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Match round-up - First Division, Day 21

Sevilla stay in fourth spot after Valencia lost 1-0 at Málaga in the Monday night game. The Ches were looking to return to the Champions League places after they were bumped out by Unai Emery’s side earlier in the weekend, but they found themselves behind midway through the first half when Samu Castillejo looped a header over Diego Alves from a Samuel García centre. Alves had to save from Javi Guerra soon afterwards and Juanmi failed to convert a couple of chances before the break, but either side of half time Dani Parejo headed a corner against the woodwork and Gayà brought a good stop out of Kameni. The visitors were left a man short when Cancelo picked up a second booking, and the Andalusians could have gone further ahead, Alves keeping out Samuel and Darder, and Amrabat firing a long shot against the upright. However Valencia almost snatched an undeserved point in the dying moments, De Paul’s shot hitting Paco Alcácer and bouncing inches past the post with the keeper beaten. (02.02.15)

Barcelona stay a point behind Real Madrid pending their rescheduled match next Wednesday after coming from behind twice to beat Villarreal 3-2 on Sunday night. Luis Enrique’s side came into the game on the back of seven straight wins in all competitions, and they had the better of the opening minutes, with Luis Suárez in particular failing to convert two or three chances. The visitors themselves had been unbeaten in 18 games though, and they took the lead on the half hour mark when Cheryshev deflected Mario’s shot past Bravo. Neymar levelled it on the stroke of half time after Sergio Asenjo could only push out Rafinha’s shot, but Vietto restored the lead after Giovani took advantage of a slip by Piqué to run on and set him up some six minutes in to the second half. Once again Barça came back quickly though, Rafinha equalizing again just two minutes later after Messi’s header was blocked, and Messi himself connecting with a Luis Suárez pass to curl a shot a shot past Asenjo two minutes after that. Víctor Ruíz had a strike ruled out for offside after that, and Neymar had a good penalty appeal turned down, but the locals edged it in the end, and the two teams have it all to do again in ten days time when they meet in the semi-finals of the cup.

With fourth placed Valencia not playing until Monday, Sevilla took advantage to move above them in the table after a last minute 3-2 victory over Espanyol. Stuani put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot after Beto brought down Salva Sevilla on the quarter hour mark, the keeper lucky to be let off with a yellow card. But ten minutes later Diogo Figueiras caught out Kiko Casilla with a speculative shot from way out on the right of midfield, and a few minutes later Vitolo got on the end of an Aleix Vidal cross to make it two. With five minutes to go to the break the Catalans were left with ten men when Casilla was sent off for handling outside of the area, and Iborra and Iago Aspas hit the post in quick succession as Emery pushed his men forward after the break. However Víctor Sánchez curled a shot past Sergio Rico (who had replaced the injured Beto at half time) to make it all square again with a quarter of an hour to go, and a draw seemed on the cards until Iago Aspas picked up a Bacca assist to fire the winner past Pau López right at the end. It was a small revenge at least for the Andalusians after they were knocked out of the cup by their opponents on Thursday.

Further down the table Almería move out of the bottom three after a 1-0 win against Getafe, the result leaving Granada back down in the relegation zone just 24 hours after they escaped from it. The locals had the better chances in the first half, Mauro Dos Santos seeing his header deflected against the post, and Edgar and Hemed going close before Edgar ran on to Hemed’s through ball to open the scoring on the stroke of half time. Julián had only had one save from Alvaro Vázquez to make up to that point, and after the restart Michel Macedo got the ball in the net after Soriano’s header came back off the bar only to be pulled up for a non-existent offside. Escudero was sent off for a second bookable offence soon afterwards, and Naldo was lucky to be let off a possible penalty when he handled in the area. Codina had to save from Hemed minutes later, but numbers were evened up when the Israeli striker also picked up a second yellow card later on. It was a first home victory of the season for Juan Ignacio Martínez’s side though, and they move up to within a point of their opponents in the table..

Levante meanwhile end the weekend in bottom spot after they were beaten 0-2 by Athletic Bilbao in this Sunday’s mid-day kick-off. Despite having only picked up two points from their last seven matches, the midweek cup victory had given the Basque side renewed confidence, and Muniain hit the bar in an early attack. However the locals took control for the remainder of the first half, Iraizoz having to tip a Simao header over the bar and Morales going close a couple of times. In the first minute of the second half though Diego Mariño just recovered in time to stop the ball on the line after letting an Aduríz shot through his hands, and three minutes later Aduríz fired the visitors into the lead after picking up a centre from De Marcos. With new signing Kalu Uche on the park, Lucas Alcaráz’s side came looking for the equalizer, Casadesús shooting wide and Iraizoz making first class saves from Xumetra and Rubén García. But with a minute to go Aduríz wrapped things up after Susaeta put him through, and the striker could have completed a hat-trick had he been able to beat Mariño with the game in injury time. (01.02.15)

Leaders Real Madrid beat Real Sociedad 4-1 on Saturday afternoon to hold on to top spot for another week. Ancelotti’s side went behind in the first minute when Aritz Elustondo headed in a Rubén Pardo corner, the fourth game in a row that that had happened. However James got on the end of Marcelo’s cross to head the equalizer just two minutes later, and although Canales shot just wide, Rulli had to be at his best to keep out Benzema and James soon afterwards. With just under half an hour gone Sergio Ramos fired home a second though after the keeper pushed out a shot from Benzema, and Bale missed a chance which he robbed off James before setting up Benzema for the third early on in the second half. Benzema connected with Isco to score his second of the day with a quarter of an hour to go, and Bale could have added another had he been able to beat Rulli late on. Ronaldo, serving a two match ban and watching from the stands, was not missed for once.

Atlético Madrid move level with second placed Barcelona pending their game on Sunday after winning 1-3 at Eibar later in the evening. Simeone’s side weathered the rainy conditions to go three up within the first half hour, Griezmann opening the scoring with an angled shot after latching on to a Raúl García pass in only the seventh minute. Abraham fired a shot over the top soon afterwards, but Mandzukic virtually wrapped things up after netting twice in as many minutes, the first with a first time volley from Griezmann’s cross, and the second after Abraham and Raúl Navas were unable to clear Tiago’s lofted pass. Moyà had to be at his best to keep out Piovaccari close to half time, and Irureta saved from Saúl Ñíguez at the other end seconds later. But things slowed down after the interval, and there was little action until the final minute, when Piovaccari got on the end of a Saúl Berjón cross to head a consolation goal for the hosts.

Good results for the two Galician sides this weekend, and after Deportivo won at Rayo last night, Celta beat Córdoba 1-0 for their first victory in eleven games. Although they have been playing well recently, Berizzo’s side have not been picking up points, and the coach himself was on a bit of an ultimatum to stop the rot. And once again they had most of the play without finding the net in the first half, Santi Mina, Krohn-Dehli and Larrivey all coming up against an excellent Juan Carlos in the visiting goal. Local keeper Sergio Alvarez also had to save from Heldón Ramos and Bebé, but some ten minutes into the second half Nolito finally broke through with an impressive shot after Orellana stepped over Mina’s square pass. There was a big scare for the home fans though with seven minutes to go to the end after a crunching tackle between Planas and Rossi on the edge of the area, referee José Antonio Teixeira Vitienes at first awarding a penalty, and then after consultation with his linesman and much arguing (during which time Berizzo was sent off) overturning his decision. That meant the long suffering supporters had to endure another six minutes of time added on, but in the end they had that much needed win.

Elsewhere Granada beat Elche 1-0 to move off the bottom of the table and out of the bottom three. The Andalusians had not won in sixteen games, and with their opponents also struggling, chances were few and far between in the first half. Víctor Rodríguez did have a strike ruled out for a dubious offside though, but otherwise neither keeper really having a serious save to make, the best effort a long shot by Piti just wide of the post on the stroke of half time. However ten minutes after the restart Piti got free down the right, and although Tyton got a hand to his cross, Córdoba bundled the ball into the net. A few minutes later the visitors were left with ten men when Damián Suárez picked up a second booking, and they finished with nine after Pasalic limped off with all three changes made. Nyom and Javi Márquez did go close for Abel Resino’s side later on, but they had already done enough for a first win under the new coach which takes them above their opponents in the table. (31.01.15)

Deportivo moved five points clear of the relegation zone pending the rest of the weekend results after a 1-2 victory at Rayo Vallecano on Friday night. The locals needed a win after three home defeats in a row, and Leo Baptistao brought a good save out of Fabricio in the opening minutes. With just over ten minutes gone however the visitors went ahead, new signing Celso Borges deflecting the ball into the net after Toño pushed out a wide Cavaleiro free kick. Alberto Bueno made it all square midway through the first half after Lopo could only head a long Trashorras centre into his path, but Toño had to be at his best to keep out José Rodríguez and Borges before the break. Cavaleiro hit the crossbar with another wide free kick soon after the restart, and Kakuta got the ball into the net from his free kick only for the referee to rule it out deeming that the offside Trashorras had interfered with play. Fabiano did well to stop Bueno from point blank range a few minutes later, but with twenty minutes to go Borges got the winner from the penalty spot after Abdoulaye Ba pulled down Sidnei in the area. (30.01.15)