Fourth placed Athletic Bilbao beat Levante 1-2 on Monday night to maintain the six point gap over the chasing pack. The Basque side could have taken the lead early on when they were awarded a penalty after Juanfran barged over Muniain in the area, but San José fired his spot kick wide of the post. Soon afterwards though Aduríz opened the scoring, his shot from Susaeta’s cross hitting Simao and bouncing wide of Keylor Navas in to the net. Muniain fired a long shot just over the bar a few minutes later, and on the stroke of half time Aduríz got free of his markers to head an Ander Herrera centre in to the net for his second of the evening. Caparrós made two changes at the break though, and after Sergio Pinto brought a good save out of Iraizoz, the locals got one back when Rubén García’s cross hit San José and looped up over the stranded keeper. After that though only a couple of good saves by Navas prevented Muniain and Aduriz from adding to the scoreline, and as the players were leaving the pitch Barral was shown a red card after being shown a second yellow card for arguing with the referee. Athletic’s win means that Real Madrid will have to wait another week or so to ensure their direct Champions League spot, although results earlier in the weekend confirmed that Atlético and Barcelona are already sure of a top three finish. (07.04.14)
Fifth placed Sevilla closed to within three points of Athletic pending their game on Monday after beating Espanyol 4-1 on Sunday evening. Keeper Germán Parreño was making his Liga debut for the visitors in place of the suspended Casilla, and although he made a good save from Trochowski early on, he could no nothing to stop M’Bia getting free of his markers to head the midfielder’s corner in to the net to open the scoring.in the eighteenth minute Sergio García felt he should have had a penalty a few minutes later, and although the referee only gave a free kick outside of the area, Simao almost equalized when his low kick went under the defensive wall and on to the post. With half time coming up Gameiro scored Sevilla’s second after controlling Vitolo’s cross, but just a couple of minutes after the restart the visitors were awarded a penalty for a foul by Fazio on Stuani, and Sergio García stepped up to beat Beto. In the end however the Andalusians wrapped things up with two late goals, Gameiro making it three after picking up Marin’s return pass, and Rakitic controlling a long ball from Pareja before firing an angled shot past Germán. A much needed win for Emery’s side after their midweek defeat in the Europa League, and Espanyol drop out of the running for the European spots after falling nine points adrift of seventh placed Villarreal.
Valencia also lost more ground on top seven, and they are still a point behind Espanyol after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Valladolid in the last match of the evening. The Ches were looking to bounce back after their heavy defeat at Basel midweek in the Europa League, and Jaime had to make an early save from Paco Alcácer. Larrson (who had to go off soon afterwards) responded with a shot just wide and Javi Guerra came up against Guaita, but later on in the first half Vargas missed the easiest of chances, shooting straight at the keeper after Feghouli set him up in front of goal. Guaita kept out a Javi Guerra header early on in the second half, and the visitors failed to convert two or three chances, Jaime saving again from Alcácer and Fede, and Piatti shooting wide. No way through though for Pizzi’s side, and Valladolid pick up a valuable point which takes them out of the bottom three, just above Getafe on goal difference.
Getafe themselves drop back in to the relegation zone after a 1-0 defeat at Elche earlier in the evening. Only one point separated the two sides at the start of the match, and there were chances at both ends early on, with Cristian Herrera firing a shot across the face of the goal, and Lafita hitting the post from outside of the area, Manu Herrera having to be at his best to keep out Juan Rodríguez on the follow up. Rodríguez was lucky to be let off a penalty appeal for hand ball soon afterwards though, and Codina had to save from Herrera as he got free on goal. Pedro León tested Manu again, but Rodrigues fired a shot just wide shortly before the break, and Javi Márquez drilled another long effort just wide of the upright later on in the second half. The game appeared to be heading for a draw though until the third minute of injury time, when Boakye got behind his marker to head a Carles Gil cross in to the net. A vital win for the hosts, and Getafe are back to losing ways after a first victory in sixteen last weekend.
Up to nine sides are fighting to avoid relegation though, including Granada, who were beaten 4-1 by regional rivals Málaga in today’s mid-day kick-off. Brahimi missed an early chance for the visitors, but soon afterwards Camacho headed in Samuel’s cross following a short corner, and with ten minutes to go to the break Camacho headed his second of the day from another Samuel corner. The visitors should have got one back just before the break though when Samuel fouled Brahimi in the area, but Willy Caballero guessed correctly to save El-Arabi’s penalty kick. And Málaga got a penalty of their own early on in the second half, Amrabat converting the spot kick after Murillo had brought down Camacho. Caballero had to save from El-Arabi and Iturra, and Gámez cleared off the line from Ilori as Granada fought back. However with a quarter of an hour to go Juanmi controlled a Gámez pass and rounded Roberto to score the fourth, and although El-Arabi got one back three minutes later after Caballero’s clearance went straight to Buonanotte, Schuster’s team had already done enough for an important win which take them on to a safe 38 points to date. (06.04.14)
Status quo at the top of the table once more after the top three all came through difficult games unscathed on Saturday evening. Leaders Atlético Madrid were first up, and they beat Villarreal 1-0 to hold on to top spot for another week. In the middle of a grueling Champions League quarter final against Barcelona, Simeone had lost Diego Costa and Arda Turan to injuries in the Nou Camp, and with team captain Gabi suspended as well he was forced to make several changes to his line-up. With a quarter of an hour gone though his side controversially took the lead, Raúl García appearing to push his marker out of the way before heading Gabi’s corner past ex Atlético keeper Sergio Asenjo. After that though there were few clear cut chances at either end, Courtois dealing easily with a long shot from Mario before the break, and Villa and García testing Asenjo after the restart. Cani shot wide and Perbet chipped another effort just over the bar, but the closest the visitors came to scoring was when Alderweireld almost turned a Moi Gómez cross in to his own net in the dying minutes. Only one win in the last seven games though for Villarreal, and their push for a European spot is fading badly.
Later in the evening Barcelona won 3-1 against bottom club Betis to remain a point behind the leaders in the table. The crowd was boosted by a (positive) pre-match referendum on a major stadium remodeling, and they saw Xavi test Adán with a long shot before Alexis won a penalty off Juanfran which Messi converted. Messi and Pedro brought good saves out of the visiting keeper either side of half time, and Xavi brushed the crossbar with a free kick, but Pinto had to be at his best to push a deflected shot from N’Diaye over the bar a few minutes later. Midway through the second half the locals went further ahead when Jordi Figueras turned the ball in to his own goal trying to cut out a pass from Adriano, but just two minutes later Rubén Castro got one back, leaving two defenders and the keeper sprawled on the ground with a quick change of direction before clipping the ball in to the net. That left things wide open again, and it was not until four minutes from the end that referee Prieto Iglesias awarded Barça their fifth penalty in three matches after Neymar’s cross hit Amaya on the arm. This time Adán blocked Messi’s spot kick, but the rebound fell to back to the Argentinian forward who forced a second shot past the keeper.
Real Madrid kept on track with the two leaders after they beat sixth placed Real Sociedad 0-4 to remain in third spot, two points behind Barcelona in the rankings. The early chances fell to the locals, Xabi Alonso lucky to be let off a penalty appeal for hands, and Griezmann heading just over the bar. With the first half coming to a close though Bravo could only push out a shot from Benzema, and Illarramendi (making his first appearance in Anoeta since his move to Madrid in the summer) was on hand to turn the rebound in to the net. Ronaldo had been left back at home after aggravating an injury in the midweek Champions League game, but he was not missed as Ancelotti’s side took control after the break, Ramos and Benzema both hitting the bar and Bravo doing well to keep out an Alonso free kick. Soon afterwards though the keeper kicked his clearance straight at Gareth Bale, who quickly fired a long shot back in to the net for his side’s second. That took the wind out of the sails of the home side, and Madrid added two more in the last ten minutes or so, Pepe turning in the third after Ramos headed back a corner, and substitute Morata running on to Di María’s through ball to wrap things up.
Further down the table Rayo Vallecano moved six points clear of the drop zone after a 3-0 victory over Celta in the last match of the evening. Iñigo López missed a good chance to put the visitors ahead following an early corner, but midway through the first half Rochina opened the scoring for the locals after connecting with a Falqué centre which ballooned off a defender, his shot from a wide angle hitting Iñigo on its way in to the net. Yoel had to save from Alberto Bueno and Larrivey headed just wide before the break, and four minutes in to the second half Bueno made it two after collecting a long pass and firing in a low shot which went underneath the visiting keeper. With an hour on the clock Bueno scored his second of the night, getting a foot to a wayward Trashorras shot to turn it past Yoel, but just three minutes later Rayo were left with ten men when Rat was shown a red card for an off-the-ball head-butt on Charles. Celta came back after that, Rubén having to make good stops from Nolito and Alex López, but there was little time left, and Rayo held on for a win which takes them level with the Galicians in the table. (05.04.14)
The week 32 games started with the relegation battle between Almería and Osasuna, the Pamplona based side winning 1-2 to move out of the bottom three. With twenty minutes gone Oriol Riera put the visitors ahead, finishing off a passing move between Roberto Torres, Bertrán and Cejudo. And a quarter of an hour later Arribas headed in the second after Verza could only head a wide Torres free kick up in to the air. The home side hardly got near their opponents’ goal though until after the break, Corona firing a long shot over and Suso testing Andrés for the first time with an effort from the edge of the area. Lobato came close to a third at the other end, but soon afterwards Arribas could only clear an Azeez cross as far as Soriano, who drilled the ball past the visiting keeper. Soriano almost made it all square when he headed just past the post a few minutes later, but when Rafita picked up two yellow cards near the end it was all over. Only one win in nine for Almería, and another defeat against a direct rival to avoid the drop leaves them down in next to bottom spot. (04.04.14)