The hard-fought midweek cup-tie between Real Madrid and Barcelona appears to have taken a big toll on both clubs, with Madrid losing at Granada on Saturday, and Barcelona being held to a 1-1 draw by Valencia on Sunday. The Catalans had only won two of their last seven visits to the Mestalla stadium, and once again Banega gave the locals the lead with just over half an hour gone after Piqué could only head Soldado's cross in to his path. Messi equalised before the break from the penalty spot after Pereira tripped Pedro in the area, a record twelfth consecutive league game that he has scored in, and Fàbregas fired a shot just wide of the post soon after the restart. However Soldado headed just wide before that, and Valdés had to make a string of saves from Tino Costa, Canales, and in particular Soldado late on to keep the scoreline level. Substitue David Villa could have won it for for the visitors in the end against his old side when he turned a Dani Alves cross wide of the post, but in the end a draw was a fair result.
The other semi-finalists both won their respective matches though, second placed Atlético Madrid beating Betis 1-0 to move to within nine points of Barcelona in the table. Falcao returned to the side after a long injury lay-off, but it was left to others to make the headlines, with Turan and Gabi bringing good saves out of Adrián early on, and Koke and Mario Suárez failing to find the target before the break. Some ten minutes in to the second half Simeone turned to Diego Costa, and the battling centre forward immediately made his mark, getting between two defenders to head Gabi's corner in to the net from a yard out. The Andalusians hardly troubled Courtois all night, the Belgian keeper only having to make a couple of saves from Rubén Castro and Nacho, and a fifth clean sheet in a row at home in the league helped his team to maintain their 100% home record this season.
Sevilla meanwhile beat Rayo Vallecano 2-1 to move back to within five points of the European spots. It took them some time to get going however, and new keeper Beto had to be at his best to keep out Javi Fuego and Trashorras early on. Negredo though went close with a couple of lobs, and with the first half coming to a close Rubén came out of his area to clear, only for his kick to deflect off his own defender in the path of Rakitic, who lobbed a long shot over his head back in to the net. Some five minutes in to the second half the visitors were awarded a penalty when Fernando Navarro pulled down Chori Domínguez in the area, the Argentinian forward converting the resulting spot kick himself to level the scores. But just three minutes later Sevilla were back in front thanks to two of Rayo's ex players, Coke crossing in for Negredo to drag the ball past Rubén with his heel. Rakitic could have added a third had Rubén not been on his toes, but the Croatian midfielder got himself sent off right at the end when he was shown a second yellow card for diving in the penalty area.
Betis's defeat means that Málaga hold on to fourth spot despite a 1-1 draw at home to Zaragoza. Postiga gave the visitors the lead, sweeping a José Fernández cross past Caballero following a short corner, but midway through the first half Isco levelled the scores from the penalty spot after Paredes was adjudged to have deliberately blocked a corner with his arm. A few minutes later Isco hit the bar after another corner came out to him, and Roberto did well to keep out a shot from Jesús Gámez later in the first half. Caballero also had to save from Paco Montañés though before the half time whistle, and soon after the restart Recio hit the post with a free kick, Movilla firing the rebound wide. After that the Maños looked the better side, Caballero keeping out Víctor Rodríguez and Postiga going close, but in the end both teams settled for a point.
Real Sociedad are only three points behind Málaga, albeit still in eighth place, after a 3-0 win over struggling Mallorca. The Basque side were on top right from the start, with Carlos Vela going close a couple of times, and they were given a helping hand by referee Juan Antonio Teixeira Vitienes, who sent off Javi Márquez for a second bookable offence after incorrectly ruling that he had handled the ball with just under half an hour gone. The goals though didn't come until the second half, Chory Castro opening the scoring against his old club after Calatayud could only push out a shot from Vela. The Mexican forward scored the second himself after picking up a pass from Rubén Castro, and Ifrán rounded things off late on with a shot which went in off a defender after Agirretxe put him through. It was a fourth defeat in a row for the Balearic Islanders, and the result may well signal the end for their coach Joaquín Caparrós, despite the confidence placed in him by the new shareholders. (03.02.13)
A surprise on Saturday, with Real Madrid losing 1-0 to Granada in the last match of the evening. The Andalusians had started the game down in the bottom three after results earlier in the evening went against them, but with new coach Lucas Alcaraz on the bench and new signings Nolito, Aranda, Recio and Buonanotte in the squad they were full of renewed hope. Madrid themselves were looking tired after their gruelling midweek cup tie with Barcelona, and only a couple of Cristiano Ronaldo free kicks caused any danger for the local defence before the break. Ronaldo it was in fact who scored the only goal, but for the first time in his career it was in his own net, his back header from Nolito's corner midway through the first half catching his new keeper Diego López by surprise. After the break Toño (who Alcaraz had preferred to Roberto) turned an effort from Ronaldo round the post, and Benzema produced the miss of the weekend after the keeper had blocked an effort from Callejón, incomprehensively shooting wide with the goal at his mercy. A first win for the Andalusians though in 41 years against the team from the capital, and the players and crowd celebrated the result as if they had won the cup!
Osasuna moved out of the relegation spots after beating Celta 1-0 earlier in the evening. It was a cold, wet and windy afternoon in Pamplona, and the locals got off to a shaky start, Andrés having to be at his best to keep out Iago Aspas and Oubiña. However Armenteros came close to scoring at the other end when his header came back off the bar in to the hands of Javi Varas, and the visiting keeper was in action after that to save from Kike Sola and Cejudo. Either side of half time Rubén had a goal disallowed for a previous foul, and Nino headed over the bar. And although Aspas almost caught out Andrés with a shot from the halfway line, Armenteros got what was to prove the only goal soon afterwards after Lolo headed a corner across to him. Paco Herrera's side did their best after that, Park, Aspas and Toni testing the keeper again and Alex López putting a late chance over the top, but after only picking up two points from their last four games they ended the day down in the bottom three.
Celta join fellow Galicians Deportivo in the drop zone after Domingos Paciencia's side lost 3-1 at Getafe. The visitors seemed to be on track for a much needed win when Pizzi converted an early penalty after Moyà was sent off for tripping up Riki in the tenth minute. However a quarter of an hour later Diego Castro made it all square with a second penalty after Abdel Barrada was bundled over in the area, and Colunga went close a couple of times either side of the interval. Numbers were evened up when Abel Aguilar was red-carded for a second bookable offence midway through the second half, and although Riki headed just wide a few minutes later, substitute Alvaro Vázquez thrashed a shot past Aranzubia to put the locals ahead with ten minutes to go. Two minutes later it was all over when Colunga picked up Abdel's centre and turned past his marker to fire a shot inside the near post, giving Getafe their first win in eight games and leaving their opponents firmly anchored at the bottom of the table.
Espanyol are now five points clear of the drop zone after they beat Levante 3-2, their fourth home win in a row. The visitors had the better chances early on, Martins having a shot cleared off the line by Héctor Moreno and then coming up against keeper Kiko Casilla. But Longo wasted a couple of chances, and with five minutes to go to the break the Catalans took the lead when David Navarro tried to head clear a Simao free kick only for the ball to bounce back in to the net off Iborra. Rubén García headed the equaliser two minutes after the break, intercepting Colotto's headed back pass following a long punt by Héctor Rodas, but Stuani and Sergio García combined to score two goals in as many minutes to put the Catalans back in front. Even so it was a close call as Martins ran on to a long ball by Barkero to get one back near the end, and Colotto had to clear a Michel header off the line in injury time. (02.02.13)
The weekend began with the Friday night match between Valladolid and Athletic Bilbao, the Basque side coming back from two down to draw 2-2 in the end. Djukic's team got off to a best possible start, Javi Guerra heading in Rukavina's cross in the eighth minute, and Alberto Bueno turning Larsson's cross past Iraizoz a few minutes later after the keeper had blocked his first shot. Aduríz had hit the upright before that though, and midway through the first half De Marcos got one back, turning Susaeta's cross wide of Dani Hernández and in off the far post. Five minutes after the restart Susaeta himself made it all square, turning the ball in from close to goal after Aduríz played on Ibai's corner, and after that either side could have won it, with Javi Guerra and Susaeta in particular failing to convert chances later on. (01.02.13)