Sixth placed Real Sociedad moved up level with Villarreal on points after beating Málaga 0-1 in this week’s Monday night game. The Basque side started well, Seferovic shooting over the top and Carlos Vela coming up against Caballero before Vela latched on to a José Angel cross to open the scoring. After that though they sat back to defend, Iakovenko and Darder testing Claudio Bravo with long shots before the break, and Amrabat failing to find the target after the restart. Zaldúa was closed down as he got through on goal in a rare attack by the visitors, but only two or three impressive saves late on by Bravo, in particular from Santa Cruz and Duda, prevented the locals from saving a point. The result takes Real to within four points of the Champions League spots, and leaves the Andalusians just a place above the drop zone having only taken four points from their last seven games. (17.02.14)
As expected, Real Madrid beat local rivals Getafe 0-3 on Sunday afternoon to join Barcelona and Atlético Madrid in a three-way tie at the top of the table. With Ronaldo still suspended, Jesé stepped in to open the scoring early on, the youngster picking up a pass from Bale before striking an angled shot past Moyà. Bale tested the local keeper again a few minutes later, and although Colunga got past Pepe soon afterwards, the defender recovered quick enough to clear the danger. With just under half an hour on the clock Benzema made it two after controlling a long Di María cross on his chest, and shortly before half time Bale fired a shot wide when free on goal. Colunga and Lafita went close again after the break, but Moyà had to be on his toes to keep out a couple of long shots by Di María, and Modric went one better when he beat the keeper with another shot from outside of the area midway through the second half. The result takes Madrid back to second, and leaves Getafe just a couple of places above the drop zone after a ninth game in a row without a win.
The leaders are now a massive sixteen points clear of fourth placed Athletic Bilbao after the Basque side lost 1-2 to Espanyol later in the evening. Athletic had not been beaten in the league in their new San Mamés stadium, but they went behind in only the sixth minute when Sergio García ran through to fire an angled shot past Iraizoz. Aduríz headed against the post and Casilla had to be at his best to keep out a Mikel Rico header from a long free kick, but Stuani also hit the post in reply a few minutes before the break. After the restart Gurpegi headed the equalizer from an Ibai Gómez free kick, but some ten minutes later Colotto restored the lead for the visitors, Simao’s corner hitting him on the knee and rebounding in to the net. Both keepers were in action after that to save from Aduríz and Stuani, but any hopes the locals had of preserving their unbeaten record ended when Aduríz was sent off for a second bookable offence with five minutes to go.
Espanyol are now level on points with Levante, as well as with Sevilla and Valencia, who drew 0-0 in the last match of the evening. The Ches will be happier with the point however after playing almost half the game with ten men, Ricardo Costa getting himself sent off by Alvarez Izquierdo for a second yellow card early on in the second half. The referee let Costa off a penalty though, ruling that he handled the ball outside of the area, but he did give one to the locals after Bernat brought down Cheryshev in the area a few minutes later. Diego Alves saved Rakitic’s spot kick however, and appeals for penalties later on by Alberto Moreno, Fazio and Cheryshev were waved away, Cheryshev himself picking up a second booking in the final incident for what the referee considered to be a dive. Otherwise chances were few and far between, Bacca being closed down by a defender when free on goal before the break, Paco Alcácer shooting wide and Vitolo and Iborra also failing to find the target later on. A point apiece, and a positive head-to-head record for Valencia if it comes down to a tie at the end of the season.
Sevilla’s city neighbours Betis remain firmly anchored to the foot of the table after they lost 1-0 at regional rivals Granada in this Sunday’s mid-day match. After three defeats in a row though, the locals needed a result as well, and Brahimi and El-Arabi brought good saves out of Adán early on. Roberto had to be at his best to keep out Jorge Molina, but with just over half an hour gone Piti ran on to a long ball from Ilori to open the scoring. Castro and Molina tested Roberto again either side of half time, and the local keeper made the save of the day from Leo Baptistao later on in the second half. But although Granada had to play the last quarter of an hour or so with ten men after substitute Dani Benítez got himself sent off for a hard tackle on Juanfran, they held on for a win which takes them six points clear of the drop zone. Another nail in the coffin though for Betis, who also had Amaya sent off in injury time, and they end the day ten points away from safety. (16.02.14)
Barcelona stay in top spot for another week after they thrashed Rayo Vallecano 6-0 on Saturday evening. With the Champions League tie against Manchester City coming up in three days, Tata Martino reserved Xavi, Jordi Alba and Mascherano. Even so though they totally dominated from start to finish, Adriano beating Rubén with a long shot to open the scoring in only the second minute, and Messi and Pedro hitting both posts a few minutes later. Shortly before the break Messi made it two with a lob over the keeper after Fàbregas put him through, and some seven minutes after the restart Alexis got the third, the Chilean striker picking up Messi’s pass and firing a shot inside Rubén’s near post. Valdés had to tip a shot by Larrivey round the post, but Pedro made it four after a quick passing move with Fàbregas and Iniesta, and Messi got his second of the night after Alexis set him up. Martino rested a couple of his key players after that, but Zé Castro had to clear off the line from Fàbregas with the keeper beaten, and Neymar came on after his injury lay-off to round things off with the goal of the night, running through from midfield to fire a spectacular shot over the head of the stranded Rubén. Roll on Manchester City!
Earlier in the afternoon Atlético Madrid had temporarily moved above Tata Martino’s side after a 3-0 win over Valladolid. Simeone’s side needed a good result to regain confidence prior to their Champions League clash with AC Milan after a run of three defeats in a row. However the game was over with only five minutes on the clock, Raúl García firing a low shot past Mariño after a set-piece Gabi free kick, and then slotting a long ball through for Diego Costa to lift a shot over the advancing keeper. Atlético had several more chances after that, Costa, Mario Suárez and Godín failing to hit the target either side of half time, and Mario heading a corner against the crossbar in the second half. Javi Guerra relied with a shot just wide of the post, but with a quarter of an hour to go Godín wrapped things up when he ran in from behind to head Diego’s corner down past the keeper. Atlético’s lead only lasted a few hours though before Barcelona went back to first place on goal difference, and there may be a three way tie at the top for the second week in a row if Real Madrid can beat Getafe tomorrow.
Fifth placed Villarreal lost ground on the teams above them however after they were beaten 0-2 by Celta in the last match of the evening. The locals had the better of the first half, Giovani and Perbet firing shots just wide and Giovani having a penalty appeal turned down after he fell under a challenge by Hugo Mallo. After the interval Santi Mina, Augusto Fernández and Alex López went close for the visitors, Perbet had a strike ruled out for offside at the other end, and Yoel made good saves from Moi Gómez and Tomás Pina. With seven minutes to go Orellana headed the Galicians in to the lead from a wide Alex López free kick, but a couple of minutes later the match had to be halted for half an hour or so when a tear-gas canister was thrown on to the pitch from the crowd. Nolito fired home a free kick though when play resumed to make it ten points from the last four games for the Galicians.
Earlier in the day Levante beat Almería 1-0 to climb above Sevilla and Valencia (who play each other tomorrow) to seventh place. Joaquín Caparrós’s no-nonsense side have scored less than a goal a game, but they find themselves in the Europa League spots after another strong defensive performance. David Barral was once again the lone reference up front, and he caused several problems for Esteban and his defence in the first half. The visitors didn’t test Keylor Navas until shortly before half time, when the Costa Rican keeper had to save a long effort by Verza, although Aleix Vidal did shoot just wide soon after the restart. The only goal though came on the hour mark, Barral volleying a first time shot past Esteban from an El-Zhar cross, and Navas made the save of the night from Oscar Díaz later on to ensure the three points. (15.02.14)
A 0-0 draw between Elche and Osasuna in the Friday night game, a result which left both level on 26 points in the middle of the table. The early chances fell to the visitors, Toño making top class saves from headers by Oriol Riera and Lolo. Cristian Herrera, Manu del Moral and Coro all went close at the other end though, and the locals felt they should have had a penalty when the ball hit Loties on the arm inside the area. After the break Roberto Torres tried his luck a couple of times, but the best chance of all fell to the home side when Arribas brought down del Moral inside the area. However Coro blasted the spot kick over the bar, and only a good save by Manu Herrera (who had replaced the injured Toño) prevented a deflected shot by Silva from entering the net near the end. (14.02.14)