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Match round-up - First Division, Day 28

Fourth placed Athletic Bilbao stay six points clear of their closest rivals after drawing 1-1 at sixth placed Villarreal on Monday night. The early pressure came from the locals, Iraizoz saving from Oliver Torres and Giovani curling a free kick just wide. Sergio Asenjo had to recover quickly though to push a deflected shot by Herrera over the bar, and Aduríz missed a chance to give the Basque side the lead late on in the first half when the keeper saved his penalty kick after Gabriel handled in the area. Just a minute after the restart Tomás Pina put the locals ahead after connecting with Oliver’s cross, and Uche and Musacchio both came close to adding to the lead soon afterwards. However Marcelino’s team were left with ten men when Gabriel picked up a second booking, and Aduríz made up for his mistake by heading the equalizer from an Iturraspe centre with eight minutes to go. (17.03.14)

Barcelona clocked up a morale-boosting 7-0 victory over Osasuna on Sunday evening, setting them up for next weekend’s “clásico” against Real Madrid. The defeat at Valladolid last weekend had left Tata Martino’s team four points adrift of their arch-rivals, and their victory on Saturday meant that this was a must-win match. The Pamplona based side had held Barça to a goal-less draw half a season ago though, and Oriol Riera got the ball in the net early on only for it to be ruled out for offside. A few minutes later though Messi got on the end of an Alexis cross to open the scoring, and a couple of minutes after that Alexis got the second after Iniesta and Jordi Alba combined to set him up. Later in the first half Iniesta made it three, beating Andrés with a shot from outside of the area, and although Riera went close again at the start of the second half, Messi scored his team’s fourth soon afterwards, his 370 th goal for the club making him their all time top goalscorer. Osasuna gave up at the point, and in the next quarter of an hour Tello fired home the fifth, Messi completed his hat-trick, and Pedro rounded off the scoring after another Messi assist. Next Sunday’s game is promising to be a cracker!

The fight for the last remaining Champions League spot appears to be between four teams, Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao, who play each other tomorrow, and Real Sociedad and Sevilla. Real Sociedad took Valencia out of the equation with a 1-0 victory in the last game on Sunday, a result which takes the Basque side up to fifth, now ten points ahead of the Ches in the table. There were only a couple of half-chances in a tense first forty-five minutes, Griezmann firing a long shot wide, and Bravo having to tip another long effort by Feghouli over the bar. With just over an hour on the clock Agirretxe got in front of the defence to head a long José Angel centre down past Diego Alves, and Griezmann should have added to the lead when he got free on goal only to be thwarted by the visiting keeper. José Antonio Pizzi’s side pushed forward in the final minutes, but although Jonas went close a couple of times, they were unable to find a way past a well ordered back-four. Valencia’s are now eight points off the top seven, and their best chance for a return to Europe now appears to rest on them winning this season’s Europa League.

Sevilla moved up level with sixth placed Villarreal pending their game on Monday after beating Valladolid 4-1 earlier in the evening. Unai Emery’s side needed a good result after their humiliating defeat against Betis midweek, and they went ahead midway through the first half when Rakitic converted a penalty after Sastre brought down Marin in the area. Marin, Reyes and Rakitic all went wide after that, and with four minutes to go to the break Gameiro ran on to a Marin through ball to fire home the second. Beto had to push a shot by Valdet Rama on to the post and substitute Oscar also went close for the visitors either side of half time, but Gameiro made it three with a second penalty after the referee controversially ruled that Mitrovic had handled in the area, and Figueiras scored a fourth after connecting with a Reyes assist with a quarter of an hour to go. Two minutes later Javi Guerra got a consolation goal for the visitors, but it was too late to prevent a defeat which leaves them down in the relegation spots. .

Valladolid are now some seven points ahead of bottom club Betis, who drew 0-0 at Elche in this week’s mid-day kick-off. The Andalusians have been growing in confidence recently, especially after their European win against city rivals Sevilla midweek, and although Adán had to keep out Rubén Pérez early on, Cedrick finished off a good run hitting the outside of the post, and Rubén Castro fired another good chance wide. Calderón had to change his plans when both his left back Didac and substitute Caro limped off injured before the break, but soon after the restart Castro tested Manu Herrera with an angled shot. Boakye headed a corner just wide for the locals in reply, and Coro had a last minute penalty claim turned down, but in the end Fran Escribá’s side will be happier be the result which keeps them four points clear of the drop zone for the time being. (16.03.14)

Strikes by top scorers Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Costa gave Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid single goal victories on Saturday night. Real Madrid beat Málaga 0-1 to ensure top spot pending next weekend’s “clásico” against Barcelona in the Bernabeu stadium, although the Andalusians put up a good fight, and could have saved a point right up until the final whistle. Honours were shared early on, Ronaldo bringing a good save out of Willy Caballero, and Santa Cruz heading over the top at the other end. Midway through the first half though a good run by Bale down the right flank ended with him switching play to Ronaldo, who cut past his marker to fire an angled shot past the local keeper. Both keepers were in action after that, Caballero saving again from Ronaldo, and Diego López keeping out Amrabat and Samuel either side of half time. Isco wasted a good chance to extend the lead when free on goal in the second half, and Sergio Sánchez volleyed a shot over the top later on in the second half. Another victory for Madrid though, and they extend their unbeaten record to thirty games.

Atlético Madrid won by the same scoreline in the last match of the evening against Espanyol, who had been the first team to beat them this season. The Catalans caused some problems once again for Simeone’s side, Stuani shooting straight at Courtois when free on goal early on, and the keeper doing well to save a deflected shot from Sergio García. However Casilla had to be at his best to keep out Villa and Filipe Luis at the other end before the break, and some ten minutes in to the second half Diego Costa ran on to a Villa through ball to score what was to prove the only goal. Courtois took a couple of knocks after that, the first when he was flattened by Córdoba’s knee, and then when a long shot from David López hit him in the face and went out for a corner, but he battled on bravely to keep another clean sheet which maintains his position at the top of the Zamoras’ chart, and which leaves his team still three points behind Real Madrid in the table.

Further down the table Rayo Vallecano moved out of the relegation spots after a 3-1 victory against fellow strugglers Almería. Paco Jémez’s side were full of confidence after winning their last two games, and Larrivey and Arbilla went close before Alberto Bueno got on the end of Iago Falqué’s corner to head the opener. And after the restart Falqué brought a good save out of Esteban before he crossed in for Larrivey to score the second. A few minutes later however Zé Castro had to clear a shot from Rodri for a corner, and soon afterwards Soriano picked up a return pass from Rodri to get one back. Jonathan Viera fired a deflected shot wide though a couple of minutes later, and with a quarter of an hour to go the ex Valencia midfielder crossed in for Larrivey to slide home the third. The result takes Rayo three points clear of their opponents, who drop to next to bottom spot in the rankings.

Celta are virtually safe for another season after they won 0-1 at Levante, the result taking Luis Enrique’s side seven points clear of the drop zone. Visiting keeper Yoel had to push an early Ivanschitz free kick on to the post, but with just under twenty minutes gone Nolito got on the end Augusto Fernández’s cross to turn a shot past Keylor Navas. Later in the first half Nolito hit the post with another shot, and after the interval both keepers were in action, Yoel saving from Barral and Navas from Nolito. With an hour on the clock the locals were awarded a penalty when Jonny Castro tripped Casadesús in the area, but Barral fired his spot kick against the crossbar. And a couple of minutes later the striker missed the easiest of chances from a couple of yards out when he stroked his shot straight at Yoel, the referee waving away claims that the keeper had carried the ball over the line. That gave way to a frantic finish, Yoel saving from Barral, Nikos and Ivanschitz, Héctor Rodas clearing off the line from Orellana and Nolito firing a free kick against the upright again, but in the end that early goal was the only difference between the two teams. (15.03.14)

Still no win for Getafe despite a change of manager, although there were plenty of goals in the Coliseum stadium as the Madrid based side drew 3-3 with Granada in the Friday night game. With favourite ex player Cosmin Contra taking over from Luis García, and the club handing out complementary tickets, a packed crowd turned up to see their side go ahead three times in the match. Ciprian opened the scoring in only the sixth minute after picking up a clearance on the half way line and outstripping his markers to beat Roberto, but Codina was let off the hook by El-Arabi soon afterwards when he gave the ball away to the striker only for him to shoot over the top. The local keeper did well to save from Murillo and Fatau later on in the first half, but with ten minutes to go to the break El-Arabi put Riki through for him to equalize. Lisandro López restored the lead three minutes later from Gavilán’s free kick, but El-Arabi levelled it again on the hour mark with a header from Angulo’s cross. Five minutes later the Andalusians were left with ten men when Iturra picked up a second yellow card, and Lafita put the locals in front for the third time when he deflected Sarabia’s shot past Roberto. However El-Arabi made it all square once again after a corner fell to him, and numbers were evened up when Escudero was also sent off for a second bookable offence. Getafe stay just a couple of points above the relegation spots pending the rest of the weekend games after a thirteenth game in a row, but at least the new coach has given them new hope of a turnaround. (14.03.14)