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Match round-up - First Division, Day 20

Getafe moved clear of the danger zone after a 2-1 victory over Celta in the Monday night game. Both teams had gone nine matches without a win, and although Charles took advantage of a quick throw-in to put the visitors ahead on the quarter hour mark, Alvaro Vázquez leveled it after Sarabia put him through just four minutes later. Jonny brought a good save out of Codina soon afterwards, but from then on the locals were on top, Sergio Alvarez having to keep out Sarasbia and Sammir, and Sarabia and Alvaro Vázquez shooting just wide. With a quarter of an hour to go Diego Castro wasted a chance to give the locals the lead when he chipped a penalty kick against the crossbar after Radoja had handled in the area, but with five minutes to go Pedro León headed a long cross down across the area, and Sarabia latched on to Sammir’s back-heel pass to fire home the winner. The result takes Quique Sánchez Flores’ side to within a point of their hosts in the table. (26.01.15)

The gap between the top three and the rest is not as big as in previous years, with Valencia, Sevilla and Villarreal all relatively in touch coming in to the second half of the season. Valencia and Sevilla are currently fighting it out for fourth spot though, and the Ches overtook Unai Emery’s side after beating their rivals 3-1 in the last match of Sunday evening. With just over a quarter of an hour gone Dani Parejo converted the first of three penalties after Diogo Figueiras pulled down Negredo in the area, and a few minutes later he got his second of the night following a quick breakaway, steering a shot past Beto after Enzo Pérez poked the ball over to him. Bacca got one back with a second penalty though after Parejo himself fouled Diogo in the area some ten minutes before the break, and Diego Alves saved a third spot kick from the striker when Cancelo brought down Vitolo just five minutes later. Soon after the restart though Javi Fuego connected with Rodrigo’s square pass to score a third for the locals, and Beto had to be at his best to push a deflected shot from Andres Gomes over the bar just a minute later. Denis Suárez went close after that, and a limping Krychowiak bravely chased back to block a late effort from Rodrigo, but the game ended soon afterwards, and Nuno’s team start the second half of the season on a high.

Seventh placed Málaga are losing ground on the top six though, and they are now six points behind Villarreal after a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao earlier in the evening. As fate would have it the two teams are in the middle of a quarter final cup tie, and for the second time in four days the game ended all square. Neither has produced any good form in the league recently though, the Basques only picking up two points from seven games, and their visitors two from four. Both sides had chances in the first half, Samu Castillejo bringing a couple of good saves out of Iraizoz, and Athletic going close with two or three corners, Kameni saving from Mikel Rico and Aduríz heading wide. After the restart Kameni had to keep out Aduríz, and Horta hooked a shot just wide of the post after Luis Alberto set him up, but with twenty minutes to go San José finally broke the deadlock with a powerful header from Susaeta’s corner. Eight minutes later however Miguel Torres got free on the right wing, and although Juanmi failed to connect withhis cross, new signing Javi Guerra was there to turn the ball in on the far post. A fair result in the end, and they have it all to do again in that cup second leg next Thursday, same time (more or less!), same place.

Espanyol are still in the cup as well, and they clocked up a 3-0 victory over Almería to boost their morale for next Thursday’s return leg at Sevilla. Corona headed over the visitors in the opening minutes, but after that they hardly got near to Kiko Casilla’s goal. Stuani headed against the bar soon afterwards, and Hemed headed off the line from Alvaro with the keeper beaten following a corner. With eight minutes to go to the break Stuani got above Fran vélez to head Sergio García’s lifted cross past Julián, and just three minutes later the Uruguayan striker got his second of the night, turning a shot past the keeper after Lucas Vázquez played on another Sergio García cross. Either side of half time García hit the side netting and Vázquez came up against Julián, and with a quarter of an hour to go substitute Caicedo ran on to a Víctor Sánchez through ball to steer an angled shot into the net for his side’s third. A few minutes later the visitors had a penalty appeal for hands by Sánchez turned down, and in the dying minutes Julián had to make two spectacular saves from Alex Fernández and Alvaro. The Catalans stay ninth after a fourth win in a row, but Juan Ignacio Martínez’s side remain in the bottom three after their fourth consecutive defeat.

Almería stay in the bottom three, a point above bottom club Granada who drew 2-2 at Deportivo in the mid-day kick-off. The Andalusians started the day just three points below their hosts despite not having won in fifteen games, and with seven minutes gone they took the lead when Piti curled a shot wide of Fabricio. The locals turned things around before the break though, José Rodríguez making it all square after Oier could only push out an angled shot from Oriol Riera with just over half an hour gone, and Lucas Pérez beating the keeper for the second time just four minutes later after Sidnei touched on José Rodríguez’s cross. Cavaleiro tested Oier again early on in the second half, and Fariña fired another effort over the top a few minutes later. However with seven minutes to go Juan Carlos headed on a Fran Rico free kick, and Robert Ibáñez volleyed the ball into the net to make it all square once again. Fariña was sent off near the end after a retaliatory blow at Fran Rico, but the game ended soon afterwards, with the status quo unmoved. Not a bad start for Granada’s returning coach Abel Resino against a direct relegation rival, although it was not enough to take them off that bottom spot. (25.01.15)

Real Madrid stay in top spot after a late 1-2 victory at Córdoba in the first match on Saturday. Ancelotti’s side went behind in only the third minute when Ghilas converted a penalty after Sergio Ramos blocked Bebé’s shot with his arm inside the area, and Bebé went close again soon afterwards. Benzema equalized later in the first half with Madrid’s first real shot at goal after Bale headed on a James corner, but Bebé and Fede Cartabia both fired shots wide either side of half time, and Florín almost scored when he lobbed Casillas, only for the ball to bounce up on to the crossbar. The visitors gradually got into the game though, Kroos and Benzema testing Juan Carlos with long shots, and Ramos heading a corner over the bar. With ten minutes to go a clearly nervous Ronaldo was shown a straight red card for kicking Edimar in an off-the-ball incident, but Fede Cartabia was also sent off for a second bookable offence a few minutes later when he blocked Bale’s free kick with his elbow in the area, and Bale himself stepped up to fire home the resulting penalty.

Barcelona remain a point behind the leaders, albeit having played a game more, after they hammered Elche 0-6 later in the evening. After the grueling midweek cup tie against Atlético, Luis Enrique made six changes to his line-up, and it took them some time to get going, the only danger in the first half hour coming from a couple of long free kicks. Fayçal Fajr brought a couple of good saves out of Bravo at the other end, but with ten minutes to go to the break Piqué opened the scoring after controlling Xavi’s quickly-taken free kick. Soon after the restart Messi made it two from the penalty spot after Pelegrín tripped Neymar in the area, and just two minutes later the locals were left with ten men when Fajr picked up a second booking. By now Messi and Neymar were enjoying themselves, and the two combined to score two more in as many minutes, both Messi assists for Neymar to beat Tyton. Messi got the fifth himself after picking up a long pass from Marc Bartra, and Pedro completed the scoring in injury time after Neymar set him up on a rapid breakaway. Elche will be glad it’s all over though, having lost by an aggregate scoreline of 18-0 in their four meetings this season!

Atlético Madrid stay in touch with the top two though after they beat city rivals Rayo Vallecano 3-1. Griezmann took advantage of some slack defending to score twice in the first twenty minutes, the first after he intercepted Zé Castro’s pass, and the second after Mandzukic headed a long clearance into his path. Toño had to be at his best to keep out a Tiago header in between, but with ten minutes to go to the break Trashorras got one back, beating Moyà with a long shot after picking up a pass from Kakuta. After the interval though Toño and Zé Castro had to keep out Griezmann and Mandzukic, and soon afterwards Manucho deflected Griezmann’s corner into his own net under pressure from Giménez. Alberto Bueno could have scored a second for Rayo had he been able to connect with a Trashorras through ball, but Griezmann came close to a hat-trick when he fired a shot against the upright, and the French forward unselfishly put Fernando Torres through near the end, only for the striker to be closed down quickly by the keeper. .

Elsewhere Villarreal moved up level with fifth placed Valencia pending their game on Sunday after beating local rivals Levante 1-0. Honours were fairly much shared in the first half, Barral and Uche trading early headers wide of the post, Diego Mariño pushing a deflected shot from Vietto around the post, and Sergio Asenjo having to save another header from Víctor Casadesús. Barral got free of Musacchio early on in the second half only for the defender to recover in time, but soon afterwards Vietto scored what was to prove the only goal, running the ball into the net after Mariño spilled a long shot from Manu Trigueros. The visiting keeper did well to save from Uche later on, and Camarasa went close with a long shot, but the three points stayed at home, and Levante drop further into the relegation zone after an eighth game in a row without a win.

It was though a day for local derbies, with Real Sociedad finally getting the edge over their smaller neighbours Eibar thanks to a 1-0 victory in the Anoeta stadium. Before the season started this would have been expected to be a home banker, but with the visitors beginning the game eight points above their hosts in the table it was anything but. Carlos Vela in particular caused a few problems for the Eibar defence in the first half, but only a last ditch tackle by Iñigo prevented Capa from scoring on a break-away, and Rulli had to be at his best to keep out Saúl Berjón and Arruabarrena before the break. A few minutes into the second half however Irureta just managed to tip a Granero free kick over the bar, and from the resulting Pardo corner Xabi Prieto looped a back header up and over the keeper into the net. Vela and Yuri went close again after that, but Garitano threw everything forward, and the result was in doubt until the final whistle. (24.01.15)