A vital 2-1 win for Celta in their Monday night relegation battle with Zaragoza, the victory taking the Galicians above their opponents on the head-to-head record. The two teams came in to the game in the last two positions after the six sides above them all drew earlier this weekend, the Maños having gone fourteen games since they last took the three points, and their hosts having only clocked up one win in thirteen. The match got off to a nervous start, Pinter and Alex López testing keepers Javi Varas and Roberto with speculative shots early on. With just under half an hour on the clock Sapunaru headed the visitors in to the lead from Apoño's free kick, but Celta equalised a few minutes later, Alex López's header from Augusto Fernández's cross hitting the crossbar and dropping over the line before Roberto could get to it. Both sides had chances after the break, but it looked as if the game was heading for another draw until Bermejo got on the end of Orellana's cross in the second minute of injury time to turn a shot in off the far post. With six weeks to go the bottom six are now only separated by five points, and it looks like being a nerve-wracking end to the season for all of them. (22.04.13)
Atlético Madrid stay three points behind Real Madrid pending next Saturday's city derby after a 0-1 victory at Sevilla in the last match on Sunday evening. It was a bad tempered game though, with hostilities still warm from the cup semi-final between the two teams, and there were more fouls than football in the first half. It was only when Simeone decided to pull off chief agitator Diego Costa to save him from getting himself sent off that things calmed down, and after that the game started to flow. Courtois did well to save from Coke and Falcao headed another chance wide, and with a quarter of an hour to go Falcao got the final touch to Raúl García's volley to score what was to prove the only goal. Sevilla were unlucky not to save a point in the end though, Courtois keeping out Kondogbia and Negredo, and Rakitic firing a late free kick against the crossbar. A win though which virtually ensures Atlético's place in the Champions League, and leaves the Andalusians further away from their hopes of a return to European football next season.
Osasuna and Real Sociedad edged closer to their respective objectives after a 0-0 draw in Pamplona earlier in the evening. It was typical dour derby game, with referee Mateu Lahoz showing five yellow cards in the first half hour. Griezmann and Armenteros traded shots early on, and the visitors came closest to scoring when Agirretxe headed Elustondo's corner against the post, and Andrés saved Xabi Prieto's follow up. The second half started with two penalty appeals for each side, Iñigo Martínez and Carlos Vela for Real and Kike Sola and Armenteros for the hosts, but none were given, and keepers Andrés and Bravo dealt ably with any threat after that. The draw leaves Osasuna four points above the drop zone, and keeps Montanier's team in fourth place, two points above Valencia, who visit Anoeta next weekend.
Deportivo followed in the footsteps of Mallorca and Granada, a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao keeping the Galicians above their relegation rivals in the table. The visitors are not out of danger themselves though, and a defeat in the Riazor would have dragged them down in to the struggle to avoid the drop. They started well, with Llorente going close a couple of times and Muniain bringing a good save out of Aranzubia, but with seven minutes to go to the interval Bruno Gama won the ball back outside of the area and fired a long shot past Iraizoz to put the locals ahead. Llorente headed the equaliser though from Iraola's centre on the stroke of half time, and the Spanish international striker came close to giving his side the lead when he fired a shot against the upright midway through the second half. But with ten minutes to go Athletic were left with ten men when Iturraspe picked up a second yellow card, and after that Bielsa ordered his players back to defend the point.
Espanyol made sure of another season in the top flight after a 0-2 win at Getafe on Sunday lunchtime. The early chances fell to the home side, with Lafita going close and Cristian Alvarez saving from Paco Alcácer, but with eight minutes to go to the break Verdú picked up Sergio García's headed pass to open the scoring for the visitors. Lopo had a headed goal ruled out for offside before half time, but a few minutes after the restart Borja was sent off for a second bookable offence, and the locals were left with nine men when Fede Fernández was shown a red card for a tackle on an opponent with twenty minutes to go. Four minutes later it was all over when Stuani turned the ball over the line after Colotto played back a long Wakaso free kick, and only a couple of late saves by Codina stopped Verdú and Simao from increasing the lead near the end. The victory takes Javier Aguirre's side to within a point of their opponents, and both teams still have a chance of reaching the European spots this year. (21.04.13)
Barcelona maintain their thirteen point lead at the top of the table, although they had some problems before eventually running out 1-0 winners over Levante on Saturday evening. With Messi still not fit and several other key players reserved for Tuesday night's visit to Bayern Munich, it was left to Iniesta to lead the side. And within a quarter of an hour he appeared to have given his team the advantage when he won a hotly disputed penalty after Diop tripped him as he advanced to the by-line. Keylor Navas saved David Villa's spot kick and Cesc Fàbregas's follow up however, and the Costa Rican keeper was in action again to save a Dani Alves free kick and another shot from Villa shortly before the interval. Rubén García had gone close for the visitors earlier on however, and after Acquafresca had a strike ruled out for a dubious offside at the start of the first half Vilanova turned to Xavi, Pedro and Alexis. They fared little better though until six minutes from the end, when Alexis found Fàbregas for him to fire a low shot in to the bottom corner of the net. Two more wins in the next six games and Barça will have tied up the title, and they could even be champions next weekend if Real Madrid lose at city rivals Atlético, but they will be grateful that they got through this one unscathed.
Real Madrid kept up the pressure on the leaders with a 3-1 victory against seventh placed Betis earlier in the day. With one eye on Wednesday's Champions League tie in Dortmund, Mourinho made several changes, in particular in defence and in midfield, where promising Brazilian youngster Casemiro made his first team debut. The visitors tried to take advantage, Rubén Castro having a strike disallowed for offside and then heading another chance over the top, and Pabón firing a shot against the crossbar. Ronaldo brought a good save out of Adrián though and then fired a long shot against the foot of the post, and with the first half coming to a close Özil picked up a return pass from Benzema to open the scoring. Benzema himself made it two some twelve minutes after the restart after collecting a pass from Ronaldo before curling a shot past the keeper, but a quarter of an hour later half time substitute Jorge Molina got one back from the penalty spot after Nacho slid in to Rubén Castro inside the area. With the game coming to an end Castro lobbed a shot against the bar and Albiol cleared Pabón's follow up off the line, but play went up the other end and Özil wrapped things up from close to goal after Ronaldo lobbed a centre across the area and Callejón's shot deflected off Alex Martínez in to his path.
A whirlwind six minutes around the half hour mark were enough for Valencia to clock up a convincing 5-1 win against Málaga, one of their direct rivals for the Champions League spots. The locals had two or three chances before Banega played on Soldado's cross for Dani Parejo to open the scoring in the twenty-fifth minute, and Soldado made it two a couple of minutes later after connecting with Cissokho's cross. The Spanish international striker scored a third from the penalty spot after Demichelis brought him and Banega down in the area in the following play, and less than a minute after that Canales got the fourth on the follow up after Caballero could only push out an angled shot from Jonas. Baptista did pull one back with a direct free kick on the stroke of half time, but Banega picked up a loose ball on the edge of the area to make it five just ten minutes in to the second half, and although Joaquín, Baptista and Piazón went close later on, the game was already well over. Valencia move to within a point of fourth placed Real Sociedad pending their game tomorrow, and next weekend's visit by the Ches to the Anoeta stadium could decide who takes that fourth Champions League spot.
A 1-1 draw between Granada and Valladolid in the first match on Saturday, a result which left the locals just a point outside of the drop zone pending the rest of the weekend games. Despite not having won any of their last eight games, the first half was a monologue in favour of the Andalusians. Only a string of great saves from Jaime prevented El-Arabi, Ighalo and Mikel Rico from scoring, and Nolito and El-Arabi also saw a couple of efforts go wide. The second period started as the first, with El-Arabi once again seeing his header kept out by the visiting keeper. But a few minutes later Ebert gave Valladolid the lead with their first shot at goal, his well struck free kick leaving Roberto with no chance. El-Arabi did finally get his reward with another header from a long Buonanotte cross, but after that Jaime made sure of a point for his side which virtually ensures them another season in the top flight. (20.04.13)
Mallorca and Rayo Vallecano drew 1-1 in this week's Friday night game, a result which doesn't help either side achieve their respective objectives, the locals to escape the drop zone and the visitors in their push for a place in Europe. Rayo took the lead in the seventh minute, Piti firing a first time volley wide of Calatayud from Casado's cross, but just five minutes later Alfaro equalised following a Martí corner, Rubén keeping out his first header but the winger driving home the rebound. After that Paco Jémez's team had the better chances, Delibasic hitting the post before the break and Lass doing the same twice in the second half. Local keeper Calatayud also made a key save from Baptistao soon after the restart, but Rubén had to keep out Giovani and Arizmendi at the other end as well later on. (19.04.13)