A bit of a surprise on Monday evening, with Getafe thrashing Sevilla 5-1 to draw level with the Andalusians in the table. Michel was returning to his old hunting ground, and he saw Negredo give his new side the lead with a spectacular overhead kick. Navas came up against Moyà a few minutes later, but with ten minutes to go to the break the locals equalised, Miguel Torres turning the ball past Javi Varas after a Pedro Ríos corner came across to him. Manu and Luna both missed good chances to restore the lead for the visitors immediately after the restart, but soon afterwards Lacen drove a long shot past Varas to put the home side ahead. That opened the floodgates, and Getafe scored three more in an eight minute period midway through the second half, Pedro Ríos setting up Miku twice, and helping himself to one in between with a header from Mané's cross. Five teams are now tied for seventh place, just a point behind sixth placed Osasuna, and with five games left to go there is everything to play for. (16.04.12)
The European spots are even wider open after this weekend, with none of the four sides occupying third to sixth positions able to win. Valencia stay in third place despite a 4-0 defeat at Espanyol on Sunday lunchtime, the result taking the Catalans to within a point of the top six. With one eye on the upcoming Europa League semi-final, Unai Emery left some of his key players out of the starting line-up. However they paid the price when the locals scored tiwcein a four minute period midway through the first half, Sergio García setting up Cristian Gómez for the opener, and Verdú getting the second with a left-foot shot from outside of the area. Weiss just failed to turn in a Sergio García cross before the break, but a few minutes after the restart García intercepted a bad pass from Guaita to Topal, and passed across for Alvaro Vázquez to make it three. There was no response from Valencia, and Kalu Uche wrapped things up with a fourth goal after Víctor Sánchez put him through.
Málaga are still fourth after they were held to 1-1 draw by a Real Sociedad side who played over half the game with ten men, Mikel González getting himself sent off for a second bookable offence shortly before half time. Isco gave the Andalusians the lead with a shot from outside of the area midway through the first half, and Bravo had to be at his best to keep out Cazorla a few minutes later. With Real already a man down though Xabi Prieto drilled home the equaliser after Mathijsen headed away a De la Bella free kick early in the second half, and after that the visitors sat back to defend. Gámez, Cazorla and Van Nistelrooy all tested Bravo in the next few minutes, Rondón hit the post with an overhead kick, and Demichelis got the ball in the net in the last minute only for the strike to be incorrectly ruled out for offside. The point still keeps Pellegrini's side three points above fifth placed Levante, although they will feel that they missed out on a chance to get back above Valencia in the table.
Sixth placed Osasuna were beaten 1-0 by Betis, and they are now only a point ahead of four teams in the table. There was little to talk about in the first half until Rubén Castro picked up the ball in midfield and ran on to fire a spectacular shot past Andrés with ten minutes to go to the break. Cejudo tested Fabricio for the first time with a long shot soon afterwards, but the visitors were left with ten men when Raúl García was shown a straight red card for tripping Jefferson Montero from behind. Montero brought a good save out of Andrés and Jorge Molina's control let him down when put through on goal a few minutes later, and in the dying minutes Ibrahima headed wide and then had an appeal for a penalty waved away by the referee. A much needed win though for Betis, and with 42 points to their name they are virtually high and dry.
Athletic Bilbao moved to within a point of Osasuna after a 1-0 victory against Mallorca. Llorente got on the end of a long Ibai Gómez free kick in the twelfth minute to head in what was to prove the only goal of the game, but Nsue failed to do the same at the other end a few minutes later, and Bigas hit the post for the visitors later on in the first half. After the restart Nsue headed a corner over the top and Chori Castro brought a good save out of Iraizoz, and Llorente got ahead of Aouate to turn a cross from Gómez just wide of the post. With the game coming to an end Susaeta headed over the top, and a battling Toquero lobbed a shot on to the crossbar. The three points stay in Bilbao though, and they can now concentrate on Thursday night's Europa League semi-final.
Atlético Madrid are level with Athletic, Espanyol and Sevilla after they beat city neighbours Rayo Vallecano 0-1 in the last game on Sunday evening. Both keepers were in action early on, Courtois saving from Movilla and Tamudo, and Cobeño keeping out Filipe Luis and Mario Suárez. Lass and Michu both failed to find the target either side of half time, but twenty minutes in to the second half Falcao ran on to a long ball from Juanfran, skipped past the advancing Cobeño and turned the ball in to the empty net. Diego went close a couple of times after that, and Michu put Courtois to the test again, but Atleti held on for a win which keeps them on track for a return to Europe.
Further down the table Zaragoza kept their hopes of survival alive with a 1-0 victory over Granada. There was an early shock for the home fans when Dani Benítez hit the bar, but a couple of minutes later Dujmovic got on the end of Aranda's cross to open the scoring. Julio César kept out Zuculini and Edu Oriol later in the first half, and Martins fired a shot over the top on the stroke of half time. And after the restart Dujmovic went close a couple of times, and Benítez rattled the crossbar once again with a long free kick. The locals had Rubén Micael sent off for a two footed tackle on Ighalo, but they hold on for in win which takes them to within five points of the Andalusians in the table.
Villarreal missed an opportunity to distance themselves from the danger zone, and they ended the day level on points with Granada after they were held to a last minute 1-1 draw by bottom club Racing Santander. Honours were shared in the first half, with Hernán Pérez and Nilmar shooting wide, and and Diego López saving from Luque and Adrián in reply. A couple of minutes after the restart though Hernán Pérez picked up a long cross from Borja Valero to beat Mario, and after Pérez and Bruno went close, the visiting keeper did well to turn an effort from Nilmar round the post. With the game coming to an end though substitutes Jairo and Acosta combined for the latter to head the former's cross in to the net. Not enough though for either side, and the Cantabrians are now ten points away from safety with five games to go. (15.04.12)
Real Madrid and Barcelona both won their respective matches on Saturday evening to maintain the four point gap coming in to next weekend's clash in the Nou Camp. Curiously both went behind against the run of play to penalties, and both came back in the second half to win. Leaders Real Madrid were first up against Sporting Gijón, the team who ended Mourinho's undefeated nine year home record last season. Needing points to get them out of the relegation zone, coach Javier Clemente lined up with an ultra-defensive side, looking to score on the odd breakaway. And for a few minutes the tactic served them well, Trejo bringing a good save out of Casillas before De las Cuevas opened the scoring from the penalty spot after Sergio Ramos handled the ball in the area. Higuaín equalised before the break though, getting behind a static defence to head a Sergio Ramos cross past Juan Pablo, and Sahin came close to a second when his free kick bounced off the bar shortly before the break. But although Madrid dominated the second half, the result was in doubt until Cristiano Ronaldo got on the end of a cross from half time substitute Di María to steer in a header which the keeper could only push on to the post and in to the net. A few minutes later the Asturians were left with ten men when Canella picked up a second booking, and soon afterwards Benzema ran on to Özil's through ball to make it 3-1, a 107th goal equalling their best ever in league season.
That put the pressure on Barcelona, who kicked off against fifth placed Levante later in the evening. It was never going to be an easy game against a team who had already beaten Real Madrid in their stadium this season. And although the early chances fell to Pedro, Alexis and Thiago, the locals went ahead with a Barkero penalty after Busquets blocked Juanfran's header with his hands. Munúa had to save from Fàbregas and Adriano either side of half time as Barça pushed forward, and Guardiola turned to Cuenca and Iniesta to try and find a way through a packed defence. Twenty minutes in to the second half they finally did after Cuenca laid the ball across from the right wing, Messi playing a one-two with Alexis before curling a shot past the keeper. Referee Teixeira Vitienes had already turned down a couple of penalty appeals by the visitors before that, but he did award them one when Botelho bundled over Cuenca in the area with twenty minutes to go. Messi stepped up to fire the spot kick past Munúa, his 63rd of the season and his 41st in the league, taking him level with Ronaldo for this season's Pichichi title. It was enough to take the three points and keep them within touch of Real Madrid coming in to Saturday's "clásico". Both teams have the small matter of Champions League semi-finals to attend to before that though, and the success or failure of the two sides this season will probably be decided in the next ten days. (14.04.12)