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Match round-up - First Division, Day 24

Levante moved to within a point of safety after coming from behind to beat fellow strugglers Granada 2-1 in the Monday night game. The visitors started well, El-Arabi bringing a good save out of Diego Mariño before opening the scoring from the penalty spot after Camarasa blocked his header with his arm. There were few chances after that though, Oier keeping out Camarasa and Mariño saving from Javi Márquez before the break, and the visiting keeper cutting out a dangerous cross from Toño soon after the restart. Referee Alvarez Izquierdo produced three red cards in a seven minute period later on in the second half, Colunga the first to go for a tackle from behind on Barral, and El-Arabi and Iván Ramis getting their marching orders after pushing each other as nerves frayed. Before that El-Arabi had seen his shot pushed round the post by Mariño, but with two minutes of normal time remaining Camarasa levelled it with a low shot from outside of the area after Oier punched away a long throw-in. And in the fourth and final minute of time added on Barral steered in the winner after Kalu Uche played through Toño’s cross, taking the hosts three points clear of their opponents in the table. (23.02.15)

Real Madrid increased their lead at the top of the table after a 0-2 victory at Elche in the last match of Sunday evening, Barcelona’s defeat the day before meaning that Ancelotti’s side restore the four point gap over their arch rivals. Although he netted in the midweek Champions League victory, Cristiano Ronaldo had not scored in the league in four weeks, and tried his luck several times in the first half, curling an early shot against the outside of the post, then bringing a good save out of Tyton. Benzema got the ball in the net with an overhead kick only for the strike to be ruled out for a borderline offside, and Ronaldo missed a couple more chances before the half time whistle. Casillas wasn’t really tested until he had to push an Aarón shot around the post soon after the restart, but Isco saw an effort go wide a few minutes later, and a minute after that Benzema opened the scoring with a little bit of fortune, Lombán’s attempted clearance hitting Tyon in the stomach and rebounded straight to the striker in front of goal. With twenty minutes to go Ronaldo finally got his name on the scoresheet, connecting with Isco’s cross to steer a header past the keeper, and he almost added another with a free kick which went just wide of the upright later on.

Sevilla’s push for the Champions League spots took a set-back when they were beaten 4-3 by Real Sociedad in Sunday’s mid-day game. Agirretxe got on the end of Zaldúa’s cross to start things off with a quarter of an hour gone, and Canales shot straight at the keeper when through on goal a few minutes later. Kolodziejczak headed the equalizer for the visitors before the break from Deulofeu’s corner, but Xabi Prieto restored the lead from the penalty spot after Trémoulinas brought down Canales soon after the restart. However the Andalusians came back, Arribas heading over and Carriço hitting the post before Bacca headed in Banega’s free kick, and with twelve minutes to go Gameiro put them in front with a second penalty after Iñigo Martínez handled in the area. Rico had to save a Hervías free kick though and soon afterwards Arribas turned the ball into his own net following a corner, and with injury time approaching Prieto headed in Rubén Pardo’s corner to give David Moyes’ side an important three points.

Sixth placed Villarreal are now just a point behind Sevilla after they beat Eibar 1-0 later in the evening. Marcelino rested several key players for the Europa League fixtures, but even so they were on top for most of the first half, Irureata having to save from Gerard Moreno, and Moi Gómez and Moreno firing two or three shots wide. There were a couple of timid efforts by Manu del Moral and Dani García for the visitors before the interval, but Añibarro almost turned a Giovani shot into his own net after the restart, and the ex Barcelona and Tottenham forward put Irureta to the test again soon afterwards. Midway through the second half Marcelino turned to Vietto and Cheryshev though, and within two minutes Vietto broke the ice after Giovani played on Moi Gómez’s centre, Irureta letting his shot into the net under his body. The keeper partly made up for his mistake with a fine save from Gómez a few minutes later, but his team couldn’t prevent a fifth defeat in a row.

Curiously the three Basque sides are now all level on points in mid-table after Athletic Bilbao won 1-0 against Rayo Vallecano. Valverde’s side dominated for much of the match, Toño saving an Aduríz header and Unai López shooting wide in the opening minutes. Kakuta responded with a shot wide and a long free kick which Iraizoz had to keep out, but Toño had to make further saves from Laporte and Mikel Rico, and Rico got the ball in the net only for the strike to be disallowed for a questionable offside decision. Williams came on to test Cristian Alvarez, who had replaced the injured Toño at the break, and he and Rico went close later on in the second half. However it was not until four minutes from the end that Athletic finally got the winner, Aduríz turning a shot past the keeper after Balenziaga headed the ball back to him. (22.02.15)

Barcelona’s run of eleven wins in a row came to an abrupt halt on Saturday afternoon when they lost 0-1 at home to Málaga, and they missed out on a golden opportunity to move ahead of Real Madrid pending their game on Sunday. Juanmi got the only goal for the Andalusians in the seventh minute, intercepting a poor back pass by Dani Alves before running on to beat Bravo. But despite feilding virtually a full strength line-up Luis Enrique’s side hardly managed a shot on target after that, their best effort before the break a shot by Rafinha which Weligton cleared off the line. Horta went close with a couple of efforts soon afterwards, the first a shot which Bravo pushed round the post, and the second an overhead kick which the keeper saved comfortably, and Iniesta and Neymar wasted a couple of headers shortly before half time. After the restart Kameni had to save from Rakitic, Luis Suárez got free only to be pulled up for a questionable offside, and substitute Pedro hit the side netting, but it was an unexpected defeat for the Catalans, and they ended the day still a point behind the leaders in the table.

Third placed Atlético Madrid closed the gap behind Barcelona to three points after they beat Almería 3-0 later in the evening. Simeone’s side had things wrapped things up in the first half hour, Mandukic starting things off from the penalty spot after Mauro pushed over Godín inside the area. Soon afterwards Mandzukic intercepted a Fran Vélez pass to send Griezmann away for the second, and ten minutes later Griezmann got his second of the evening, getting in front of Julián to chest down Mandzukic’s headed pass and beat the keeper with a shot on the turn. After that the home side limited themselves to conserving energy for their midweek Champions League tie, and Almería did go close a couple of times at the start of the second half through Thievy and Corona. Julián still had to make saves from Saúl Ñíguez and Godín later on, but with the game in injury time Atleti were left a man short when Siqueira picked up a dubious second booking for what referee Mateu Lahoz considered to be a hand ball. .

Valencia consolidated fourth spot after they won 1-2 at Córdoba, and they end the day just three points behind Atlético in the table. The locals needed a result after four defeats in a row, and Bebé and Abel Gómez put Diego Alves to the test early on. Rodrigo (playing as sole striker) fired a shot just wide though, and a minute later André Gomes put the Ches ahead with a first time shot past Saizar after De Paul crossed over from the left wing. Both keepers were in action after the interval, Alves saving an Andone header and Saizar stopping Rodrigo, and with a quarter of an hour to go Ghilas levelled the scores from the penalty spot after the referee ruled that Otamendi had tripped Héldon Ramos in the area. Feghouli and Dani Parejo both had shots blocked though as the visitors pushed forward again, and with ten minutes left on the clock Negredo headed Feghouli’s cross back to Piatti, whose mis-hit volley bounced up over the head of the keeper and in to the net off the far post.

Celta ensured bragging rights over neighbours Deportivo in the last match of the evening, a 0-2 victory in the Riazor stadium taking them back up to eighth spot. Honours were shared in the first half, Fabricio having to keep out a long overhead kick from Augusto Fernández and a shot from Orellana, and Cavaleiro shooting wide and Sergio Alvarez turning a long effort by Oriol Riera round the post at the other end. Just a minute into the second half though the visitors scored on a quick breakaway, Orellana picking up Nolito’s pass and lifting a shot across goal which Charles headed in from close up. Depor should have levelled it a few minutes later in an extended attack, Lucas Pérez and Hélder Costa coming up against Alvarez, and Oriol Riera firing the rebound against the bar with the goal at his mercy. But soon afterwards Lopo got himself sent off for a second bookable offence, and with eight minutes to go a hesitant Luisinho allowed Larrivey to nip in between and the keeper to run the ball into the net, and it was game over. (21.02.15)

As usual there was one match on Friday night to start off the weekend proceedings, Getafe beating Espanyol 2-1 to move clear of the danger zone. The locals had the better of the opening minutes, Casilla having to save from Sarabia and Pedro León shooting wide, and Paco Montañés clearing a rebound off the line following a corner. With just over half an hour gone Sarabia got on the end of an Alexis cross to turn the ball past the keeper, and early on in the second half it was Sarabia again who set up Alvaro vázquez for the second following a good run from right of the area. Jonathan had to be at his best though to keep out a couple of shots from Lucas Vázquez and another from Caicedo, and with a minute to go Arbilla got a late consolation for the Catalans with an impressive shot from outside of the area. (20.02.15)