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Match round-up - First Division, Day 22

The battle to avoid the drop looks like being close this year, with several teams in and out of the bottom three all season. Results elsewhere meant that Elche started their Monday night game against Rayo Vallecano in bottom spot, but a 2-0 victory took them out of the relegation zone and up to seventeenth place, now just three points behind their opponents in the table. Damián Suárez opened the scoring with a scorcher from outside of the area midway through the first half, and Lombán came close to as second when he headed wide soon afterwards. Leo Baptistao, Alberto Bueno and Trashorras all went close for the visitors either side of half time, but Pasalic missed an easy header on a quick breakaway a few minutes later. Rayo were left with ten men though when Raúl Baena picked up a second booking, and with eight minutes to go Rodrigues ran on to a return Fajr pass to wrap things up. (09.02.15)

Barcelona close to within a point of leaders Real Madrid after a resounding 2-5 win at Athletic Bilbao in the last game on Sunday evening. Messi had a hand in all five goals, scoring the first himself on the quarter hour mark with a direct free kick which took a deflection off the head of San José in the defensive wall. Bravo had to save from Aduríz and Susaeta soon afterwards, but Luis Suárez tested Iraizoz with a close range header, and a few minutes later the ex Liverpool striker fired home the second after latching on to Messi’s return pass. The Basque side didn’t give up though, Aduríz heading against the post before the interval, and a quarter of an hour into the second half Mikel Rico got one back after Bravo could only push out Aduríz’s shot. However the visitors scored twice in the next five minutes to put the game beyond Athletic’s reach, De Marcos deflecting a wayward Messi shot into his own net after Suárez had crossed from the right, and Neymar picking up Messi’s pass to steer a shot across Iraizoz. Aduríz got a second for the hosts theee minutes after that, squeezing an angled shot inside Bravo’s near post, but with a quarter of an hour to go they were left with ten men when Etxeita was sent off for a high tackle on Suárez which took him out of the match. Pedro came on though to make it five after Messi and Busquets combined to set him up, and Neymar could have added a sixth had he been able to beat Iraizoz near the end.

Earlier in the evening Valencia returned to fourth place after a 1-2 win at Espanyol, the Ches getting their revenge for being knocked out of the cup last month. Chances were few and far between in a tactical first half, Rodrigo firing a shot against the upright, and Caicedo replying with a tight run, leaving four defenders in his wake before Diego Alves kept out his final shot. The goals started to flow after the break though, Piatti getting on the end of Gayà’s cross to open the scoring with just over an hour gone. Gayà did well to get back and clear a Stuani shot off the line with the keeper beaten a few minutes later, and with five minutes to go Dani Parejo made it two with a direct free kick which hit the post and went in off the head of keeper Pau López. Sergio García did get one back with two minutes to go after intercepting Parejo’s back pass to Mustafi and running on to shoot past Alves, but the goal came too late to alter the result. Espanyol have to put their disappointment behind them though as they travel to Bilbao for Wednesday night’s cup semi-final.

Meanwhile Sevilla drop to fifth after they lost 2-1 at Getafe, their second defeat in four days after they lost to Real Madrid midweek. With three players suspended from that match and Beto out for several weeks, Unai Emery had to put out a makeshift side, and to add to his woes he lost M’Bia and Aspas to injuries here. Sergio Rico was in for Beto, and he had to keep out Alvaro Vázquez early on.Iborra shot wide at the other end a few minutes later, but with half an hour on the clock Vázquez gave the locals the lead from the penalty spot after Diogo Figueiras brought down the striker in the area. Vázquez should have scored a second when he shot wide with only the keeper to beat after the restart, but Jonathan had to tip a Banega volley over the bar, and soon afterwards Krychowiak equalized with an impressive shot from outside of the area after Naldo headed away a Muñoz cross. Pedro Léon restored the lead however some five minutes from the end, beating Rico from close up after the keeper had saved from Hinestroza and Diego Castro, and Hinestroza should have scored again when he rounded the keeper only to miss the target.

Getafe move five points clear of the drop zone, but Córdoba find themselves back in the bottom three after they were beaten 1-2 by fellow strugglers Almería in this Sunday’s mid-day kick-off. Fede Cartabia put the Andalusians ahead in the tenth minute with a well struck free kick, and Andone came close to increasing the lead a couple of times later in the first half with headers from corners, the first looping against the crossbar and the second being kept out by Julián. The visiting keeper had to make further saves from Ghilas and Andone after the interval, but Soriano had a strike ruled out as Thievy had taken the ball out of play in the build up, and with an hour gone Michel Macedo collected Wellington Silva’s through ball to lash in the equalizer. It was the full back’s first goal in La Liga, but like the buses, the second came straight away with a far post header from Wellington’s cross. Andone and Zuculini went close after that, and the locals had a couple of penalty appeals turned down, but Juan Ignacio Martínez’s side had their second win in a row, and they move four points clear of their hosts as a result. (08.02.15)

A sensational result on Saturday afternoon, Atlético Madrid thrashing city rivals and league leaders Real Madrid 4-0 to throw the league title race wide open! Simeone’s side went two up with only twenty minutes gone, Tiago drilling the first through the hands of Casillas after Mandzukic laid back Juanfran’s cross, and Saúl Ñíguez (who had replaced the injured Koke early on) getting the second with an acrobatic overhead kick from a Siqueira centre. A depleted Madrid side, missing the injured Pepe, Sergio Ramos, James and Modric, and with Marcelo suspended, were unable to make any inroads into the local defence, and although Ancelotti brought on Jesé at the break, they hardly troubled Moyà throughout the ninety minutes. Khedira was lucky to be let off a penalty appeal for hands shortly before half time, and Griezmann went close a couple of times before scoring the third midway through the second half, both he and Varane getting something on the ball after Saúl headed over Turan’s cross. Moyà did at least have to be on his toes to tip over Illarramendi’s volley later on, but with a minute to go Mandzukic headed the fourth from a Torres centre to rewrite the record books, the first league double over the old enemy in sixty years, a first home win in the league against them since the turn of the century, and six games in a row against Ancelotti’s side this season without a single defeat. The result takes the locals to within four points of their neighbours, and leaves the door open for Barcelona to close to within a point if they can beat Athletic tomorrow night.

Later in the evening sixth placed Villarreal closed up on Valencia with a 2-0 win over Granada. Marcelino held back key players for the midweek cup semi-final, but even so they dominated the early minutes, Insúa heading off the line from Moi Gómez and Oier turning an angled shot from Gerard Moreno round the post for a corner. Lass fired a long shot wide at the other end, but with half an hour gone Moreno picked up Bruno’s quick free kick and crossed in for Mainz to turn the ball into his own net (the referee awarding the goal to Musacchio, who may or may not have got a touch?). After the interval Oier had to be at his best to keep out Trigueros and Moreno, but Asenjo had to save from Fran Rico and Piti, and the result was in doubt until Moreno made it two after Bruno and Cheryshev set him up on a rapid breakaway right at the end. Another defeat for Abel Resino’s side however, and they ended the day down in next to bottom spot.

Seventh placed Málaga lost ground on the teams above them though after they were beaten 4-1 by bottom club Levante, the result taking the locals right out of the drop zone pending the rest of the weekend games. Juanmi actually gave the Andalusians the lead in the first half, a bad control by David Navarro from Samuel’s cross allowing the forward to nip in and turn an angled shot past Diego Mariño. Just two minutes later though the locals won a hotly disputed free kick when Barral fell theatrically on the edge of the area, and the striker picked up a Morales pass and fired a shot inside Kameni’s near post to level the scores. Soon afterwards Kameni made a brilliant reaction save to push Kalu Uche’s header onto the bar, but shortly before half time Barral put the locals in front from the penalty spot after he fell under a challenge from Boka. With an hour on the clock the ex Real Madrid B striker completed his hat-trick with a second penalty after Sergio Sánchez brought down Xumetra in the area, and Uche rounded off the scoring a few minutes later, poking Toño’s cross past Kameni to give his new side their first win in nine games.

Elsewhere Real Sociedad and Celta cancelled each other out in a 1-1 draw, a result which leaves both sides safely in mid-table. The locals took the lead early on, Agirretxe heading down past Sergio Alvarez after Xabi Prieto headed back a long Granero cross. The striker came close to a second when the keeper blocked a first time shot from a Chory Castro cross, but Santi Mina headed a corner just past the post at the other end, and a few minutes in to the second half the young forward brought a first real save out of Rulli. Agirretxe and Larrivey both went close with headers, and Berizzo threw on all his fire power, with five forwards on the park at once as he urged his team on looking for the equalizer. Nolito fired a shot just over the top and Mina tested Rulli again, but it looked as if Real were going to hold on until five minutes from the end, when Nolito picked up Bongonda’s pass and fired a shot on the turn past the keeper. (07.02.15)

Deportivo move six points clear of the drop zone pending the rest of the weekend games after the Galicians beat Eibar 2-0 on Friday evening. Víctor Fernández’s side had the better of the play in the first half, Borges heading over early on and Irureta having to tip a long shot from Juanfran over the bar. Fabricio had to keep out a Capa cross at the other end, but Lucas Pérez and Lopo went close either side of half time, and some eight minutes in to the second half Pérez opened the scoring after Irureta tried to punch clear Juanfran’s cross and only succeeded in gifting him the ball. Piovaccari and Borja tested Fabricio again with long shots, but with ten minutes to go Cavaleiro got ahead of Irureta to drag Ekiza’s back pass past the keeper and run the ball in to the net. It was the first time this season that Depor had won two in a row, and they climb to within three points of their opponents, who have now lost their last three matches. (06.02.15)