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Match round-up - First Division, Day 18

Córdoba are out of the relegation spots for the first time since the start of the season after a 0-1 victory at Rayo Vallecano in the Monday night game! Djukic drafted new signings Edimar and Bebé into his starting line-up, and Bebé brought an early save from Toño with a long free kick, and then tested the keeper again a few minutes later. Alberto Bueno thought himself unlucky to have a strike ruled out for a questionable offside, but shortly before half time the visitors went ahead when Abdoulaye turned a cross from Andone Florin into his own net trying to clear. Quini fired a shot against the crossbar and Manucho drove another effort just wide of the post as Rayo dominated the second half, but the visiting defence held fast, and Bebé could have wrapped things up had he been able to beat Toño when free on goal later on. (12.01.15)

Barcelona stay a point behind leaders Real Madrid after a 3-1 victory over Atlético Madrid in the last match on Sunday night. The two teams started the game level on points, but the locals dominated the first half, Neymar opening the scoring in the twelfth minute after Luis Suárez touched on Messi’s cross. Jordi Alba and Messi brought good saves out of Moyà and Neymar headed wide, and with ten minutes to go to the break Luis Suárez fired a second past the keeper following a good run by Messi, although the Argentinian forward was lucky that the referee didn’t spot that his initial control was with his upper arm. Atleti’s first real attempt at goal was a looping header over the bar by Godín soon after the restart, but a few minutes later Mandzukic got one back from the penalty spot after Messi tripped Jesús Gámez just inside the area. Simeone brought on his new signing Fernando Torres, and Bravo had to save at his feet soon afterwards. But Messi put Moyà to the test again, and with two minutes to go he added his name to the impressive scoresheet, turning a shot in from close to goal after Raúl García inadvertently played the ball to him trying to cut out Rakitic’s pass.

Sevilla moved back up to fourth, now just two points behind Atlético, after a 0-2 win at Almería in this Sunday’s mid-day kick-off. The locals had won their last two games under new coach Juan Ignacio Martínez, although they were lucky not to go behind early on when Bacca got the ball in the net only to be pulled up for a dubious offside decision. Beto had to save from Hemed and Corona before the break, and Wellington Silva soon after, but with just under an hour gone Iborra fired the visitors into the lead after Bacca laid the ball back to him. Just five minutes later Coke made it two after Julián could only block a shot by Bacca, and the local keeper had to be on his toes to stop a Bacca shot and a Reyes free kick soon afterwards. But Beto was called upon to keep out Hemed and Espinosa later on, and Iborra had to clear off the line from Hemed in the dying minutes, albeit that the referee subsequently ruled that the striker had fouled the keeper in the previous challenge.

The two big Basque sides remain in the bottom half of the table however, Athletic Bilbao ending the day in thirteenth spot after losing 1-2 at home to bottom club Elche. Valverde’s team had already lost in the San Mamés against the other two sides in the drop zone, Granada and Córdoba, and although Mikel Rico brought a first minute save out of Tyton, the visitors went ahead a quarter of an hour later when Víctor Rodríguez ran on to a Jonathas assist to poke a shot past Iraizoz (referee Iglesias Villanueva failing to spot that he had controlled the ball with his arm during the play). Aduríz turned a shot just wide and Susaeta struck a free kick just over the bar either side of half time, but eight minutes in to the second half Jonathas won the ball off Balenziaga and laid it back for Fayçal Fajr to stroke an angled shot into the net. Tyton did well to tip another Susaeta free kick over the bar a few minutes later, and San José reduced the gap with an impressive shot from outside of the area, but “the Lions” were unable to prevent their opponents from clocking up a first win in eight which takes them level with the aforementioned Granada and Córdoba in the table.

Real Sociedad meanwhile were held to a 1-1 draw at Granada, the point taking them just above Athletic on goal difference. Both teams were on negative runs, the Andalusians having gone thirteen games without a win, and the visitors yet to take the three points away from home this season. Local keeper Oier had to save from Canales and Iñigo Martínez, and Lass headed just wide at the other end in reply, but with ten minutes to go to the interval Carlos Vela put David Moyes’ side in front from the penalty spot after Babín pulled down Canales. The hosts had a couple of penalty claims by Lass and Javi Márquez turned down in the opening minutes of the second half, but after Nyom fired a long shot against the upright, they were finally awarded a spot kick when Rubén Pardo tripped Nyom in the area. Fran Rico converted the penalty to make it all square, and Piti went close after that with a long free kick, but the result was not enough to avoid Caparrós’ side from dropping below Elche to the bottom of the table. (11.01.15)

Leaders Real Madrid are back on track after a 3-0 victory over Espanyol in the first game on Saturday! After defeats in the league and the cup in the last eight days, Ancelotti’s side really needed to win, and they went ahead early on when Bale and Ronaldo combined to set up James for the opener. Benzema had hit the post earlier on, and Varane went close a couple of times before Bale added a second with a well struck free kick which went in off the upright. Montañés and Arbilla tested Iker Casillas either side of half time, and soon afterwards the locals were left with ten men when Coentrao was sent off for a foul on Cañas. However the Catalans hardly troubled the home defence after that, and Nacho wrapped things up when he collected Arbeloa’s cross and fired an angled shot past Kiko Casilla with a quarter of an hour to go. Madrid move four points clear of Barcelona and Atlético pending their game on Sunday.

Valencia stay in fourth spot after a 1-1 draw at Celta later in the evening. Orellana and Alcácer tested both keepers early on, and midway through the first half the locals had a chance to take the lead when Otamendi brought down Charles in the area. Diego Alves saved Orellana’s spot kick however, and with the first half coming to a close Rodrigo intercepted a pass from Fontàs on the half way line and ran through to fire a shot which Sergio Alvarez let through in to the net. Alves had to make a couple more saves after the restart though, and with an hour on the clock Orellana fired home the equalizer after Charles headed on a corner, his side’s first league goal in 725 minutes of football. Charles missed a chance to win it after that when he turned Orellana’s cross just wide of the post, but Celta had at least picked up a point after six defeats in a row.

Málaga remain Villarreal stay in seventh and sixth places respectively after they too drew 1-1 on Saturday evening. Honours were shared in the first half, Asenjo having to save long shots by Amrabat and Antunes, Cheryshev heading just over, and Kameni keeping out Uche. Jonathan dos Santos opened the scoring for the visitors though on the stroke of half time, the ex Barcelona midfielder volleying a shot past the keeper after Víctor Ruíz headed up Cheryshev’s cross. With just under an hour gone Sergi Darder got the ball in the net only for referee Jaime Latre to belatedly rule out the strike for a non-existent offside, but just a minute later Amrabat ran on to a long clearance by Antunes to lob the equalizer over the head of Asenjo. There was more controversy near the end though when Giovani intercepted a poor headed back pass by Angeleri only to be brought down by Kameni, Jaime waving away appeals for a penalty.

Eibar continue their push up the table, and they consolidated eighth spot with a 2-1 victory over Getafe in the last match of the evening. Saúl Berjón went close with a cross-come-shot early on, and with twenty minutes gone ex Getafe forward Manu del Moral opened the scoring with a first time volley from a set-piece Dani García free kick. Shortly before half time Hinestroza almost squeezed a shot from wide out past Irureta, but some six minutes in to the second half Capa scored again for the locals, drilling a shot past Codina after Velázquez failed to clear his first effort. Diego Castro got one back for the visitors late on though with an impressive shot from outside of the area, and Pedro León came close to saving a point with a free kick which Irureta kept out. The defeat leaves Getafe just three points above the relegation zone. (10.01.15)

Deportivo stay a point above Levante after the two teams drew 0-0 in Valencia on Friday evening. The Galicians though will feel that they should have had the three points as they dominated throughout, visiting keeper Fabricio hardly having a save to make all night. Cavaleiro failed to convert a couple of chances in the first half, Vyntra and Nikos were let off penalty appeals for hands, and Lopo got the ball in the net following a free kick shortly before the break only for the strike to be correctly ruled out for offside. The match continued in the same vein after the restart, Diego Mariño saving well from Toché, Sidnei and Cuenca, and Cavaleiro and Cuenca also going close, but in the end the scoreline remained unmoved. The result leaves both teams down in the lower reaches of the table pending the rest of the weekend games. (09.01.15)