Betis hold on to fourth spot after a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao on Monday evening. The Andalusians took the lead in only the second minute of the match, Rubén Castro converting a penalty after Iraizoz brought down Salva Sevilla as he entered the area. For the next few minutes the locals looked as if they could go further ahead, but Adrián was forced in to a brilliant save from an Ander Herrero volley and with four minutes to go to the break Aduríz ran on to Ander's through ball to lift a shot over the advancing keeper for the equaliser. Now it was Betis's turn to suffer, and Susaeta and Iturraspe missed good chances before the half time whistle. The locals felt they should have had a penalty when Ander blocked Nono's shot inside the area after the restart, but in the end it took a couple of late saves by Adrián from Aduríz and Susaeta to keep the scores level. (21.01.13)
Second placed Atlético Madrid took advantage of Barcelona's defeat on Saturday to close the gap on the leaders to eight points, Simeone's side keeping up their 100% home record with a 2-0 victory over Levante on Sunday evening. Falcao tested Munúa before Adrián opened the scoring, turning the ball past the keeper after Manquillo turned Thiago's long pass across the front of the goal shortly before half time. There was a set-back when Falcao limped off with an injury soon after the restart, but a few minutes later Koke picked up a return pass from his replacement Diego Costa to curl a shot over the keeper in to the far top corner of the net. Martins came close to getting one back when he just failed to turn Michel's shot between the posts, and Juanlu fired a shot just wide near the end. However Munúa had to be at his best to keep out a wide Koke free kick, and Cristian Rodríguez fired a shot against the bar as the locals looked to extend their lead. An eighteenth home win in a row though in all competitions for Atleti, and Courtois has not let in a goal in the Calderón stadium in over fifteen hours!
Real Madrid stay seven points behind their city neighbours after a convincing 0-5 win at Valencia, all the goals coming in a whirlwind first half. Higuaín missed an easy chance with only seven minutes gone, but a minute later he opened the scoring after Özil and Di María combined to set him up. With ten minutes to go to the break Ronaldo crossed in for Di María to score the second on the far post, and two minutes later Ronaldo made it three himself after running in from midfield to fire a shot inside Diego Alves's near post. Soon afterwards Ronaldo got his second of the evening after Özil laid back Di María's cross, and Di María completed the scoring after Özil put him through once again. By then a large part of the crowd had already abandoned the Mestalla stadium, but those that stayed saw their side at least save a bit of pride, Piatti firing a shot against the bar and Coentrao having to clear a Rami header off the line with the keeper beaten. Still they were unable to beat Casillas for the rest of the match, and it will be interesting to see if they can do better when the two teams meet again in the cup on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day Valladolid moved to within three points of the European spots after beating Zaragoza 2-0. Javi Guerra headed a free kick against the woodwork before putting his side ahead, the striker poking a shot past Roberto after Oscar played a corner back in to the area. Later in the first half Ebert, Apoño and Loovens all left the field with injuries, and shortly before the break Guerra put a good chance wide after Roberto could only push out a long shot from Alvaro Rubio. With seventeen minutes to go however Oscar made it two after latching on to a cross from Peña, and only a good save from the visiting keeper prevented Larsson from getting his first goal for his new club near the end.
The first match on Sunday saw bottom club Osasuna win 2-1 against Deportivo to move above their opponents in the table. Kike Sola put the home side ahead with an acrobatic shot in off the post from an Armenteros cross, referee Pérez Lasa waving away claims that Armenteros picked up Lolo's long pass in an offside position. And with an hour on the clock Nino scored the second, firing a shot past Aranzubia after a quickly taken Lolo free kick. Andrés Fernández had to be at his very best though to keep out substitute Nelson Oliveira when he twice got free on goal, and ex-Osasuna midfielder Camuñas got one back from Pizzi's cross in injury time, a goal which gives the Galicians the head-to-head advantage should the two clubs be level on points at the end of the season. (20.01.13)
It had to happen sometime! After only dropping two points in the first half of the season, Barcelona finally lost their first league game when they fell to a 3-2 defeat at Real Sociedad on Saturday evening. Messi had never scored in the Anoeta stadium, but he rectified that with only seven minutes gone after Fàbregas stepped over Iniesta's pass to leave him free to beat Bravo. Soon afterwards Pedro hit the post, and he too got his name on the scoresheet after Xavi and Dani Alves combined to set him up midway through the first half. It looked like Barça were heading for another comfortable win, but Messi's luck ran out when his lob hit the post and rolled along the goal-line before being cleared by Mikel González, and with five minutes to go to half time Carlos Vela passed the ball out for Chory Castro to get one back. Messi tested Bravo again before the break with a spectacular volley, but ten minutes after the restart Piqué got himself sent off for a second bookable offence, and seven minutes later Castro equalised with a shot which came off Mascherano's knee to wrong foot Valdés. Neither side had any clear cut chances after that, but with a draw seemingly on the cards Carlos Martínez crossed in for Agirretxe to get between his markers and poke home the winner. The headlines raced across the world - they are human!
The three teams immediately below Barça play later this weekend, but fifth placed Málaga failed to take advantage after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Celta later in the evening. The visitors had only picked up three points away from home all season, but they had the better chances early on, with Krohn-Dehli and Iago Aspas bringing good saves out of Willy Caballero. However with eight minutes to go to the break the locals took the lead after a prolonged attack, Javi Varas saving Santa Cruz's header but the striker knocking the rebound across for Demichelis to finish off. Celta came back strongly after the interval though, and they got their reward when Augusto Fernández equalised after Weligton's tackle on Alex López fell kindly to him. That set up a frenetic final few minutes, with Cabral shooting just over the bar following a corner, and Caballero making a last minute save from De Lucas, and Varas doing well to keep out Portillo and Demichelis at the other end. A point each though, and Málaga now have to concentrate on their midweek cup quarter final against Barcelona.
Sixth placed Rayo Vallecano also slipped up, a 2-0 defeat at Granada leaving them a point behind Málaga in the table. Paco Jémez's side had won their last four games, and they could have gone ahead when Franco Váquez missed an easy chance after Piti crossed in from the left. Ighalo though was causing some problems for the visiting defence, and midway through the first half the Andalusians took the lead when Jordi Amat turned Nyom's cross in to his own net under pressure from the striker. Local keeper Roberto had to be at his best to save from Piti and Tito either side of half time, and his opposite number Rubén was also in action to keep out Brahimi and Orellana. With ten minutes to go however Granada's two new signings Aranda and Recio got together for Recio to drill a low shot past Rubén, ensuring what was only a second home win this season for Juan Antonio Anquela's team.
New Sevilla coach Unai Emery followed up his team's cup draw at Zaragoza with a 1-1 draw at Getafe, a result which consolidated both sides' position in mid-table. The Andalusians had the better of the early play, Negredo hitting the side netting and Jesús Navas bringing a good save out of Moyà before Reyes latched on to Rakitic's back-heel pass to open the scoring five minutes before the break. Some three minutes later though Colunga equalised with a wind-assisted free kick which flew over the head of Palop, and the keeper had to be on his toes to save from Paco Alcácer before the half time whistle. After the restart the visitors were on top, Kondogbia having a strike ruled out for a marginal offside and Moyà having to save from a couple of inswinging Navas corners, and also from his own man Delibasic. But in the end honours were shared, leaving Emery's team still three points behind their opponents in the table. (19.01.13)
Espanyol's improvement under Javier Aguirre continues, and they moved four points clear of the relegation spots after beating fellow strugglers Mallorca 3-2 on Friday evening. Simao put the Catalans in front with a long free kick which went in off the post on the quarter hour mark. But by half time the islanders had turned the scoreline around, Héctor Moreno only managing to head a long clearance back for Giovani to run on and beat Casilla from the right of the area, and Javi Márquez scoring the second against his old side after a corner came back out to him. However Verdú levelled it once again from the penalty spot after Nunes fell in to the path of Longo, and after Luna was sent off, Raúl Baena got the winner after a shot by Capdevila came off a defender to him. With the game coming to a close substitute keeper Rubén Miño made a good save from Longo, and Hemed could have saved a point for the visitors when he turned Martí's free kick wide in front of goal. The defeat leaves Mallorca further down in the drop zone though having only picked up six points from their last fifteen games. (18.01.13)