Betis drop out of the European spots this week after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Valladolid on Monday evening. Missing the injured Rubén Castro, Pepe Mel's side were ineffective in front of goal, and Dani Hernández only had to save a long shot from Beñat throughout the first half. Things did get better after the restart, and the visiting keeper did well to stop a couple of efforts from Jorge Molina. Campbell and Nono also went close, and in the final minutes Peña cleared a looping header from Molins off the line with the keeper beaten. Valladolid themselves had virtually nothing in reply though, and they pulled even further back when Rukavina was unfairly sent off for what referee Pérez Lasa considered was a second bookable offence. Numbers were evened up late on when Amaya also picked up a rigorous second yellow card, but by then both teams had settled for a point. (11.02.13)
Barcelona increased their lead at the top of the first division to twelve points after beating Getafe 6-1 on Sunday lunchtime. An inspired Iniesta set up the first goal for Alexis in only the sixth minute, and soon afterwards the Spanish international combined with Thiago for Messi to score the second, a record thirteenth league game in a row that he has found the net. Colunga did try his luck at the other end, but Messi hit the post shortly before the break, and a few minutes in to the second half David Villa ran on to a Jordi Alba through ball to turn a shot under Codina. Tello came on to make it four just a couple of minutes after making his appearance, and when Alvaro Vázquez ran through to score a consolation for the visitors after Alba headed back Lopo's long punt, it seemed that Jordi Roura's team had matched Real Madrid's score from the day before. However with the game in time added on Iniesta got his name on the scoresheet after Messi was tackled, and two minutes later Piqué completed the "set" after Thiago chested down a cross from Dani Alves and unselfishly played the ball across for him to score from close to goal.
Second placed Atlético Madrid were beaten 2-1 though by neighbours Rayo Vallecano later in the evening, and they ended the weekend just four points ahead of city rivals Real Madrid. The locals caught out their opponents early on, Lass firing a shot past Courtois in only the third minute after the defence failed to cut out Piti's cross. Juanfran, Falcao and Adrián all went close at the other end, but Chori Domínguez tested Courtois again before Leo Baptistao got between two defenders to turn a cross from Lass in on the near post. After the break Rubén was given a busy time by Filipe Luis, Arda Turan and youngster Oliver Torres, but just when it looked like he was on for a clean sheet he was beaten by Falcao. A great win for Rayo, and even though coach Paco Jémez didn't make it to the end thanks to an over-zealous referee, his side are now sitting proudly in sixth place in the table.
Real Sociedad are just a point and a place behind Rayo though after a 1-2 victory at Zaragoza. The Basque side had only lost once in their last twelve games, and that by a narrow margin in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, and they took the lead in the eleventh minute when Griezmann picked up a Carlos Vela through ball before steering a shot past Roberto. Midway through the first half the locals were left a man short when youngster Héctor was sent off for a second bookable offence, and a few minutes later Agirretxe controlled the ball inside the area and curled a shot past the keeper for the second. Manolo Jiménez brought on new boys Bienvenu and Rochina in the second half, and the ex Blackburn forward put Bravo to the test for the first time. Roberto had to be at his best though to keep Griezmann and De la Bella from increasing the lead, and it was only in the last minute that the Maños finally got on the scoresheet, Apoño converting a penalty after Postiga was brought down by Bergara inside the area.
Real's neighbours Athletic Bilbao are having problems this season, and they drop to within six points of the bottom three after falling to a heavy 0-4 defeat against Espanyol. The early chances fell to the home team, Casilla having to save from Susaeta and Aurtenetxe, and De Marcos putting a good chance over the bar. With just under half an hour gone though Héctor Moreno headed Simao's wide free kick down past Iraizoz to open the scoring, and early in the second half two goals in as many minutes from Víctor Sánchez and Stuani, both from assists by substitute Víctor Alvarez, put the game beyond Athletic's reach. Many fans left the San Mamés stadium at that point, and they would therefore have missed Espanyol's fourth which came following a penalty by Laporte on Alvarez, Iraizoz blocking Verdú's spot kick only for the midfielder to turn the ball back in to the net. The win takes the Catalans above their opponents in the table, and they have now only lost once since Javier Aguirre took over ten games ago. (10.02.13)
Real Madrid are starting to build up steam ahead of their midweek Champions League clash, and they sent a message that they are ready for the visit of Manchester United after a comfortable 4-1 win over Sevilla on Saturday evening. After the defeat at Granada last weekend and some gruelling midweek international fixtures, Mourinho made several changes to his line up, Kaká taking advantage of a rare start to test keeper Beto early on. Soon afterwards Benzema opened the scoring with the easiest goal he will probably have in his career, Fernando Navarro deflecting Ronaldo's cross to him as he stood on the goal line, and Kaká brought another good save out of Beto before laying the ball back for Ronaldo to make it two. Navas and Reyes gave Diego López some work to do before the break, but soon after the restart Arbeloa headed back a Beto clearance, and a static defence allowed Ronaldo to collect the ball and score his side's third. And a few minutes later the Portuguese striker completed his hat-trick following a long gallop from his own half which ended with him connecting with Higuaín's return pass to turn the ball in off the post. Both sides ended with ten men when Higuaín and then Maduro were sent off for second bookable offences, and substitute Manu del Moral got a late consolation for the Andalusians, but by then the match was over, and Madrid had the confidence boosting win the needed before the visit of Sir Alex Ferguson's side.
Madrid stay in third spot, still seven points clear of Málaga, who came from behind to beat Levante 1-2 earlier in the evening. The early chances fell to the locals, with Willy Caballero making first class saves from Rubén García and Martins before Demichelis gave away a penalty on Martins which Barkero converted. However before the interval new Spanish international Isco equalised with a second penalty after Baptista was pushed in the back by Lell. Munúa had to be on his toes to stop a long shot from Baptista before the break, and just two minutes in to the second half Isco controlled a cross from Toulalan before drilling a low shot past the local keeper. Caballero was in action again after that to keep out Martins a couple of times, and Pedro Ríos and Juanlu both steered headers wide of the target, but Pellegrini's side held on to increase their lead over their rivals to six points.
For a couple of hours or so though Valencia had bumped the Andalusians out of fourth spot after a last gasp 0-1 win at Celta. The Galicians had dropped in to the relegation spots after only one win in eight games, but they dominated the early minutes, with Iago Aspas lobbing a shot just wide, and Guaita having to save deflected shot from Augusto Fernández. Either side of half time though Rami headed a Tino Costa free kick against the foot of the post, and Soldado had a strike ruled out for a dubious offside. And later in the first half both keepers were in action, Javi Varas saving from Jonas and Feghouli, and Guaita keeping out Bermejo. With a draw on the cards though Valverde brought on Nelson Valdez, and the Paraguayan striker got on the end of a Joao Pereira cross to head home the winner in the third minute of injury time.
Celta stay in the bottom three, as do Mallorca, who were held to a 1-1 draw by fellow strugglers Osasuna in the first match of the weekend. The islanders had changed their coach midweek after failing to win at home since late September, Gregorio Manzano returning to the club for the third time after Caparrós agreed with management that it was time to leave. The visitors though were looking to build on their win last week against Celta which had taken them out of the relegation spots, and they felt themselves hard done by when referee Pérez Montero eventually agreed to rule out an early headed goal by Rubén for what he considered to be a previous foul. Giovani missed a good chance to put the locals ahead before the break, and Pereira had a shot turned round the post by Andrés after the restart, but with a quarter of an hour to go Lolo headed the Pamplona based side in to the lead from Cejudo's corner. However Geromel saved a point for the locals in injury time when he headed over Andrés after Aouate played a long ball in to the area, and Giovani could have won it had his last second strike not been ruled out for a narrow offside.
Mallorca are now four points away from safety, and bottom club Deportivo stay two points behind them after losing 0-3 to Granada, a second big win in a row for the Andaulsians' new coach Lucas Alcaraz. Riki missed the best of chances to put the locals ahead shortly before the interval, but just a minute later the visitors took the lead, Nolito's header from Aranda's cross coming back off the crossbar and the post and going in off Marchena. Five minutes after the break Ighalo made it two after Siqueira laid the ball across, and although Riki had a strike disallowed for offside and then had an effort saved by Toño, it was Granada who scored again when Siqueira converted an injury time penalty after Ighalo fell under a challenge from Manuel Pablo. The veteran right back got himself sent off in the incident after insulting the referee, and with his side in disarray, Depor manager Domingos Pacienca offered his resignation to club president Lendoiro just six weeks after he took over from José Luis Oltra. (09.02.13)