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Match round-up - First Division, Day 23

Elche move four points clear of the drop zone after a 0-1 victory at a rainy Eibar in the Monday night game. Irureta had to save a long Edu Albácar free kick early on, but otherwise the Basque side had the better chances in the first half, Tyton saving long shots from Lillo and Raúl Navas, and then getting a hand to a Piovaccari header to stop it crossing the line, albeit that the play was eventually ruled offside by referee Prieto Iglesias. Some five minutes in to the second half however Jonathas got the only goal of the night with a header which went through the hands of Irureta following another Albácar free kick, Prieto waving away appeals for offside, and the referee also turned a blind eye to a possible hand ball by Albácar in the area a few minutes later. After that though Tyton made a string of first class saves to keep out Javi Lara, Capa and others, and with twelve minutes to go any chance of a comeback ended when Piovaccari was sent off for catching Albácar with a flying elbow. (16.02.15)

Barcelona stay a point behind leaders Real Madrid after a 5-0 victory over Levante on Sunday evening, an eleventh win in a row for Luis Enrique’s side. With just over a quarter of an hour gone Messi crossed in for Neymar to score the first, his attempted shot looping up in the air and dropping over the head of the surprised Diego Mariño. Barral had an effort deflected for a corner at the other end, but soon afterwards Marc Bartra won the ball in midfield and slipped a pass through for Messi to score the second. Messi missed a couple of chances before the break, but a quarter of an hour into the second half he got his second of the evening after Pedro laid across Busquet’s lofted pass, and five minutes later he completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Iván López pushed over Neymar in the area. Luis Suárez had started the game on the bench, but he came on to score the goal of the match, an acrobatic scissors kick from Adriano’s cross, and Messi could have added another had Mariño not tipped his shot over the bar near the end.

Third placed Atlético Madrid drop six points behind the Catalans though after they were beaten 2-0 by Celta in the last match of the evening. Diego Simeone lined up with a front three of Manzukic, Torres and Griezmann, but his side were dominated by their opponents, and Sergio Alvarez was only tested by a long shot from Griezmann midway through the first half. Krohn- Dehli and Nolito in particular had gone close at the other end though, and at half time Simeone replaced Torres with Cani (having already lost Tiago to an injury earlier on). That didn’t change things much though, and with an hour gone Nolito opened the scoring from the penalty spot after he was brought down in the area by Mario Suárez, the referee waving away Atleti’s protests that Augusto Fernández had clearly handled the ball in the build up. Alvarez did well to keep out Saúl and Griezmann soon afterwards, but Larrivey missed a sitter from a yard out, and with twenty minutes to go Orellana made it two after Krohn-Dehli put him through.

Valencia are back up to fourth, now just three points behind Atlético, after a 1-0 victory against Getafe in the mid-day kick-off. Nuno’s side were on top from start to finish, albeit they hardly carved out any chances in the first half, the best a rejected penalty appeal by Barragán and a header from Negredo wide of the post from a De Paul corner shortly before the break. Jonathan did well to tip another Negredo header onto the post soon after the restart though, and Enzo Pérez failed to hit the target a couple of times before Negredo finally broke the ice from the penalty spot after Juan Rodríguez brought him down in the area with twenty minutes to go. Substitute Rodrigo also wasted a couple of good chances late on, but Quique Sánchez Flores’ team almost stole away a point when Sarabia fired a shot over the bar from a couple of yards out with the game already in time added on.

Sixth placed Villarreal fall further behind the Ches however after they lost 2-0 at Rayo Vallecano. Coming in between a cup semi-final and a Europe League tie, Marcelino left several of his key players on the bench for this match, but even so Víctor Ruíz and Giovani both had good chances to put them in front before the break. Leo Baptistao and Licá both steered headers wide at the other end though, and some six minutes in to the second half Alberto Bueno gave the locals the lead, battling through to poke a shot past Asenjo after controlling a Jozabed corner. Marcelino was forced to bring on Cheryshev and Vietto, and the two combined almost immediately for the striker to hook a shot just over the top. Soon afterwards though Manucho headed on Zé Castro’s long clearance for Licá to set up Kakuta for the second, and although Vietto hit the post with a quarter of an hour to go, Paco Jémez’s team held on for a vital win which takes them seven points clear of the drop zone. (15.02.15)

Real Madrid bounced back from their defeat at Atlético last week, a 2-0 victory over Deportivo on Saturday evening keeping them top of the table for another week. There was an early scare though when Isaac Cuenca brought a save out of Casillas and then fired another shot over the top, but a few minutes later Ronaldo and then Bale rattled the crossbar (Fabricio getting an important touch on Bale’s shot), and the visiting keeper did well to deflect another effort from Benzema round the post for a corner. Midway through the first half Benzema turned a Bale centre across goal, and although Ronaldo somehow failed to connect, Arbeloa played the ball back for Isco to curl a shot into the net. Apart from a possible penalty on Ronaldo though Madrid hardly caused any problems for the rest of the first half, and soon after the restart Borges fired a shot against the foot of the post. Casillas also had to be at his best to keep out an Oriol Riera header, but a few minutes later Benzema made sure of the three points, lifting the ball past Fabricio after Ronaldo touched on Arbeloa’s centre. Three points for Ancelotti’s side, but they still look a bit shaky going into next Wednesday’s Champions League game at Schalke.

Sevilla are back up to fourth after they beat regional neighbours Córdoba 3-0 earlier in the afternoon. Juan Carlos had to save from Reyes and Iborra before Krychowiak finally beat him with a header from a Reyes corner shortly before half time. The visitors had only troubled Sergio Rico with a long shot from Ghilas, and with the first half coming to a close Vitolo controlled a long ball out of defence and turned the ball across for Bacca to make it two. Bacca shot wide immediately after the restart and Carriço headed a free kick against the bar, and some eight minutes in to the second half Córdoba were left with ten men when half time substitute Ekeng was sent off for kicking out at Vitolo as both lay on the floor. Numbers were evened up soon afterwards when Krychowiak was also shown a red card for a lunging tackle on Krhin, but with a quarter of an hour to go Iborra put the result beyond doubt with a header from Banega’s cross following a short corner. Fede Cartabia did test Rico again near the end, but after four defeats in a row Djukic’s side found themselves at the bottom of the table at the end of the day.

Seventh placed Málaga lost more ground on the teams above them however after they were beaten 0-2 by Espanyol. The first chance fell to the locals, Kiko Casilla saving well from Amrabat, but they were unable to make many inroads after that, and with four minutes to go to the break Alvaro headed the opener for the visitors from a long Salva Sevilla free kick. Casilla saved again from Juanmi and Weligton had a headed goal ruled out for offside after the restart, but Abraham volleyed wide and Sergio García almost took advantage of a poor back pass by Sergi Darder. Gracía eventually brought on Javi Guerra, and after coming up against Casilla he fired in a shot which Colotto finger-tipped onto the crossbar. That cost the defender a red card, but Casilla saved the resulting penalty from Amrabat, and he and Duarte kept out Duda and Samu Castillejo before Sergio García ran on to score his side’s second on an injury time breakaway.

Meanwhile Granada climbed off the bottom of the table after picking up a point in a 0-0 draw against Athletic Bilbao. The Basque side themselves started the day just five points above their hosts in the table, but they came close to scoring when Beñat’s long free kick came off Mikel Rico to hit the far post. Aduríz and De Marcos both went close later in the first half, but Iraizoz had to be at his best to keep out Babín’s header before the break, and then save from Piti and Candeias early on in the second half. The locals were left with ten men when Insúa was sent off for kicking Susaeta in the groin, but even so Piti volleyed a shot against the upright soon afterwards. Muniain hit the outside of the post with a long shot in reply, and Fran Rico and Piti tried their luck later on, but in the end a draw was probably the fairest result. (14.02.15)

Almería and Real Sociedad drew 2-2 on Friday night to edge further away from the relegation zone, David Moyes’ side now four points clear of the bottom three pending the rest of the weekend games, and their hosts still a point below them in the table. Verza put the locals ahead from the penalty spot after Rulli pulled down Thievy in the area in the fifth minute, but Agirretxe headed the equalizer from a long Granero free kick with just under half an hour gone. Hemed restored the lead however following a good run by Thievy shortly before the break, and just three minutes after the restart Canales made it all square again after Chory Castro put him through. Both keepers were in action after that, Julián saving a long shot from Xabi Prieto and Rulli keeping out Hemed, but in the end both coaches settled for a point. (13.02.15)