Rayo Vallecano are up to seventh in the table after a 3-1 victory over local rivals Getafe on Monday evening. Lass took advantage of a rare start to open the scoring early on, cutting in from the right wing past three defenders before firing a shot in to the near top corner of the net. And for the rest of the first half the locals were on top, Piti firing an easy chance wide soon after the goal, and Moyà having to make two or three first class saves before he was beaten again, Piti getting on the end of a Trashorras cross to steer an angled shot wide of the keeper. Six minutes after the restart it was all over, Piti sweeping a third past the visiting keeper after Leo Baptistao set him up. And although Alvaro hit the post and Paco Alcácer headed one back, any hope of a comeback ended when Michel got himself sent off for aggressively threatening Baptistao after the young forward caught him with an accidental flying elbow. (07.01.13)
Barcelona started the new year as they ended the last, a 4-0 win over city neighbours Espanyol taking them eleven points clear at the top of the table. Tito Vilanova returned to the dugout after his cancer operation to see his team race in to a four goal lead with only thirty minutes on the clock, Xavi opening the scoring after Iniesta set him up in the tenth minute. Five minutes later a good run by Fàbregas down the by-line ended with Messi firing in a shot which Pedro deflected in to the net, his first league goal since August. And Pedro scored again from a pinpoint pass by Busquets before Messi added the fourth from the penalty spot soon afterwards. After the break Pedro was deprived of his hat-trick when he had two strikes ruled out for offside, and Messi could have added a fifth when his free kick bounced off the crossbar with the keeper beaten. With the game coming to a close Valdés prevented Albín from scoring a late consolation, and Espanyol finished the day still in the bottom three, their four game unbeaten run coming to an end at the home of the old enemy.
Second placed Atlético Madrid dropped points to the leaders after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Mallorca later in the evening. With Falcao serving out a one match ban, Diego Costa led the attack, and he caused a few problems for Aouate and his defence before the break. Giovani and Arizmendi went close for the locals before the half time whistle, but Atleti continued to dominate in the second half, with Aouate having to keep out Filipe Luis and Koke, and Raúl García heading a corner against the crossbar. With just under twenty minutes to go Raúl García put the visitors ahead after the local keeper could only push out an angled shot from Costa, but three minutes from the end Kevin García equalised after Pina cleared the ball across the area, and Caparrós's side almost scraped an undeserved win when Giovani hit the post in injury time.
Atlético's slip allowed Real Madrid to close to within five points of their city rivals after a 4-3 victory against Real Sociedad. Once again Mourinho preferred Adán to Iker Casillas in goal, but the youngster got himself sent off after giving away a penalty on Carlos Vela in only the sixth minute, and Casillas had to come on in any case. By then Madrid were already one up after Benzema turned Khedira's pass past Bravo, and although Xabi Prieto converted the spot kick, Khedira restored the lead with a clever flick past the keeper a few minutes later. The Basques squared the game again however before the break, Prieto beating Casillas for a second time, and although Benzema hit the post and Khedira missed an easy follow up, there were some whistles from the crowd at the interval. In the end two goals in as many minutes from Ronaldo, the first from Benzema's assist and the second with a free kick which Bravo should never have let in, wrapped things up for the ten men. It was still close though, even though numbers were evened up when Estrada picked up a second booking, Prieto completing a pyrrhic hat-trick with a quarter of an hour to go to set up a nervous last few minutes.
The Sunday "three kings" celebrations began with a mid-day game between Celta and Valladolid, the Galicians running out 3-1 winners to move away from the danger zone. Krohn-Delhi brought an early save out of Dani Hernández before slipping a long ball through for Iago Aspas to open the scoring in the eighth minute. Three minutes later a silly mistake by Javi Varas gave away a penalty which enabled Alberto Bueno to level the scores, but Aspas restored the lead with a twice taken second penalty after he was pushed over by Balenziaga later on in the first half. Alex López drilled home an impressive third after picking up a square pass from Park at the start of the second half, band Varas made up for his earlier mistake with good saves from Sastre, Lolo and new signing Larsson in the last few minutes. (06.01.13)
Deportivo's new coach Domingos Pacienca got off to the best possible start after his side beat fourth placed Málaga 1-0 on Saturday evening. With the Galicians ending 2012 at the foot of the table, Pacienca was drafted in to replace José Luis Oltra. And a revitalized side totally dominated the first half, with Caballero having to save from Bruno Gama and Riki, and Pizzi firing a free kick against the upright. Local keeper Aranzubia did have to be at his best to save from Joaquín shortly before half time, but after the restart Riki fired another shot just wide of the post before Pizzi took advantage of sloppy back passes by Eliseu and Gámez to run on past Demichelis and score. Málaga did their best to get back in it after that, Santa Cruz going close and Buonanotte coming up against Aranzubia again, but the locals held on for a first win in two months which takes them above Osasuna in the table.
Earlier in the afternoon Levante consolidated sixth spot after coming from a goal down to beat Athletic Bilbao 3-1. Aduríz got on the end of a Susaeta cross to head the opener for the visitors in only the sixth minute, but Iraizoz had to make a first class save from Roger before Lell picked up El Zhar's pass and ran on to equalise midway through the first half. With half time approaching Laporte got himself sent off for bringing down Roger as he advanced on goal, and although Iraizoz kept out Michel's free kick, Ballesteros and Roger played the ball back in for Iborra to head past the keeper. And after the break Iraizoz had to make another good stop from Roger before El Zhar beat him for a third time, controlling Michel's pass and firing a low shot inside the near post from outside of the area.
Levante's city neighbours Valencia are now just a place behind them in the table pending the rest of the weekend's results after a 1-2 win at Granada. The locals were left with ten men with an hour still to play when Mikel Rico picked up a second booking, but even so they went ahead early in the second half when a long throw-in was headed in to the path of Brayan Angulo, who lobbed a shot over Diego Alves in to the far corner of the net. Ten minutes later though Jonas ran in to head Piatti's corner down past Roberto, and the Ches came close to scoring two or three times before Soldado whipped the ball across for Piatti to score the winner with eight minutes to go. Granada crumbled after that, and Soldado could have added to the scoreline when he hit the post near the end.
Sevilla are far from their best this season, but they at least started the new year with a 1-0 victory over Osasuna to take some of the pressure off coach Michel. The Pamplona based side were looking to get back off the bottom of the table, and Diego López was kept busy as the visitors had the better of the first half. Kike Sola had a strike ruled out soon after the restart for a questionable hand ball, but after that the Andalusians rallied, Negredo heading just over and Andrés doing well to keep out Kondogbia, Rakitic and Navas. Then with seven minutes to go Andrés turned a Kondogbia header for a corner, and after a long period of attack Reyes headed the ball back in to the area for Spahic to score what was to prove the winner, referee Del Cerro Grande turning down Osasuna's appeals that Reyes was in an offside position when he made the pass. (05.01.13)
Betis kicked off the new year with a 1-2 victory at Zaragoza on Friday night, a result which took them level with fourth placed Málaga in the table pending their game on Saturday. The locals were looking to improve on their poor home record this season, and Postiga, Alvaro and Víctor Rodríguez all went close in the first half. However just before the half time whistle Rubén Castro ran on to Nosa's through ball to force a shot under Roberto, and Jorge Molina missed an easy chance to make it two before intercepting a loose pass from Alvaro and running on to beat the keeper for a second time. Roberto had to be at his best to prevent Castro from increasing the lead a few minutes later, and although Paco Montañés did get one back with a quarter of an hour to go, the strike came too late to change the result. (04.01.13)