With two games to go the relegation spots are still wide open, Mallorca moving off the bottom of the table after a 1-0 victory over Betis on Monday evening. Defeat would have seen the Balearic islanders down, but they got off to an electric start, Hemed hitting the bar and Adrián making two incredible saves from Víctor Casadesús before Hemed opened the scoring, turning the ball in from close range after the keeper saved again from Víctor. The locals kept up the attack, Victor shooting just wide on two or three occasions, and Pepe Mel made his first substitution before the break, Pabón coming on to test Aouate for the first time. After that though the local keeper was hardly troubled, and Mallorca survived to fight another day. No less than six teams are still involved in the struggle to avoid the drop, and the last two weekends are likely to prove nerve wracking for all their fans. Betis stay seventh after the set-back, but with the two teams either side of them, Málaga and Rayo Vallecano, currently excluded from European competitions next season, their place in the Europa League still looks pretty secure. (20.05.13)
Deportivo moved out of the relegation zone after a 2-0 victory over Espanyol on Sunday evening. The Galicians had dropped back in to the bottom three after a run of four games without a win, and this was always going to be a difficult match against a side who still had a chance of making it in to the European spots. Stuani came close to giving the Catalans the lead when he headed against the bar early on, but Riki and Zé Castro went close, and Cristian Alvarez had to be at his best to keep out Pizzi before the break. A couple of minutes in to the second half Silvio cleared a shot from Sergio García from under the posts with the keeper beaten, but play went up the other end, and Bruno Gama sent the home crowd wild with an angled shot from left of the area which left the keeper with no chance. Alvarez did well to save from Riki a few minutes later, but with the game coming to an end Nelson Oliveira got free down the right, and he lifted a shot over the keeper and in off the post to take his side over Zaragoza pending their game later in the day.
Zaragoza end the weekend though down in the bottom three after they were beaten 1-2 by Athletic Bilbao a couple of hours later. Postiga actually gave the Maños an early lead when he headed in a Paco Montañés cross in the fourteenth minute, and the Portuguese striker volleyed a shot just over the top minutes later. Aduríz and De Marcos both felt themselves unlucky to be pulled up for questionable offside decisions, but after the break Iraizoz did well to keep out Postiga, and then push a wide Rochina free kick on to the crossbar. With ten minutes to go however Llorente made it all square after a De Marcos shot came to him off a defender, and with game in injury time Ibai Gómez got the winner for the Basque side with a clever back-heel flick after a good run by De Marcos down the right by-line.
With Málaga banned but appealing, and European licences refused at the first instance to Rayo Vallecano, Espanyol and Valladolid amongst others, it is not clear at all which teams will be playing in the Europa League next season. One will surely be either Real Sociedad or Valencia, and the other two places are currently occupied by Málaga and Betis. If Málaga's appeal on 4th June doesn't work out though, then Sevilla and Getafe may have a chance, although it remains to be seen if teams actually take up the third spot, as this will require them to return from their vacations early to play in the qualifying rounds of the competition.
Rayo Vallecano are back up to eighth though after they beat Levante 2-3 on Sunday lunchtime. Piti gave the visitors a first half lead, firing a shot past Keylor Navas in the twentieth minute after the defence failed to clear a wide Chori Domínguez free kick. Six minutes in to the second half Acquafresca equalised after Jordi Figueras could only deflect a Rubén García cross in to his path, but four minutes later Franco Vázquez restored the lead after Navas failed to hold on to Piti's shot, and Piti himself scored the third from the penalty spot after Rubén García tripped Chori Domínguez inside the area with twenty minutes to go. García made up for his mistake though with a good run which ended with Iborra heading a second for the locals, and Acquafresca came close to saving his side a point when he broke through in the dying minutes only to shoot wide of the target.
Valladolid are now six points behind Rayo after they lost 2-1 at already crowned league champions Barcelona. It was a wet but festive night at the Nou Camp, with title celebrations held back until after the final whistle, and as usual Barça dominated the play for a large majority of the match. Villa and Piqué both tried their luck early on, and midway through the first half Xavi intercepted a bad clearance in midfield and put Pedro through for him to score the opener. With three minutes to go to the break, ex Barça B defender Marc Valiente turned Xavi's corner in to his own net, and after the restart Jaime had to be at his best to save from Pedro, Montoya and Villa. Víctor Pérez did get a late consolation from the penalty spot after Montoya brought down Manucho, but Vilanova's side had no problems taking another three points which keeps them on track for the only objective left to them, match the record 100 points that Real Madrid clocked up last season. (19.05.13)
Real Sociedad and Valencia are still neck-and-neck in the fight for the fourth Champions League spots after both won their respective matches on Saturday evening. The two teams are now level on points, and after today's results cannot be reached by anyone else, with the Basque side having the edge on the head-to-head record. Valencia kicked off first though with a 0-1 victory at Getafe which momentarily took them above their rivals in the table. Both sides had chances early on, Soldado and Fede Fernández both steering headers over the bar, and Pedro León turned a shot over the top a few minutes later. However with a minute to go to the break the visitors went ahead, Mathieu turning a shot past Moyà from the edge of the area after Banega passed to him following a set-piece free kick. Lafita did have a chance to level it after the restart, but after that Valverde's side were in control, and Soldado, Feghouli, Banega and Ricardo Costa could all have increased the lead later on.
Later in the evening however Real Sociedad regained fourth spot after coming back from a goal down to beat Sevilla 1-2. Rakitic scored at both ends in the first quarter of an hour, the Croatian midfielder poking a shot past Bravo in the tenth minute after Kondogbia laid a corner back to him, but then heading Illarramendi's wide free kick back in to his own net. Agirretxe got on the end of a Carlos Martínez cross to volley a shot past Beto some eight minutes later though, and the local keeper did well to save from Carlos Vela a few minutes after that. Unai Emery's side were looking for points themselves though to keep up their push for the European spots, and only some first class stops by Bravo prevented Rakitic, Negredo and Navas from equalising before the break. Medel thought himself hard done by to be pulled up for a non-existent offside when free on goal in the second half, an incident which cost Reyes a red card for protesting as he was warming up on the touchline. But in the end the Andalusians could have lost by a bigger scoreline, Beto having to keep out Vela and Griezmann near the end.
One other match on Saturday in the top flight, with Granada beating relegation rivals Osasuna 3-0 to virtually ensure their safety for another season. Both teams started the game on 36 points, four above the drop zone, and Silva and Nino tested local keeper Roberto with long shots early on. However a lucky rebound mid-way through the first half put Sigueira through for him to set up El-Arabi for the opener, and Nolito could have added to the scoreline had he not had efforts blocked either side of half time. De las Cuevas hit the top of the crossbar with a long shot after the break, but with ten minutes to go substitute Nano got himself sent off for bringing down Brahimi inside the area as he advanced on goal, and Siqueira made it two with a soft penalty kick. And with the game in injury time Buonanotte wrapped things up with a third goal to extend the Andalusians' unbeaten run to five games. (18.05.13)