What a night of football! With fortunes interlinked, all ten games were obliged to kick off at the same time, and all had at least something at stake. Only one issue was decided in the end though, with Valencia tying up third spot after a last minute 1-0 win over neighbours Villarreal. This was Unai Emery's final home game in charge before his contract expires in the summer, and fans gave him a rousing send off. But although they dominated for much of the match they could not find a way past the excellent Diego López, who kept out an angled shot from Piatti and a wide Tino Costa free kick before the break. The visitors desperately needed to points to stay away from the drop zone, but they only managed a couple of long shots from Wakaso and Bruno before the interval and Borja Valero after. Diego López was in action again in the second half to save from Aduríz a couple of times and from Piatti, and Pablo Hernández fired a shot against the upright. But with a goal-less draw on the cards Aduríz headed a long free kick in to the area for Jonas to hold off his marker and score. The Ches had tied up that vital third place which gives automatic passage to the league stage of the Champions League, but Villarreal came away with nothing, and they ended the weekend just a point above the drop zone.
Fourth placed Málaga are still looking good for the final Champions League place despite losing 2-1 to an Atlético Madrid side who are now only two points behind the Andalusians in the table. Pellegrini's side started well against a direct rival, with Isco and Joaquín testing Courtois early on and Rondón wasting a couple of chances. Falcao fired a shot wide at the other end after Adrián set him up in front of goal, but soon afterwards Eliseu latched on to a loose ball outside the penalty area to fire an unstoppable shot past the local keeper. After the restart though Atlético rallied, Adrian and Diego shooting just wide before Koke equalised, driving a shot back past Kameni after the keeper punched out a corner. And with ten minutes to go Adrian got what was to prove the winner after Falcao headed on a long clearance from Courtois. The visitors felt themselves unlucky to have a late strike from Camacho ruled out for what the referee considered to be offside, but even so they should be able to do enough on the last day to keep Atlético and Levante at bay.
Málaga's last game is at home to Sporting Gijón, who still have at least a mathematical hope of survival after they beat Betis 2-1. Sangoy opened the scoring for the Asturians from the penalty spot after Amaya handled in the area, and the striker went close with an overhead kick a few minutes later. Juan Pablo had a couple of saves to make though, and with the first half coming to a close Jorge Molina made it all square after the local keeper cleared an angled shot from Rubén Castro to him. Sangoy was on hand however to restore the lead after picking up a return pass from Trejo ten minutes in to the second half, and although Juan Pablo had to be on his toes to keep out Molina a couple of times after that, Clemente's side held on to take their fight in to the last weekend. To stay up though, Sporting will have to beat Málaga and hope Zaragoza and Rayo both lose.
Any two of five teams could in fact go down, although Sporting are the only ones whose fate is in the hands of others. Zaragoza themselves will remain in the top flight if they can win their last match at Getafe, a 2-1 victory over the already relegated Racing Santander keeping them three points above the Asturians in the table. The Maños went behind in the tenth minute when Christian headed a long free kick past Roberto, but just two minutes later Postiga got on the end of a Pablo Alvarez free kick to head the equaliser. And after that they took control, with Mario saving from Pinter and Edu Oriol and Apoño just missing the target. Roberto did have to keep out Edu Bedia soon after the restart, but Lafita headed against the bar twice and also brought another good save out of Mario before he finally got the winner, poking a shot past the visiting keeper after Postiga failed to connect with an attempted scissors kick.
It was a third win in a row for Manolo Jiménez's side, who are now level on points with Rayo Vallecano after the Madrid based team lost 5-2 at Sevilla. Both teams needed a victory, the Andalusians having only picked up one point out of a possible twelve, and the visitors having lost their last five games. With just under twenty minutes gone the home side were awarded a penalty when Delibasic pulled down Cala, and although Cobeño saved Trochowski's spot kick, Babá got on the end of a Jesús Navas cross to open the scoring ten minutes later. Diego Costa made it all square with a second penalty after Michu was tripped in the area, but headed goals from Cala and Babá either side of half time put Sevilla back in front, and Reyes got a fourth a few minutes later from another Navas assist. Costa gave Rayo a glimmer of hope with his second of the evening from Michel's corner, but with ten minutes to go substitute Kanouté, playing his last match in the Sánchez Pizjuán stadium, said goodbye to his fans with style with a fifth goal after good work again by Navas.
Rayo now have a must win last game against Granada, who are still not out of danger after a 1-2 defeat against a depleted Real Madrid. In accordance with tradition the Andalusians applauded the league winners on to the pitch at the start. Four minutes later though they were ahead, Franco Jara winning the ball off Marcelo in his own half and running the length of the pitch to fire a shot under the legs of Adán. Soon afterwards Ighalo should have made it two, Adán pushing out his first shot and Marcelo clearing his follow up off the line with the keeper beaten. But Madrid gradually came back, Ronaldo heading over a couple of times before the break and Benzema and Ronaldo bringing good saves out of Julio César after the interval. Granada held on though until ten minutes from the end, when Ronaldo converted a penalty after Moisés Hurtado had rugby tackled him in the area, and with the game already in injury time David Cortés inexplicably turned Benzema's cross in to his own net. A couple of minutes later Clos Gómez blew the final whistle before the home side could take a corner, and the nerves got the better of the local players, Siqueira and Hurtado being shown red cards for insulting the referee, and Dani Benítez facing a major ban after throwing a bottle at the official. A missed opportunity though for Abel Resino's side, and the last weekend will not be for the faint-hearted.
Everything could boil down to the head-to-head records if teams are level on points, and the European spots are also very close going in to the last day, with Málaga, Atlético and Levante all in with a chance of taking the last berth in the Champions League, and another four sides at least a mathematical within reach of the two remaining Europa League places. Mallorca are one of those, and they bumped Levante out of the top six for the first time in thirteen weeks after beating the Valencia based side 1-0. Converted right back Nsue went close a couple of times early on and Munúa had to make a point blank save from Alfaro, Valdo replying for the visitors with a chip just over the bar on a quick breakaway. Seven minutes after the interval though Tomas Pina scored what was to prove the only goal of the game, virtually passing the ball in to the net after Chori Castro laid a corner across the area, and although Barkero had a great chance to equalise later on, he steered his header straight at Aouate. A fourth win in a row for Caparrós's side, and after getting thrown out of the Europa League two seasons ago for financial reasons, only Real Madrid stand in the way of a satisfying return.
Osasuna are only a point behind both of them though after a 1-0 victory over local rivals Real Sociedad. The Pamplona based side were looking to get back in to the top six after four games without a win, and Bravo had to save from Raúl García and Cejudo before Ibrahima finally beat him, the keeper and the woodwork keeping out shots from Bertrán and the striker before the goal. Ifrán and Estrada went close for the visitors before the break, but Bravo had to make first class saves from Ibrahima and Raúl García after the restart to keep his side in touch. With the game into the final minutes Real came out looking for the equaliser, but Andrés and his defence held fast. A much needed win for Osasuna, and with a last match against a demotivated Racing Santander to come, they still have a good chance of playing in Europe next season.
Athletic Bilbao and Getafe are out of the running for the top six after they could only draw 0-0 in the San Mamés stadium. Bielsa's side are already sure of a place in next season's Europa League though by virtue of reaching the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona, and with this year's Europa League final only four days away, the coach made nine changes to his first choice line up. Even so Ibai Gómez tested Moyà early on and Iñigo Pérez fired a long free kick over the top, but Miku went close before Ander Herrera just failed to find the target shortly before half time. After the interval Toquero volleyed an acrobatic shot over the top and then headed just wide, and Gabilondo thought he had scored when his header bounced off the crossbar on to the goal-line. But in the end both teams settled for a draw which left them with nothing to play for on the last day.
Espanyol are also a long way short of the European places after a 4-0 defeat against city rivals Barcelona. It was another emotive night in the Nou Camp, with fans saying goodbye to Guardiola in a prolonged ceremony after the match finished. Otherwise though the star of the night was Leo Messi, who almost certainly tied up the Pichichi and the Golden Boot awards with four goals which took his tally in the league to an amazing 50, ten more than the all-time record set by Cristiano Ronaldo only last season. Messi started things off with a well struck free kick in the eleventh minute, and although Verdú replied with a free kick just wide, Cristian Alvarez had to be at his best to save from Keita and Messi later on in the first half. Raúl Baena thought he should have had a penalty soon after the restart, but a few minutes later referee Fernando Teixeira Vitienes awarded one to the home side after Cristian Gómez handled in the area, and Messi stepped up to score his second of the night. A few minutes later Mascherano headed a shot from Weiss over the bar with keeper Pinto beaten, but play went up the other end and Messi controlled a long pass from Adriano before running on to complete his hat-trick. There was still time though for Messi to score a fourth with another penalty after Forlín tripped Busquets in the area, and he almost got another near the end when he got free on goal only to shoot just wide. A night of celebrations, but with no titles so far this season and the manager abandoning ship, right now the future at Barcelona is uncertain. (05.05.12)