Barcelona maintain the thirteen point gap at the top of the table after a 3-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano on Sunday evening. Fresh from their Champions League victory over AC Milan, Jordi Roura's side were full of renewed confidence, and Messi rattled the crossbar with a free kick before putting David Villa through to open the scoring midway through the first half. Trashorras did go close a couple of times for the visitors, but with five minutes to go to the break Villa returned the compliment, slipping the ball through for Messi to score for a record eighteenth league game in a row. Alves hit the post early in the second half and Alexis shot wide, and a few minutes later Messi made it three after running on to another Villa assist before lobbing a shot past Rubén. With twenty minutes to go substitute Tamudo connected with Piti's cross to get one back for Rayo, and Tamudo and Piti went close after that, but Barça could have won by a bigger scoreline had Messi been able to beat Rubén a couple of times near the end.
Atlético Madrid keep up the pace with second placed Real Madrid, and they stay a point behind their city rivals after a 0-2 win at Osasuna. The locals needed points to distance themselves from the danger zone, and they had the better chances early on, with Oier heading wide and Masoud just missing the target with a well struck free kick. With ten minutes to go to the break however Koke crossed in for Diego Costa on a rapid counter-attack, and although Andrés pushed out his first shot, the Brazilian forward headed in the rebound. Courtois had to be on his toes to keep out Oier and De la Cuesta before the break, but just three minutes after the restart Costa was there again to turn Koke's wide free kick in to the net from close to goal. That just about put an end to proceedings, and although Courtois did well to push out a long shot from Nino, Andrés had to save from Koke and Costa later on to prevent a bigger defeat.
Málaga drop out of the top four however after they were beaten 0-2 by Espanyol in this Sunday's mid-day match. After Wednesday night's Champions League victory against Porto, Pellegrini rested several of his key players, and they almost paid the price when Caballero had to push a long shot from Verdú over the bar early on. Santa Cruz could have scored for the locals later in the first half, Casilla keeping out his header following a corner and a defender clearing his follow up off the line, but four minutes in to the second half Colotto gave the visitors the lead, poking a shot in to the net after Caballero dropped Verdú's corner at his feet. A quarter of an hour later Sergio García made it two with an acrobatic shot from Wakaso's cross, and Javier Aguirre's side held on after that for a first win in four games.
Sevilla are still in the running for the European spots after they won 4-0 against a struggling Zaragoza team who still have to clock up a victory in 2013. Manolo Jiménez's return to the Sánchez Pizjuán stadium was marred early on when Coke opened the scoring after Negredo played across a wide Rakitic free kick, and things went further against the visitors when Babovic was sent off for a second bookable offence with only half an hour gone. Navas fired a good chance wide and Leo Franco did well to save from Reyes before the interval, and early in the second half Coke got his second of the evening with a shot from outside of the area. The visitors replied with a prolonged attack which ended with Negredo clearing a shot off the line, but soon afterwards Reyes got the third after combining with Navas on a quick breakaway, and Negredo made it four five minutes later after connecting with a cross from Reyes.
Levante are now a point behind the Andalusians after they drew 1-1 at Granada. Both sides were in need of the three points, Juan Ignacio Martínez's side in their push to return to Europe after they were knocked out of the Europa League mid-week, and the Andalusians to move clear of the drop zone. Honours were sahred early on, with Michel firing a free kick wide and Vyntra clearing off the line from Nolito. With half an hour gone Siquiera gave the locals the lead from the penalty spot after Pedro López fouled Nolito in the area, and some five minutes after the break half time substitute Acquafresca made it all square, hooking a shot past Toño after Iborra charged down a clearance. After that though it took first class saves by Munúa from Aranda, Brahimi and El-Arabi to keep the scores level, and the game ended in disarray when referee Gil Manzano (who showed no less than sixteen yellow cards in the match) turned down a last minute penalty appeal from the home side after Vyntra handled in the area. (17.03.13)
Real Madrid closed the gap at the top of the table to ten points pending Barcelona's game on Sunday after they beat Mallorca 5-2 on Saturday evening. They had to come from behind twice to do so though, Nsue heading the visitors in to the lead in only the sixth minute from Giovani's cross. Higuaín levelled the scores soon afterwards after Pepe turned Modric's through ball in to his path, but Alfaro headed in a second after Bigas headed on Giovani's corner to put Manzano's team back in front. Hutton and Bigas came close to a third either side of half time, and a frustrated Mourinho brought on Özil and Benzema at the break to try and stem the tide. It proved to be a master stroke as within the next ten minutes they scored three times to turn the scoreline around, Ronaldo heading in Özil's corner before Modric thrashed a long shot past Aouate, and Higuaín sweeping a shot past the keeper after Özil picked up a pass from Kaká to lay the ball across the area. That killed the game, but just to be sure Benzema combined with Xabi Alonso and Higuaín near the end to wrap things up and leave the islanders still down in the bottom three.
Earlier in the day Real Sociedad moved up to fourth in the table after a convincing 4-1 victory over Valladolid. The Basque side's goals all came in a twenty minute period around half time, Griezmann starting things off on the half hour mark after turning a Mikel González cross past Dani Hernández. Agirretxe made it two after Carlos Vela headed over a Carlos Martínez cross, controlling the ball before curling a shot wide of the keeper, and Griezmann added the third on the stroke of half time, pulling down Zurutuza's long pass and firing a shot in to the net without letting the ball hit the ground. Some three minutes in to the second half Xabi Prieto got in on the act after a quick team passing move, and Javi Guerra completed the scoring with a later consolation for the visitors after Oscar set him up.
Valencia stay two points behind Real in fifth place after a 3-0 win over Betis in the last match of the evening. The game swung in favour of the Ches on the quarter hour mark when referee Muñiz Fernández awarded them a penalty after Soldado fell under a challenge by Amaya on the edge of the area, the defender sent off before Soldado converted the resulting spot kick. But even so the Andalusians had the better of play after that, Beñat firing a couple of efforts just over the bar either side of half time, and Rubén Castro and Pabón both bringing good saves out of Diego Alves in the second half. However with five minutes to go Paulao deflected the ball past his own keeper trying to clear a long centre from Canales, and with the game in injury time Jonas finished things off after picking up a Tino Costa assist.
The result took Valencia two points above their opponents in the table, and Getafe are just a point behind the Andalusians after they beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0. Luis García's side started well, Escudero hitting the bar before Borja got on the end of a Pedro León corner to open the scoring in the sixth minute. The Basque team came back though later in the first half, Moyà having to save from Aduríz and Ibai Gómez, and Aduríz missing the target when free on goal. But after the restart the locals wrested back control, Barrada testing Iraizoz and Fede Fernández heading a Pedro León free kick against the post, and only a couple of late saves by the visiting keeper prevented Lafita and Pedro León from adding to lead in the last few minutes. (16.03.13)
Deportivo kept their hopes of survival alive after a 3-1 victory over Celta on Friday evening. The two teams came in to the game in the bottom two spots of the first division, but starting with a six point deficit on their local rivals, this was a do-or-die match for the locals. Riki gave them the lead however with under ten minutes on the clock, the striker controlling Valerón's cross on his thigh before firing a first time shot past Javi Varas. And a quarter of an hour later things swung more in their favour when Iago Aspas was sent off for a retaliatory head-butt on Marchena as the two players lay on the ground following a challenge. Celta's only replies were a couple of long free kicks by Pranjic which sailed over the bar, and Riki tested Varas a couple of times after the break before Silvio unleashed an unstoppable shot from outside of the area to make it two. The visitors were groggy, and Aguilar, Riki and Pizzi all went close before substitute Salamao picked up a long ball from Valerón to round the keeper for his side's third. Park Chu-Young got one back for the away team a couple of minutes later after connecting with Krohn-Dehli's cross, but Salamao should have wrapped things up near the end when he shot in to the side netting with the goal at his mercy on a quick breakaway. (15.03.13)