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Match round-up - First Division, Day 36

Real Sociedad and Granada drew 1-1 in the Monday night game, a result which left the locals still a point or two short of tying up sixth spot, but took the visitors three points clear of the drop zone. The Basque side started strongly, Canales hitting the post with a wide free kick and Seferovic heading wide when free in front of goal. Karnezis did well to tip a long shot by Vela over the top, and although Recio went close at the other end, Canales fired in a long shot which brushed the crossbar again. Seferovic missed another easy chance shortly before half time, and Iñigo Martínez headed a corner just over the bar after the restart, but the defender was lucky not to give away a penalty when the ball hit his arm soon afterwards, Recio getting himself sent off after picking up a second booking for his heated protests. Numbers were evened up a couple of minutes later however when Mikel González was shown a straight red for a hard tackle on Iturra, and Piti almost gave the visitors the lead when his shot hit the outside of the post soon afterwards. With twelve minutes to go Vela connected with a De la Bella cross to open the scoring, but with the game in the third minute of injury time substitute Ighalo turned a shot past Bravo to level the scores, the referee waving away claims that the striker was standing in an offside position. The late goal could be enough to save the Andalusians, who have to play relegation rivals Almería and Valladolid in their last two fixtures. (05.05.14)

An amazing turn-around on Sunday, the league title being thrown wide open again after Atlético Madrid lost and Real Madrid drew, both feeling the effects of their midweek triumphs in the Champions League. Barcelona’s draw on Saturday appeared to have taken them out of the mix, but a 2-0 defeat for Atlético at Levante meant that the Catalans could get past Simeone’s side if they win the last game of the season between the two rivals in the Nou Camp. With seven minutes gone Filipe Luis chested Diop’s corner past Courtois, only the second goal the Belgian keeper had let in for ten league games, and a few minutes later his opposite number Keylor Navas kept out Raúl García, David Villa firing the rebound over the top. Later in the first half Diego Costa was pulled up erroneously for offside when free on goal, and Navas made another vital save from Alderweireld, who was replacing the suspended Juanfran at right back. Simeone made two changes at the break, and substitute Arda Turan had two shots blocked and steered a third header just over the top. Costa went close and Navas kept out Alderweireld again, but with twenty minutes to go Barral scored a second for the locals after connecting with a cross from Víctor Casadesús. Adrián did hit the post later on and Diego came up against Navas again, but it was too late to change the result.

That then gave Real Madrid the edge, but they in turn slipped up, drawing 2-2 against Valencia in the Bernabeu stadium later in the evening. Diego Alves was back in the visiting goal after a long injury lay-off, and he kept out Ronaldo a couple of times early on. Diego López tipped a header by Dani Parejo on to the bar though, and with half time approaching he pushed another shot by Feghouli over the top, only for Mathieu to head in the resulting corner. Both keepers were in action soon after the interval to save from Isco, Keita, Di María and Ronaldo, but some six minutes in to the second half Sergio Ramos levelled the scores with a header from close up after Ronaldo headed back Di María’s cross, his fourth goal in three games. However Dani Parejo restored the lead soon afterwards, connecting with a deflected Feghouli cross to shoot low inside the far corner of the net, and Alves made important saves from Ronaldo as Madrid pushed forward looking to save something from the match. It looked as though they were heading for defeat though until the second minute of injury time, when Ronaldo stuck out a heel to push Di María’s cross inside the far post. Points dropped however, and that meant that Atlético will take the title with a win next week against Málaga and a draw against Barcelona (or the other way round!). Aafter this weekend’s games though, nothing should be ruled out!

Had Valencia won, they would still be in hunt for the last Europa League spot, but that will now certainly be occupied by Villarreal after they picked up the point they needed in a 0-0 draw at fifth placed Sevilla. The locals were celebrating their epic win over the Ches in Thursday’s Europa League semi-final, and with their place in Europe already secured, Unai Emery rested several key players. Despite the result it was a lively game though, with Giovani going close for the visitors early on and then bringing a good save out of Javi Varas, one of the coach’s replacements. M’Bia and Moreno fired shots just wide and Sergio Asenjo kept out Marin and Vitolo, and after the interval Gameiro tried his luck a couple of times. Musacchio missed a sitter later on following a set-piece free kick, but in the end both teams settled for the point. Villarreal will be looking for more though in their remaining fixtures, as if they can get past sixth placed Real Sociedad (who they play on the last day) they would avoid having to enter the E-League at the early qualifying stages.

The relegation places are still undecided though, with Betis the only team sure to go down, and up to eight others fighting to avoid the last two spots. Almería are out of the bottom three however after they won 3-2 against Betis, a thrilling game which the locals won thanks to a goal in the last minute. Oscar Díaz was the most active player on the park in an otherwise tense first half, and he gave the home side the lead against their regional rivals after connecting with an Aleix Vidal cross some seven minutes after the break. However a minute later Suso got himself sent off for a rash tackle on Perquis, and soon afterwards Braian Rodríguez got on the end of a Juan Carlos centre to make it all square. With twenty minutes to go Salva Sevilla put the visitors in front after Rodríguez laid back Juanfran’s pass, but seven minutes after that Vidal equalized again, his shot hitting Adán and looping back in to the net. A minute or so in to injury time Francisco’s side were lucky to be let off a penalty appeal when Rafita handled in the area, but play went up the other end and Azeez got on the end of Soriano’s cross to head home a winner which takes the Andalusians above Osasuna in the table. (04.05.14)

Barcelona’s remote hopes of winning the league title this season have just about disappeared after they could only draw 2-2 against Getafe on Saturday afternoon. Adriano brought an early save out of Julio César and Iniesta and Pedro had shots blocked, but the locals didn’t create any clear cut chances until Messi connected with a Dani Alves cross to open the scoring midway through the first half. And a few minutes later Lafita equalized in controversial circumstances after controlling Sarabia’s lofted free kick with his arm before turning a shot past Pinto, referee José Antonio Teixeira at first ruling the strike out but then allowing it to stand. A few minutes after the restart Alexis chested the ball on to the crossbar, and midway through the second half the Chilean forward restored the lead after a cross from substitute Fàbregas deflected to him. Pedro, Fàbregas, Alves and Messi all missed chances after that to put the locals further in front, but with the game in the dying minutes Sarabia fired a shot straight at Pinto when free in front of goal, and in the second minute of injury time Lafita got on the end of Gavilán’s cross to head home his second of the game. An unexpected point for Getafe in their fight to avoid the drop, and after the final whistle Tata Martino accepted that Barça’s league challenge was over, and that he probably won’t be at the Nou Camp next season.

Getafe move a point above Osasuna, who were beaten 0-2 by Celta later in the evening. The Galicians had already made sure of another season in the top flight the week before, and Luis Enrique used the occasion to give a run out to some of his lesser used players. Even so though they had the better of the opening minutes, Krohn-Dehli almost catching out Andrés with a long lob before Nolito ran on to Orellana’s pass to open the scoring. Soon afterwards Jonny headed an inswinging Roberto Torres corner off the line, and Sergio Alvarez (making his first league start this season) had to make a double save from Oriol Riera and De las Cuevas. But with ten minutes to go to the break the visitors went further ahead, Nolito getting behind the defence to turn Orellana’s long cross back past Andrés, his seventh goal in the last four games. After the interval Javi Gracia threw on all his fire power, but Sergio made two or three important stops, in particular from Riera, to ensure the three points for his side. Only one point from four games though for the locals, and they find themselves facing the drop zone once again with only two games to go.

Valladolid are just behind Osasuna on head-to-head goal difference after they won 1-0 against Espanyol in the last match of the day. Having only picked up one point from their last five games, the visitors themselves are not mathematically safe, and Sergio García and Pizzi brought early stops out of Jaime. Casilla had to be on his toes though to keep out a Manucho header at the other end, and with twenty minutes gone Rukavina opened the scoring with a low shot after Raúl Rodríguez headed clear a long Peña throw-in. Jaime was in action again to save from Sergio García, and Víctor Sánchez and Pizzi both fired long shots wide of the mark, but Manucho came close to a second when he headed past the post shortly before the break. Things slowed down though in the second half, and the Catalans were left with ten men when Pizzi picked up a second yellow card. Marc Valiente and Oscar could have added to the lead after that, but Valladolid had a vital win which keeps them in with a chance of survival.

Elche are close to saving themselves though after they won 0-1 at Málaga, the result taking them to within two points of their hosts, who themselves (like Espanyol) still need a point to be sure of avoiding the drop. Fran Escribá’s side had not won away from home since late October, but they took the lead in spectacular fashion when Rodrigues latched on to a poor control by Samuel to thrash a shot past Caballero from outside of the area. Visiting keeper Manu Herrera did well to turn a shot from Santa Cruz for a corner a few minutes later, and Javi Márquez came close to a second when his long shot hit the post shortly before the break. After the restart Caballero had to save a header from Carlos Sánchez, and although Botía got himself sent off for catching Iakovenko in the face trying to kick the ball out of play, Elche held on for a vital win which enables them to go in to their last two games against Barcelona and Sevilla with a good cushion over their relegation rivals. (03.05.14)

Athletic Bilbao made sure of their place in next season’s Champions League qualifying round after beating Rayo Vallecano 0-3 in this week’s Friday night game. There was a festive atmosphere in Vallecas, the home side having already assured another season in the top flight last weekend, and there was a fifteen minutes delay as ground staff had to clear toilet rolls and other items which the local fans threw on to the pitch in their celebrations. Athletic wanted to tie up fourth spot as quickly as possible though, and Mikel Rico and Aduríz both went close following corner kicks before Rubén misread another Susaeta corner, and San José poked the ball in to the net. That was in the twentieth minute, and ten minutes later De Marcos made it two with a low shot under the keeper after yet another corner came out to him, the game delayed once again as a barrier in front of the jubilant Bilbao fans collapsed (luckily without serious consequences). Iraizoz had to make saves from Nacho and Trashorras either side of half time as Paco Jémez’s side looked to get back in the game, but with a quarter of an hour to go Ander Herrera wrapped things up with a well struck free kick which went in off the foot of the post. Athletic are back at the top level, although the Rayo fans hardly noticed. Their battle is already won. (02.05.14)