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Match round-up - First Division, Day 27

Real Sociedad missed out on a chance to close up on fourth placed Athletic Bilbao when they were beaten 2-3 by next to bottom side Rayo Vallecano on Monday night. The Basque side twice took the lead, Iñigo Martínez starting things off when he headed in a Rubén Pardo free kick with less than a minute on the clock. However they were immediately pegged back by a Larrivey penalty after José Angel pushed the striker in the area, and although Rubén Pardo restored the lead with a shot which deflected in off a defender, Alberto Bueno made it all square again after Bravo’s punched clearance bounced back to him off Larrivey just a minute after the restart. Larrivey had a goal disallowed for offside a few minutes later, but Rochina picked up a return pass from Bueno to fire home the winner for the visitors midway through the second half. Rayo’s victory means that the bottom three have all won this weekend, and only four points separate Paco Jémez’s team from eleventh placed Celta.

Earlier in the evening Málaga moved three points clear of the drop zone after they beat Osasuna 0-2. The Andalusians had not won in four games, but they went in front with a quarter of an hour gone when Samuel got on the end of an Amrabat cross to lift a shot over Andrés. Before that though Caballero had made a double save from Damià and Cejudo, and he was in action again later in the first half to keep out Roberto Torres, Loties firing the rebound against the upright. The visitors were left with ten men when Jesús Gámez was shown a second yellow card some six minutes after the interval, but even so they went further ahead when amrabat picked a return pass from Santa Cruz to fire a low shot past Andrés. Sergio Sánchez headed off the line from Cejudo after that and Caballero saved from Cejudo and Torres, but Schuster’s team held on for a win which takes them above their hosts in the table on goal difference. (10.03.14)

Real Madrid moved three points clear at the top of the table after beating Levante 3-0 on Sunday evening. Ronaldo headed the opener in the eleventh minute from a Di María corner, and only Keylor Navas and the woodwork prevented Ronaldo and Benzema from increasing the lead before the break. Marcelo made it two though at the start of the second half after picking up Ronaldo’s return pass and dummying past his marker, and the visitors were left with ten men when David Navarro was shown a straight red card for a hard tackle on Ronaldo. Benzema headed against the bar again and then brought another good save out of Navas, and with ten minutes to go Nikos Karabelas turned Marcelo’s cross in to his own net to complete the scoring. Ronaldo came close to a fourth though when his last minute header hit the bar and bounced down on to the line, the referee waving away claims that it had crossed in to the net.

Athletic Bilbao are a step closer to tying up the fourth Champions League spot after they drew 1-1 at Valencia in the last match of the evening. Villarreal’s defeat on Saturday meant that they started with a five point margin over the chasing pack, and they began well, Aduríz firing an early chance wide and Ander Herrera curling a shot against the post a few minutes later. Paco Alcácer gave the Ches the lead though when he turned in Feghouli’s cross midway through the first half, Fernández Borbolán turning down claims for offside. And the referee was at the centre of attention again early on in the second half when he awarded the Basque side a penalty after Ander Herrera fell under a challenge by Feghouli, Aduríz stepping up to fire home the spot kick against his old side. The locals could have won it though had Keita not steered his shot wide when free on goal late on.

Sevilla kept up their push for the European spots with a 1-3 victory at regional neighbours Almería, the result consolidating their seventh place in the table. Unai Emery’s side dominated right from the start, Carriço and Coke bringing good saves out of Esteban before Bacca ran on to a Gameiro pass to open the scoring on the half hour mark. Carriço made it two with a shot past the keeper after a Reyes corner was headed back by a defender, and the locals finally had their first attempts at goal after that, Beto saving a long shot and then a dangerous free kick from Suso. With a quarter of an hour to go though Gameiro lost his marker to turn in a Rakitic cross for the third, and Iborra hit the post before Aleix Vidal got on the end of a Zongo cross to score a late consolation for the hosts, who find themselves in the bottom three as a result of the defeat.

Espanyol are now three points off the European spots, level on points with Valencia and Levante, after they beat Elche 3-1 in this Sunday’s mid-day kick-off. David López headed the Catalans in to the lead from simao’s corner in only the second minute, and Manu Herrera had to save from Sergio García and Stuani before Colotto got the second following a wide Simao free kick. Coro and Pizzi both had penalty claims turned down after the break, but with just under an hour on the clock Pizzi cut in from the right to make it three with a shot which deflected in off Botía. Herrera and Casilla both made excellent saves from Stuani and Carlos Sánchez later on, and with two minutes to go Fuentes turned Coro’s centre in to his own net to at least give the visitng fans something to cheer about. (09.03.14)

Barcelona’s title hopes took another big blow on Saturday when they lost 1-0 to Valladolid in the opening game of the weekend, their second away defeat in a row. Tata Martino put out an all-star line-up, but although Diego Mariño had to save from Messi early on, Fausto Rossi gave the locals the lead after Javi Guerra’s shot was blocked by a defender. Many of the Barça players had been on international duty midweek, and they never really got going, Messi firing a free kick at the keeper, and Fàbregas having another effort saved. Pedro had a strike ruled out for offside before the break, and Mariño kept out another Messi free kick after the restart. And Neymar fired a shot in to the stands when free in front of goal later on in the second half. In the end though the home side could have won by a bigger margin had Oscar not put a late chance over the top, but they had done enough for a surprise win which takes them out of the bottom three pending the rest of the weekend’s games. .

Atlético Madrid move a point above Barcelona after they beat Celta 0-2 later in the evening. The Galicians have one of the worst home records in the league, and although Alex López fired a long shot wide early on, Raúl García almost caught Yoel off his line with a shot from the half-way line a few minutes later. Alderweireld was lucky to be let off a penalty appeal for hands later in the first half, and Courtois saved from Charles with half time approaching, but Raúl García went close a couple of times after the restart, and Yoel did well to keep out Filipe Luis soon afterwards. With just over an hour gone however David Villa struck twice in as many minutes to wrap things up, the first after intercepting a bad back pass by Jonny Castro, and the second after collecting a cross from José Sosa. That was enough for a victory which takes Atleti to the top of the table overnight, ahead of city rivals Real Madrid on the direct head-to-head record pending their game against Levante on Sunday.

Fifth placed Villarreal lost ground on fourth placed Athletic Bilbao after they were beaten 2-0 by Granada in the last game of the evening. The visitors were missing their two first-choice central defenders, and although Uche brought an early save out of Robert, makeshift centre-back Bruno gave away a penalty on Riki which Fran Rico converted. Trigueros and Riki traded long shots, but with seven minutes to go to the break El-Arabi made it two after running on to a through ball from Fran Rico. After the interval El-Arabi and Recio failed to find the target with long shots, and Pina tested Roberto with a header, but the Andalusians held on for an important victory which takes them four points clear of the relegation spots.

Getafe are only just above the drop zone however after they lost 2-0 to bottom club Betis, a result which could signal the end for coach Luis García after a twelfth game in a row without a win. Leo Baptistao opened the scoring with a header from a Salva Sevilla corner on the quarter hour mark, and Rubén Castro got the second later on the first half after picking up a long pass from N’Diaye and firing in a shot which took a slight deflection off Rafa to wrong-foot Codina, who was replacing the injured Moyà. After the interval Jordi Figueras had to clear off the line from Gavilán, and Adán made a reflex save from Lafita, but the locals could have increased their lead, first when Codina just got a hand to keep out N’Diaye, and then when Juanfran’s shot hit the crossbar. (08.03.14)