Athletic Bilbao took another step towards tying up the fourth Champions League spot after beating Málaga 3-0 on Monday night. Aduríz headed them in to the lead in the fourth minute from Susaeta’s corner, and for the rest of the first half they were on top, Aduríz shooting just wide when free on goal, and Caballero saving from San José and Muniain. Just a minute after the break Aduríz got his second of the night after Iraola turned Ander Herrera’s pass across goal, and although Darder headed just wide at the other end, Herrera made it three with a low shot following a corner which went through the legs of the visiting keeper. Schuster’s side had no response, and Muniain felt himself unlucky not to be given a penalty when Eliseu brought him down later on. The result ends Málaga’s run of three away wins in a row, and keeps Valverde’s team six points ahead of fifth placed Sevilla in the table. (14.04.14)
Atlético Madrid extended their lead at the top of the table to three points after beating local rivals Getafe 0-2 on Sunday evening. Barcelona’s defeat at Granada the day before meant that a win would take them four points clear of the Catalans, and only a good save by Codina prevented Godín from heading in Koke’s corner in the opening minutes. Juanfran was lucky to be let off a penalty appeal for hands at the other end, but with five minutes to go to the break Godín got in front of the local keeper to head a long centre by Juanfran in to the empty net. Courtois had to be at his best to keep out a header from Juan Rodríguez after the restart, but some twenty minutes in to the second half Atleti were awarded a penalty after Lafita was sent off for pulling down Diego Costa in front of goal. Codina saved Costa’s spot kick and Raúl García’s follow up though, but with six minutes to go Costa made up for it, bravely sliding in to turn Adrián’s cross in to net from close to goal. The striker paid for it though as he collided with the post, opening up a deep cut on his leg which saw him stretchered off in agony (although later reports confirmed there was no lasting damage). A vital win for Simeone’s side though, and with a positive head-to-head record against second placed Real Madrid, they could go in to the last match at the Nou Camp with the league title already tied up if they can win their next four games before that.
Whatever happens, the two Madrid teams and Barcelona are assured of the first three Champions League spots, but the last place is still open after fifth ranked Sevilla won 0-2 against city rivals Betis in this week’s mid-day kick off. World Cup referee Velasco Carballo gave the visitors a helping hand though, turning down an early penalty appeal for a foul by Iborra on Leo Baptistao, but then giving one at the other end on the half hour mark and sending off Juan Carlos, even though the wing-back appeared to put in a good tackle on Bacca. Gameiro fired home the resulting spot kick, and only a couple of good saves by Adán stopped Gameiro and Vitolo from adding to the lead after the break. Carballo appeared to have awarded a second penalty when Amaya handled in the area later on, only to change his decision (incorrectly) to offside against Gameiro at the behest of his linesman. Soon afterwards Beto had to be at his best to tip a Rubén Castro free kick over the bar, but with ten minutes to go Gameiro wrapped up what is likely to be the last Sevilla derby for some time, turning in a Diogo Figueiras cross to leave Gabriel Calderón’s team on the verge of relegation.
Valencia are still in with a chance of reaching the Europa League spots after they beat regional rivals Elche 2-1, the result taking them to within seven points of seventh placed Real Sociedad. The Ches were on a high after their epic comeback against Basel on Thursday night, and Piatti gave them the lead midway through the first half with a low shot past Manu Herrera after a half-hit shot by Michel came to him in the area. Just six minutes later however Coro equalized after connecting with a Carlos Sánchez cross, and only a good stop by Guaita prevented Cristian Herrera from putting the visitors ahead. Shortly before half time Dani Parejo brought a good save out of Manu with a well struck free kick, and with just over an hour gone Parejo latched on to a poor clearance to drill a long shot past the keeper. The visitors still had a great chance to level the scores again though when they were awarded a penalty for a foul by Piatti in Cristian, but Guaita just got enough on Damián Suárez’s spot kick to turn it round the post. Boakye also fired a late shot wide, but even though Barragán got himself sent off for a second booking, the visitors were not able to prevent a defeat which leaves them just four points above the drop zone.
Espanyol are now ten points off seventh place though after they drew 2-2 against Rayo Vallecano, and their hopes of a return to Europe have all but dissipated. Stuani gave the Catalans a third minute lead, sliding the ball past Rubén after Sergio García and Pizzi combined to set him up, and Sergio García felt he should have had a penalty when Zé Castro brought him down in the area later on in the first half. Rayo turned the scoreline around though with goals either side of half time, Iago Falqué latching on to Alberto Bueno’s square pass to beat Casilla, and Larrivey heading a long cross by Nacho past the advancing keeper. Casilla did well to keep out a couple of shots by Rochina after that, and Bueno got the ball in the net only for it to be ruled out for offside. But with the game coming to end Colotto headed in a Lanzarote corner to save a point, keeping his team four points above their opponents in the table. (13.04.14)
Barcelona’s season is falling apart, a 1-0 defeat at Granada on Saturday evening leaving them adrift of leaders Atlético Madrid and down in third spot in the table at the end of the day. After their midweek elimination from the Champions League, Tata Martino’s side desperately needed a win in Andalusia, and Montoya headed an early chance straight at keeper Karnezis, who was only making his second league appearance of the season. However Brahimi gave the locals the lead on the quarter hour mark from a Fran Rico assist, and despite a continuous attack after that, the visitors were unable to find a way past a packed defence, Neymar in particular heading over the top and then coming up against Karnezis again before the break. Pinto still had to keep out El-Arabi and Brahimi either side of half time, but the local keeper made saves after the restart from Fábregas, Messi, Busquets, Pedro and others to put in a claim for a more regular place in the line-up. No less than 24 shots in all by Barça, but no goals, and their season now rests on Wednesday night’s cup final against Real Madrid. An unexpected win for the Andalusians though, and they move a step closer to safety as a result.
Real Madrid clocked up a comfortable 4-0 victory over struggling Almería in the last match of the night to move a point above the Catalans in the table. With Ronaldo likely to be out for ten days or so, and others rested for Wednesday’s cup final, the replacements took over the mantle, Di María combining with Nacho to open the scoring on the half hour mark. Before that Di María had hit the crossbar, and Di María and Bale had brought good saves out of Esteban, and the visiting keeper did well to push an inswinging Di María corner over the bar shortly before the break. Soon after the restart Bale combined with Di María and Benzema to make it two, and three minutes later Isco scored the third after controlling Benzema’s cross before squeezing a shot inside the near post. Almería’s one and only real chance came when Diego López pushed a Corona free kick on to the post, but Coentrao, Benzema and Morata all brought further saves out of Esteban before Morata collected Illarramendi’s lofted pass to complete the scoring.
Earlier in the evening Villarreal beat regional rivals Levante 1-0, the win taking them back up to sixth place in the table. Marcelino’s side had only won one of their last seven games, and although Pereira tested Keylor Navas with a deflected shot in the opening minutes, Víctor Casadesús went close with a header a few minutes later. The visitors started the second half strongly, Angel and Diop bringing good saves out of Sergio Asenjo with long shots, and Rubén García firing another long effort just over the top. Navas had to keep out a long shot from Trigueros though, and Mario turned another shot just wide of the post after a good run by Aquino. The game appeared to be heading for a draw though until the fifth minute of time added on, when Perbet got on the end of a wide Trigueros free kick to steer a header in to the far corner of the net for a much needed victory.
Villarreal move a point above Real Sociedad, who were held to a 2-2 draw at Celta in the first match on Saturday. Canales gave the Basque side the lead, drilling a long shot past Yoel after his first effort hit Carlos Vela, and Iñigo Martínez came close to a second when he headed a corner just wide of the post. The locals came back though, Nolito and Krohn-Dehli bringing good saves out of Claudio Bravo before Nolito made it all square from the penalty spot after Iñigo tripped Mario Bermejo inside the area. Griezmann restored the lead for the visitors on the stroke of half time though with an impressive shot on the turn after Agirretxe headed across a long ball from midfield, and just a couple of minutes in to the second half Celta were left with ten men when Aurtenetxe was sent off for a high tackle on Vela. Griezmann missed a chance to put his side further ahead soon afterwards, but Santi Mina saved a point for the Galicians late on, latching on to Orellana’s square pass on the edge of the area to drive a shot wide of Bravo. (12.04.14)
Once more the latest round of games began with a relegation battle, this time between Osasuna and Valladolid on Friday night, the match ending without goals to leave both just above the bottom three. The locals had all the chances in the first half, Cejudo hitting the bar with a long shot, Riera turning the ball over the bar in a challenge with Mitrovic, and Jaime almost caught out by a long Damià free kick which the keeper stopped with his chest. After the interval the visitors rallied, Víctor Pérez curling a corner kick against the crossbar, Marc Valiente volleying a shot over the top and Javi Guerra coming up against Andrés. Jaime did well to stand his ground against Cejudo and Roberto Torres drove another shot wide, but the visitors almost sneaked a late win when Valiente headed a wide Jeffren free kick just past the post. The result means that Osasuna stay two points above their opponents in the table though, with the added advantage of a superior head-to-head record after their win at the Nuevo Zorrilla stadium half a season ago. (11.04.14)