Málaga are up to third in the table after beating Racing Santander 3-0 on Monday evening. The game swung in their favour early on when Francis was sent off in the second minute for giving away a penalty on Rondón. And although Mario saved Cazorla's spot kick, it was just a matter of time before the locals scored, Isco beating the keeper with a curling shot from left of the area. Maresca had hit the post before that, and Seba Fernández and Maresca could both have added to the lead before the break. Racing's woes continued after the restart when Mario had to go off with an injury, and with Toño also sidelined, under 19 international Dani Sotres came on to make his first team debut. The pressure continued, Cisma clearing off the line from Cazorla and Sotres saving from Maresca, and Cazorla finally got his goal after Maresca put him through. With six minutes to go substitute Van Nistelrooy wrapped things up with a header from Duda's cross, and Kameni was finally tested for the first time when Adrián's cross almost crept past him on the near post. The win takes Málaga above Valencia and Levante, and leaves the Cantabrians further down in the drop zone. Without a win in fourteen games and with the club going through financial difficulties, they are already looking like a second division team. (09.04.12)
Real Madrid's lead at the top of the table has been cut to four points this weekend after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Valencia on Sunday evening. Despite the lack of goals it was an intense match, with both sides creating chances, and the two keepers the busiest men on the park. An active Cristiano Ronaldo fired a shot against the post early on and went close a couple of times after that, and the visitors replied with a shot just wide by Feghouli, a couple of long efforts from Tino Costa and Piatti which Casillas kept out, and a header against the post by Ricardo Costa. After the restart Guaita had to be at his best to tip shots from Ronaldo and half time substitute Di María away for corners, and Tino Costa thundered a shot against the bar with the keeper beaten. Mathieu and Benzema just missed the target, Guaita made two brilliant saves from Benzema, Casillas kept out Jordi Alba and Ronaldo had a couple of penalty appeals turned down. The pressure was on until the final whistle, but at the end of the day Madrid had dropped another two points, and Unai Emery's side had picked up an important point which restored their confidence and kept them in third place, a point clear of neighbours Levante in the table.
Levante themselves return to fourth place after a 2-0 victory over Atlético Madrid earlier in the day. Starting the game three points behind their opponents, Simeone's side were looking for the win which would take them up level with them in the table. But within ten minutes they were two behind, Barkero crossing in for Valdo to head past Courtois with less than a minute gone, and Koné getting on the end of a Barkero free kick to head the second. Munúa was only troubled in the first 45 minutes by a timid effort from Salvio, and Barkero could have scored a third for the locals when he fired a shot in to the stands with the goal at his mercy. After the restart Munúa kept out efforts from Adrián and Turan, and Courtois saved from Farinós, and even substitute Falcao (who had started on the bench as he was suffering from flu) was unable to beat the local keeper. Levante's dream of Europe are starting to become a reality, but Atléti stay outside the top six and still have some work to do if they are to qualify for international competitions next season. Next up they host city rivals Real Madrid, and with Miranda sent off for a second bookable offence late on and Salvio and Mario Suárez also picking up bookings which will leave them out of Wednesday's game, it ain't going to be easy.
Sevilla also failed to make it back to the European spots after they were beaten 1-0 by Athletic Bilbao, the win taking the Basque side to within a point of the Andalusians in the table. Athletic's great form in Europe has not been repeated in the league though, and after only picking up one point from their last five games they needed a victory to ensure at least their continuity in the top flight, and to keep alive any chance of making it in to the Champions League places (their presence in the Europa League next season has already been assured by making it to the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona). The visitors started well, Iraizoz saving from Manu del Moral and Amorebieta heading Negredo's follow up shot off the line with the keeper beaten. For the rest of the game though they only managed one real shot at goal from Negredo and a couple of dangerous free kicks from substitute Guarante, and at the other end Llorente brought a good save out of Palop and then hit the bar with an acrobatic shot. Later in the first half Palop kept out De Marcos, but two minutes in to the second half he could do nothing to stop Llorente powering a header in to the net from Susaeta's cross for what was to prove the only goal of the match. After that the visiting keeper made good saves from Susaeta and Ibai Gómez, and San José just failed to find the target after a good run by Muniain. Athletic are back in the mix, and after today's matches only three points separate sixth placed Osasuna from twelfth placed Rayo Vallecano.
Further down the table Mallorca and Granada inched away from the drop zone after a 0-0 draw, leaving the bottom three clubs further away from safety. It was no great fun for the fans though, the only action in the first half a couple of efforts off target by Cendrós and Hemed, and a couple of saves by Aouate from Uche and then Martins. After the interval Aouate tipped shots from Siqueira and Jara around the post, and the locals responded with a volley from Pereira which grazed the crossbar, and a shot from Víctor which Julio César dealt with comfortably. Both coaches were just about happy with the result though, and Caparrós said after the final whistle that every point they can pick up from now to the end of the season is golden. (08.04.12)
Barcelona closed the gap on Real Madrid again to three points after a 1-4 win at Zaragoza on Saturday night. The locals were looking to build on their run of three victories in a row, and they could have gone ahead midway through the first half when they were awarded a penalty after Víctor Valdés brought down Lafita inside the area. Valdés saved Aranda's spot kick though, and Lafita headed the rebound against the bar, but the Maños did take the lead a few minutes later when Aranda headed the ball back in to the net after the keeper blocked his first shot. By half time however Barça were in front, Puyol poking the ball in to the net after Roberto failed to hold on to a Fàbregas corner, and Messi picking up an Alexis assist before running through to shoot inside the near post. Things got worse for the locals when Abraham was sent off for a second bookable offence on the stroke of half time, although Obradovic fired a good chance over the bar soon after the restart, and the referee waved away a penalty claim when Lafita's header hit Keita's arm with his back turned. Thiago and Messi went close at the other end though, and with five minutes to go Messi made it three from the penalty spot after Paredes tripped Alexis in the area, a record 60th goal for the season for the Argentinian striker. Pedro rounded off the scoring in injury time after a passing move with Messi, but by then Zaragoza had given up the fight.
Madrid play Valencia tomorrow, and a win for Mourinho's side would restore the six point lead, but would also throw the other European spots wider open. Sixth placed Osasuna missed out on a chance to challenge for the Champions League spots though after they were thrashed 6-0 by Rayo Vallecano on Saturday evening. Movilla opened the scoring for the locals early on with a spectacular first time shot, and Piti and Michu both hit the woodwork before Michu added two more, the first a header from Tito's cross, and the second a shot past Andrés after good work by Diego Costa down the right flank. Costa made it four himself before the break, this time cutting in from the left, and a frustrated Medilibar, sitting in the stands serving out a two match ban, made three changes at half time. For a few minutes things improved, Timor testing Joel for the first time with a free kick, Lekic shooting wide and Raúl García hitting the post. But Armenteros scored a fifth after Michu played back Costa's cross, and Tito completed Rayo's best ever win in the top flight with his side's sixth after Andrés could only push the ball in to his path after saving from the ubiquitous Costa.
Espanyol also failed to take advantage after they were held to a 2-2 draw by Real Sociedad. The Catalans found themselves two down with just over a quarter of an hour gone, Carlos Vela cutting in from the right wing to score the first, and then adding a second a couple of minutes later after Zurutuza put him through. Coutinho headed wide and Verdú brought a good save out of Bravo in reply, and Estrada had to clear off the line after the keeper could only block a header from Sergio García. With the first half in injury time Espanyol got one back, Ansotegi's clearance from a Weiss cross only hitting Demidov and bouncing back in to his own net, and a couple of minutes later the locals were level when Kalu Uche deflected a shot from Weiss in to the net following a corner. After that either side could have won it, Vela and Xabi Prieto both firing shots over the bar, Verdú and Raúl Rodríguez both coming up against Bravo, and Sergio García having a penalty appeal turned down when he was felled by the visiting keeper. But in the end both teams had to settle for a point which keeps Pochettino's team a point outside of the top six, and leaves the Basque side still a few points away from safety.
Getafe moved up level with Espanyol in the table after beating bottom club Sporting Gijón 2-0. The early chances fell to the locals, Diego Castro and Gavilán coming up against Juan Pablo and his defence, with Carmelo bringing a good save out of Moyà at the other end. Midway through the first half though Miku headed the locals in to the lead from a wide Gavilán free kick, and Valera could have increased the scoreline a couple of times before the interval. A couple of minutes after the restart Diego Castro did make it two though with a first time volley from Gavilán's cross, the midfielder refusing to celebrate the goal in defence to his old supporters, who by now were calling for the resignation of coach Javier Clemente. The visitors didn't give up however, and Barral in particular could have put them back in the game when he ran on to shoot against the outside of the post, and later on when he volleyed wide from Rivera's cross. Another defeat for the Asturians though, and they have only picked up six points since Manolo Preciado was fired nine games ago.
Betis moved closer to safety with a 3-1 win over a Villarreal side who are still only one place above the drop zone. The victory last weekend at Málaga gave the locals renewed confidence, and in the first few minutes Beñat fired a free kick over the top and Rubén Castro forced Diego López in to a good save. The visitors almost scored the dumbest goal of the season though when Fabricio slipped trying to clear Dorado's back pass and deflected the ball on to his own post, but a few minutes later Santa Cruz was in the right place to open the scoring after Diego could only push out a long shot from Rubén Castro. Three minutes later Castro made it two, running on to chip the keeper and turn the ball in to the empty net after Cañas put him through, and with an hour on the clock Beñat scored his side's third after Montero and Castro combined to set him up. Villarreal were left with ten men soon afterwards when Angel picked up a rigorous second yellow card, and Diego had o be at his best to prevent Santa Cruz and Castro from increasing the scoreline later on. Marco Rubén did get a late consolation from the penalty spot after Fabricio brought him down in the area, but it was too late to prevent a first defeat for his team since Miguel Angel Lotina took over four games ago. (07.04.12)