Sevilla moved up to within five points of the European spots after a 4-1 victory over struggling Celta in this week's Monday night match. The visitors were looking to build on their win the week before, knowing that three points would take them out of the relegation spots, and Beto had to be on his toes to push an early shot by Iago Aspas round the post. However five minutes later Negredo opened the scoring for the Andalusians after ex Sevilla keeper Javi Varas could only push out a cross-come-shot from Jesús Navas. Aspas forced Beto in to another save a few minutes later, but with half an hour on the clock Negredo scored his second of the evening in a carbon copy of the first goal. The Galicians got one back before the break, Augusto Fernández controlling a cross from Aspas before beating Beto. But two goals in as many minutes midway through the second half wrapped things up for Unai Emery's side, Medel curling a fierce shot past Varas from outside of the area, and Negredo completing his hat-trick after a cross from Alberto Moreno was only partly cleared by a defender. (04.03.13)
Second placed Atlético Madrid closed the gap behind leaders Barcelona to eleven points after a 0-0 draw at Málaga on Sunday evening. With the best two defences in the league on the park, this was always scheduled to be a low scoring match. However keepers Caballero and Courtois had little work to do as both sets of strikers had an off day. Atlético did have the better of the first half, but Diego Costa, Turan, Godín and Cristian Rodríguez all failed to find the target. And the best chances for the locals came from defenders following dead ball kicks, Demichelis heading a corner just wide shortly before the break, and Weligton doing likewise from an Antunes free kick after the restart. Mario Suárez did finally test Caballero later on, but with other competitions on their minds, the two coaches finally settled for a point apiece.
Málaga stay in fourth spot after the sixth and seventh placed teams Real Sociedad and Betis cancelled each other out in a thrilling 3-3 draw later in the evening. The two teams showed though why they are riding high this season, with the lead changing hands twice before the game ended all square. The locals had the better chances early on, Adrián having to tip over a shot from Carlos Vela, Griezmann having a strike ruled out for a more than dubious offside, and Agirretxe heading against the post. However Molina opened the scoring for the visitors against the run of play after Joel Campbell put him through, and four minutes after the restart Pabón made it two after running on to Beñat's long pass to score from a wide angle. Within twelve minutes though Real scored three times to turn the scoreline around, Carlos Vela drilling home the first after Agirretxe headed across a high ball. Iñigo Martínez levelled the scores five minutes later, steering a header past Adrián from Vela's cross, and Xabi Prieto got the third from the penalty spot after Angel blocked the ball with his upper arm inside the area. Just four minutes after that though Pabón ran on to Rubén Castro's return pass to turn a shot past Bravo, and although Agirretxe, Griezmann, De la Bella and Vela all went close later on, Adrián and his defence held fast for a well-earned point.
Honours were shared as well in Barcelona, where Espanyol and Valladolid also drew 0-0. With both sides safely in mid-table, they already seem to have started to wind down their seasons, and there was little intensity throughout. Sastre drove a shot at Casilla and Omar fired another effort wide in the opening quarter of an hour, and the locals replied with a shot from Sergio García which Rueda blocked, and a header off target from Héctor Moreno. Manucho failed to find the mark with a header from Omar's cross just before the break, and Capdevila and Sergio García both went close early on in the second half. Javier Aguirre brought Wakaso back in to the fold after his ostracism following his late return from the Africas Cup, and he fired a shot over the top near the end. And with the game in injury time only a timely tackle by Víctor Sánchez prevented Oscar from sneaking a late winner. A point each though which takes them gradually closer to safety, and although Espanyol's five match winning run in their Cornellà stadium came to an end, it didn't seem to matter that much.
Mallorca took a small step towards salvation after a last minute 1-2 win at relegation rivals Granada in this Sunday's mid-day kick-off. A capacity crowd saw Buonanotte test Aouate with a free kick before Nolito steered a header past the keeper from a Juanma Ortíz cross. That was in the eighth minute, but just four minutes later a good run by Giovani ended with him passing across for Alfaro to level the scores from close to goal, and soon afterwards Toño had to be at his best to keep out a Víctor Casadesús header. Either side of half time Aouate made another good save from Nolito, and Aranda got free on goal twice only to waste the chances. Both keepers were in action after that, Toño stopping Casadesús again and Toño turning an effort from substitute Hemed against the post. The match appeared to be heading for a draw though until the third minute of injury time, when Hemed headed a Giovani corner towards goal. Toño got a hand to the ball, but it crept agonisingly over the line before he could push it away. A life saving win for Manzano's side, and they are now only five points behind their hosts in the table. (03.03.13)
For the second time in five days Real Madrid beat Barcelona, Mourinho's side winning 2-1 against their arch rivals on Saturday afternoon to add to their midweek cup victory. With one eye on Tuesday night's Champions League clash at Manchester United, the coach rested several of his key players, Ronaldo and Özil starting on the bench and Xabi Alonso left out of the squad. However with only five minutes gone Benzema got on the end of Morata's cross to open the scoring, and although Messi equalised a few minutes later to extend his scoring run to sixteen games, Morata came close to a second when he headed in to the side netting shortly before the break. Messi and Villa both failed to convert chances either side of half time, and early in the second half Mourinho brought on Ronaldo, who immediately forced Valdés in to the save of the day with a viciously curling free kick. The visiting keeper did well to prevent Morata from scoring a few minutes later, but with eight minutes to go Sergio Ramos got on the end of Modric's free kick to head his side's second, and soon afterwards Ronaldo rattled the crossbar with another free kick. The game ended in controversy though when Pérez Lasa turned down Adriano's appeal for a penalty when he fell over Ramos's outstretched leg, and Valdés is likely to pick up a lengthy ban after seriously insulting the referee after the final whistle.
Later in the evening Valencia missed out on a chance to take over fourth spot when they were held to a 2-2 draw by city rivals Levante. Iborra headed the visitors in to an early lead with a looping header from Juanfran's long throw-in, but Jonas made it all square from close to goal after Canales played on a Dani Parejo cross, and Soldado put the locals in front shortly before the break with a spectacular first time volley in off the crossbar from Feghouli's centre. The Ches wasted several chances to increase the lead after the restart, Munúa doing well to turn an Albelda shot round the post, Soldado having a strike incorrectly ruled out for offside when Vyntra deflected a corner to him, and the Spanish international striker firing a shot against the crossbar which bounced down in to the hands of the surprised keeper. However let off the hook the visitors equalised in the dying minutes, another Juanfran throw-in bouncing in to the area, and when Mathieu slipped trying to clear, Barkero took advantage to curl a shot past Guaita.
Bottom club Deportivo are even further away from safety after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Rayo Vallecano. The Galicians were clearly lacking in confidence, and an inspired Lass ran rings round them in the first half. The young winger fired a shot just wide in the opening minutes, and hit the post before heading a good chance right at Aranzubia when free on goal. The local keeper had to be at his best as well to save a deflected shot from Trashorras, and Depor's only reply before the break was a timid lob from Riki before he limped off injured midway through the first half. Fernando Vázquez's half time pep-talk did motivate his team for a short while, Salamao shooting just wide, Rubén having to keep out Valerón and Abel Aguilar heading just over the bar. But with five minutes to go Marchena was sent off after picking up a second booking, and Delibasic came close to winning it for the visitors near the end.
Athletic Bilbao distanced themselves from the danger zone though after a 0-1 victory at neighbours Osasuna. After three defeats in a row Bielsa's side were edging perilously close to the bottom three, and for most of the first half it looked as if they were in for another difficult evening. The coach had brought back Gorka Iraizoz though after an ostracism of two games, and the keeper saved the day with first class stops from Kike Sola, Flaño, Armenteros and Arribas. Aduríz headed Athletic's only chance before the break wide of the mark, and after the restart Iraizoz had to be on his toes again to keep out De las Cuevas. Eighteen minutes in to the second half though the visitors took the lead, Susaeta getting on the end of a long Ibai Gómez cross to volley a first time shot past Andrés, and they held on after that for three vital points which takes them back above their hosts in the table. (02.03.13)
Zaragoza remain two points above the bottom three pending the rest of the weekend's games after they lost 2-0 to Getafe on Friday evening. Manolo Jiménez's side had not won a single game in 2013, and although Rochina tested Moyà early on, Colunga put the locals ahead when he turned in a Pedro León cross in the twentieth minute. Loovens headed a corner just wide shortly before half time, but a few minutes after the interval he got himself sent off for a second bookable offence, and from the resulting free kick Escudero's shot took a deflection off the defensive wall to fly past Alcolea and in to the net. Getafe themselves were left a man short when Pedro León picked up two yellow cards in a minute, but Colunga and Alexis both came close to adding to the scoreline later on. It was a third win in a row for the locals, and they move to within a point of the European spots as a result. (01.03.13)