Real Madrid are just two points away from the league title after a 3-0 win over Sevilla on Sunday lunchtime. Mourinho's side were looking to bounce back after their midweek elimination from the Champions League, but they were lucky to be let off in the fourth minute when Fazio fired a shot past Casillas, only for referee Mateu Lahoz to rule out the strike for what he considered to be a previous foul by Negredo on Pepe. A quarter of an hour later Madrid took the lead, Ronaldo picking up Benzema's pass and turning past Coke before striking an angled shot past Javi Varas, but Reyes, Navas and Negredo all wasted chances to level the scores in the following minutes. Later in the first half though Ronaldo hit the post and Benzema fired a shot over the top, and three minutes after the restart Benzema got behind Coke to turn Di María's cross in to the net. Four minutes after that Benzema got his second of the day after Sergio Ramos crossed in from the right wing, and Madrid were back on track for the 32nd league championship of their history.
Madrid were not able to celebrate the title just yet though as Barcelona thrashed Rayo Vallecano 0-7 later in the evening. This had been one of the most difficult weeks for Barça in a long time, losing to Madrid in the Nou Camp, getting knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea, and then the bombshell that Guardiola was leaving, and there were many doubts as to how they would react. By half time though they were already three up, Messi turning in Pedro's cross for the opener, Rober putting through his own net trying to clear from Alexis, and Keita latching on to a Messi assist to make it three. Guardiola and his successor Tito Vilanova had given a rare start to Pinto, in part to ensure that Valdés won the best goalkeeping prize, and in part to give the number two keeper some practise before the cup final, and he did have to make a couple of saves, in particular from Trashorras and Lass. But a minute after the restart Pedro made it four after Messi's shot came off the bar, and Thiago, Pedro and Messi added three more in the last quarter of an hour to keep up the seven point gap behind the leaders.
Málaga took a big step towards tying up one of the Champions League places after they beat third placed Valencia 1-0 to draw level with the Ches in the table. The Andalusians were the better side throughout, Guaita tipping a long shot from Eliseu on to the post before Camacho looped a header over the keeper later in the first half. Isco brought good saves out of the visiting keeper either side of half time, and with an hour on the clock Valencia were left with ten men after Feghouli was sent off for a second bookable offence. Kameni was only troubled by a shot just wide of the mark from Tino Costa later on, and in the final minutes Cazorla rattled the crossbar with a left-foot shot, and Guaita saved again from Van Nistelrooy. The win was not enough however to give the Andalusians the head-to-head advantage over their opponents, and they stay fourth.
The Europa League places are still wide open however, with Atlético Madrid currently occupying sixth spot after a nail-biting 2-2 draw at Betis in which three of the goals came in the last five minutes of the game. Simeone's side were on a high after reaching the final of this season's Europa League on Thursday, and Salvio, Falcao, Gabi and Adrián all missed chances to put them in front before the break. A few minutes after the restart Domínguez also fired a shot over the bar, and twenty minutes in to the second half Koke finally beat Fabricio after Falcao headed back Tiago's long cross. The visiting keeper stopped Adrián from scoring a second a few minutes later, but Rubén Castro went close at the other end, and with the game coming to an end substitute Pozuelo levelled the scores and then set up Jonathan Pereira to give the Andalusians the lead. Atlético saved a point however in the fourth minute of injury time, Falcao heading past Fabricio after Iriney could only head back a last gasp corner.
Athletic Bilbao are already sure of a place in the Europa League next season by virtue of reaching this year's Copa del Rey final, but their hopes of upgrading to the Champions League took a set-back when they were beaten 2-0 by Zaragoza. After the gruelling semi-final against Sporting Lisbon on Thursday, Bielsa rested several of his key players, but even so Ibai Gómez and Iñigo Pérez brought good saves out of Roberto early on with a couple of well struck free kicks. Apoño tested Iraizoz at the other end though and Postiga hit the post with a long shot, and with just under half an hour gone Edu Oriol ran through from midfield to put the locals ahead. Shortly before the half time whistle Pablo Alvarez headed off the line from De Marcos with the keeper beaten, but six minutes in to the second half Apoño made it two with a long shot following a set piece free kick which Iraizoz could only push off the post in to his own net. Postiga almost caught out the visiting keeper with a shot from his own half later on, and Zuculini ran through to fire a shot against the bar, but Manolo Jiménez's side had already done enough to take them level with Sporting Gijón in the table, just four points away from safety. With an easier run-in than the teams around them, they may just yet save themselves from relegation. (29.04.12)
Levante are not going to give up their Champions League spot without a fight, and they moved back up to fourth pending Sunday's games after a 3-1 win over Granada on Saturday evening. The Valencia based side had the better of the first half, with Julio César having to be at his best to save from Koné, and Botelho shooting in to the side netting. Just a minute after the restart Valdo intercepted a loose pass from Nyom to run on and cross in for Koné to head home the opener, and although Ighalo poked in the equaliser after Munúa could only push out a shot from Jara, Xavi Torres restored the lead with a thunderous volley after Valdo laid the ball across. With seven minutes to go Valdo headed a third from Botelho's cross, and Ghezzal could have added one more when he deflected a Ballesteros centre just past the post.
Further down the table Racing Santander are the first team to be relegated after a 3-0 defeat at Real Sociedad. It was a rainy night in San Sebastian, and still fresh in the minds of the home fans was the fact that Racing were the team who condemned them to the second division five years ago. Carlos Vela in particular brought a couple of good saves out of Mario in the first half, and two minutes after the interval Griezmann got on the end of a Xabi Prieto cross to poke the ball in on the near post. With twenty minutes to go Griezmann got his second of the evening after connecting with Zurutuza's through ball, and Agirretxe wrapped things up after Griezmann gifted him the goal late on. Real had their revenge, and the Cantabrians will spend their centenary year in the "división de plata" after ten years in the top flight.
Sporting Gijón are still in with a chance however after they won 0-3 at Espanyol. The Asturians had the worst away record in the league, and for 45 minutes they hardly troubled Cristian Alvarez in the local goal. Kalu Uche headed over and Coutinho brought a good save out of Juan Pablo as the locals had the better of the first half, but just two minutes after the restart Sangoy headed Trejo's cross over for Colunga to give Sporting the lead. With twenty minutes to go Trejo picked up Colunga's assist on a quick breakaway to make it two, and Bilic completed the scoreline later on after Rivera set him up. The defeat leaves Espanyol further away from the European places, and there were protests from the few home fans who stayed in the ground to the end.
Javier Clemente's side are only four points now below Villarreal, who once again threw away a one goal lead before drawing 1-1 against Osasuna. The visitors were looking to get back in to the European spots, and Nino brought a good save out of Diego López early on. Marco Rubén and Nekounam both hit the post later in the first half, but a minute before the half time whistle Bruno opened the scoring for the locals after Andrés could only push out a long shot from Marcos Senna. Lotina's side started strongly in the second half, Hernán Pérez and Bruno Valero in particular forcing Andrés in to a string of good saves, and Senna shooting just wide. But a goal out of nowhere by Raúl García made it all square, and with a difficult programme to the end of the season, starting with a visit to Sporting next Tuesday, Villarreal are still not safe.
Mallorca meanwhile ensured their safety last weekend, and they now have their sights on the Europa League spots after a 1-3 win at Getafe. Although Valera did head against the post early on, Joaquín Caparrós's side had the better of the first half, and Víctor Casadesús gave them the lead when he headed Pina's cross past Moyà on the half hour mark. Midway through the second half Alfaro headed a second from Nsue's centre, and Hemed made it three after Chori Castro squared the ball across from the left of the area. With the game already in injury time Alexis got a late consolation for the locals after Güiza's chipped shot came back off the crossbar, but the islanders had done enough to move a point above their hosts in the table. (28.04.12)