area with a couple of minutes to go, and Granada's top scorer (and left back!) Siqueira stepped up to slot home the resulting spot kick. A vital win for the Andalusians, and Alvaro Cervera's side are ever closer to relegation after thirteen games now without a win.
Sporting Gijón drop to the bottom of the table though, below Racing on goal difference, after they were beaten 1-2 by fellow strugglers Zaragoza. Both sides had chances early on, Juan Pablo turning a shot from Obradovic round the post and Roberto saving from Colunga and Eguren. With eight minutes to go to the break though Mateos headed a high ball in to the path of Postiga for him to fire a shot under the legs of the Juan Pablo, and the local keeper was in action again to keep out Djumovic before the break. Sporting equalised three minutes in to the second half, Eguren heading past Roberto on the far post after Barral had headed across Colunga's corner, but other than an effort way over the top from Sangoy, Javier Clemente's side were never a threat for the Maños. And with the game in the last minute Lafita got on the end of Zuculini's cross to score a late winner which gave his team their third victory in a row, a result which sees them climb off the bottom of the table for the first time in fifteen weeks. (31.03.12)