The bottom three clubs, Sporting, Zaragoza and Racing, are now seven points adrift of the rest after Thursday's results. Seventeenth placed Villarreal were the closest to them at the start of the midweek round of games, but they opened up a comfortable gap after a late 2-1 victory over fourth placed Málaga. Honours were shared in the first half, with Marcos Senna brushing the crossbar with a long shot and Martinucchio shooting wide, and at the other end Rondón heading over and Isco bringing a good save out of Diego López. Twenty minutes in to the second half however the Andalusians went ahead, Cazorla beating the keeper but refusing to celebrate the goal out of respect for his old fans. It looked like Málaga were heading back to third spot when Hernán Pérez ran on to a long pass and was brought down in the area by Kameni, who was immediately shown a red card. Luckily Pellegrini still had a substitute left and brought on his third choice keeper Rubén. But he was unable to stop Senna's penalty, and with the game coming to an end he could only push out a corner as far as Hernán Pérez, who fired a shot back in to the net.
Zaragoza's run of three wins in a row is already history, and after losing in the Nou Camp at the weekend, they fell to a 3-0 defeat at Sevilla on Thursday evening. Within half an hour they were already two down, Fazio heading in Luna's corner in the eleventh minute, and Negredo running on to Manu's through ball to score the second a few minutes later. Apoño was unable to take advantage of Manu's gifted back-pass later in the first half, and on the stroke of half time Negredo headed his second of the evening from a Jesús Navas cross. After the restart Navas and Manu could both have added to the lead, and although Postiga tested Palop a couple of times late on, there was no way back for the Maños. Sporting's win means they drop behind the Asturians on goal difference to next to bottom spot, and Sevilla now find themselves in seventh place after results elsewhere went in their favour.
Racing Santander drop to the bottom of the table after a 0-3 defeat against Mallorca, and after fifteen games without a win they are already looking doomed. The few fans who turned up were still settling in to their seats when Nsue ran on to Víctor's lofted pass to run round young keeper Dani Sotres and put the visitors in front. And although Luque brought a good save out of Aouate and Stuani lobbed a shot against the post, the Cantabrians once again failed to find the route to goal. Shortly before half time Tissone fired a shot against the bar, and a minute or so after the break Alfaro won the ball down the right wing and crossed in for Víctor to set up Chori Castro for the second. Edu Bedía hit the bar once again for the locals, but a couple of minutes later Alfaro made it three after Nsue's header came back off the post. Babacar came on and fired a shot over the top almost immediately, but by then Racing's hearts were not in it, and every week the second division is looming closer and closer. (12.04.12)
Real Madrid stay four points clear of Barcelona after a 1-4 victory over Atlético Madrid on Wednesday evening. After dropping points against Valencia this was a must win game for Mourinho's side. They had not lost though against their city neighbours since the end of the last millennium, and midway through the first half Cristiano Ronaldo gave them the lead with a house special free kick, the ball swerving and dipping away from the immobile Courtois in to the bottom corner of the net. Benzema headed just wide a few minutes later, but ten minutes in to the second half Falcao got between Sergio Ramos and Coentrao to head Adrián's cross past Casillas for the equaliser. Ronaldo came to the rescue though, restoring the lead with another impressive shot from way to the left of the area, and with seven minutes to go he completed his seventh hat-trick of the season from the penalty spot after Godín bundled over Higuaín in the area. Callejón to get his usual goal after Ronaldo set him up late on, and although Diego hit the post near the end, Atlético will have to wait yet another season to try and end a record against the old enemy which is starting to become embarrassing.
Valencia returned to third spot pending Málaga's game on Thursday after a 4-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano. After a couple of good recent results, Unai Emery's side were full of confidence, and Rami and Pablo Hernández went close before Jonas opened the scoring, turning the ball back in to the net after Joel could only push out Feghouli's header. Jordi Alba added a second midway through the second half after good work down the right wing by Feghouli, but two minutes later Rayo got one back, Pablo trying to pass back to his own keeper without realising that Michu was standing in front of him, the attacker laying the ball back for Diego Costa to score. Jonas restored the two goal cushion from the penalty spot though after a confusing incident between Arribas and Feghouli, and Pablo had a headed goal ruled out for a foul on a defender before scoring his side's fourth after he was set up by Canales, who was making his first appearance after a long injury lay-off.
Fifth placed Levante drop four points behind their city rivals though after they were beaten 3-2 by struggling Sporting Gijón. It was a topsy-turvy game, the locals having the better of the opening minutes until Valdo headed the visitors in to the lead on the quarter hour mark. Trejo picked up a loose ball to equalise a few minutes later, but Koné restored the lead after a quick passing move following a throw-in, and Orfila had to clear off the line from Koné with the keeper beaten soon afterwards. Lora levelled the scores once again with a long shot, once again against the run of play, and Sangoy got what was to prove the winner with six minutes to go, picking himself off the ground to drive a speculative shot past Munúa. There was still time for David Navarro to head against the bar, but the Asturians held on for a much needed first win under Javier Clemente.
Athletic Bilbao are up to seventh, although they will be regretting that they couldn't have done better after coming from behind to draw 2-2 at ten man Granada. The Andalusians went ahead in only the second minute, Jaime Romero drilling a low shot past Iraizoz after the keeper could only push away a previous shot from Mikel Rico. However later in the first half Jaime got himself sent off after giving away a penalty on Iraola, and although Llorente fired the spot kick in to the stands, the red card left Granada a man short with almost an hour still to go. Julio César did well to save from Muniain soon after the restart, but Martins had a shot deflected on to the post, and Siqueira put a good chance over the top before Geijo ran on to a quickly taken Martins free kick to put the locals two up. Llorente headed one back though from an Ibai Gómez cross, and with a couple of minutes to go Athletic equalised, Llorente's header probably crossing the line before the keeper got it clear, but Susaeta firing the rebound back in to the net to make sure. (11.04.12)
Barcelona closed to within a point of Real Madrid pending tomorrow's derby game after beating Getafe 4-0 on Tuesday evening. Luis García's team were the only ones to beat Barça in the first half of the season, but they were overwhelmed this time around, and found themselves behind early on when Messi chested the ball down for Alexis to run on and shoot past Moyà. A couple of minutes later the visiting keeper did well to turn a shot from Pedro round the post, and a minute after that Xavi got free and saw his lob cleared from the goalmouth by Cata Díaz, the referee waving away claims that it had crossed the line. Later on in the first half Messi and Alexis both went close, and with the half time whistle looming Messi finished off a quick passing move with Iniesta to ride a lunging tackle and fire a shot inside the near post. After the restart Alexis headed a third from Cuenca's cross and Pedro got the fourth with a looping back-header from a wide Messi free kick. Throughout the game Valdés was just another spectator, and after a tenth league win in a row the baton passes to Real Madrid, who need a victory against city rivals Atlético if they are to go to the Nou Camp in ten days time with that four point cushion.
Earlier in the evening Osasuna got their European campaign back on track, a 2-0 win against direct rivals Espanyol making sure of sixth spot for another few days at least. After two heavy defeats the Pamplona based side were being caught by several teams, and they could have gone behind early on had Kalu Uche been able to turn in Sergio García's cross from a couple of yards out. A first Puñal free kick bounced against the post though later in the first half, and Raúl García just failed to find the target from a second one minutes later. Eight minutes after the break Raúl García got on the end of Lolo's cross to open the scoring with a first time volley, and seconds after that Coutinho got himself sent off after picking up two rather unnecessary yellow cards, the first for a dive and the second for kicking the ball away. García made it two with a delightful lob with twenty minutes to go, and the visitors ended with nine men after Forlín was also sent off for a second bookable offence. A win and a clean sheet, and the happiest man on the park was keeper Andrés. He had let in eleven goals in the previous two matches!
Elsewhere Real Sociedad and Betis moved a little closer to safety after cancelling each other out in a 1-1 draw, and both now only need a couple of points or so to ensure another season of top flight football. Zubikarai was in Real's goal for the first time this season after Bravo was red-carded at the weekend, and he was in action early on to keep out Rubén Castro. Otherwise though the locals had the better chances, and after a prolonged attack they were awarded a penalty when Cañas handled in the area. Fabricio dived to save Agirretxe's spot kick, but ten minutes after the restart Real took the lead, Carlos Vela picking up a return pass from Agirretxe before sweeping a shot past the visiting keeper. Castro equalised though with twenty minutes to go after a good run by Jefferson Montero, and there were some frantic moments late on, Zubikarai making the save of the night from Santa Cruz, and Ansotegi heading against the post in the last minute of injury time. (10.04.12)