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Match round-up - First Division, Day 25

Celta and Elche cancelled each other out in a 1-1 draw on Monday night, a result which left the hosts in eighth spot and their opponents just two points above the drop zone. Neither keeper was particularly troubled in a dull first half, but soon after the restart Tyton had to keep out shots from Charles and Krohn-Dehli, and Orellana also had an effort blocked by a defender. Krohn-Dehli gave the Galicians the lead on the hour mark after Nolito and Jonny combined to set him up, and Tyton had to be at his best to turn an angled shot from Radoja around the post. However with the game coming to an end referee Velasco Carballo pointed to the penalty spot after Víctor Rodríguez fell under a challenge from the Danish international, and Lombán stepped up to slot home the resulting spot kick. (02.03.15)

Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid were both held to draws on Sunday by teams fighting for the European spots, leaving the title race a little bit more open. Real Madrid were last up, and they could only draw 1-1 with sixth placed Villarreal in the Bernabeu stadium, even though coach Marcelino left several of his star players out of the starting line-up. The visitors came close to scoring early on, Casillas blocking a shot by Gerard Moreno and Carvajal heading Moi Gómez’s follow up shot off the line with the keeper beaten. Varane headed a corner wide and a Bale cross was deflected onto the crossbar before the break though, and soon after the restart Ronaldo put Ancelotti’s side ahead from the penalty spot after Eric Bailly pulled him down in the area. Sergio Asenjo kept out Ronaldo soon afterwards, but with just over an hour gone Gerard Moreno combined with substitute Vietto to equalize with a low shot wide of Casillas. After that Asenjo made a two or three top class saves, in particular from Ronaldo, and Jesé missed a good chance later on after the visiting keeper failed to hold on to a long cross. Vietto could have scored at the other end a couple of times though, and Madrid end the day just two points above Barcelona, who they have to visit in three weeks time.

Earlier in the evening the game between fifth placed Sevilla and Atlético ended without goals, the result leaving Simeone’s side five points adrift of the two leaders. Both teams had played important European games midweek, and the coaches made changes to their line-ups accordingly. The locals had the better of the first half however, Bacca bringing a couple of early saves out of Moyà and Iborra turning a shot against the post, with Griezmann firing a free kick over the top in reply. Moyà had to keep out Iborra again after the interval, and Simeone eventually turned to Fernando Torres, Koke and Mandzukic. Torres in particular revitalized the side, he and Griezmann combining well to put Sergio Rico to the test, and Raúl García almost caught the young keeper off his line with a shot from the half-way line. Vitolo went close as well at the other end late on, but as the game wore on both coaches decided that a draw was a fair result.

Valencia are now just a point behind Atleti after they beat Real Sociedad 2-0 in this Sunday’s mid-day game, their fourth victory in a row. Diego Alves had to save from Agirretxe early on and Xabi Prieto had a shot blocked, but otherwise the Ches were on top for most of the first half, Rulli having to tip a Mustafi header over the bar and Feghouli and Otamendi failing to find the target. Some seven minutes in to the second half Piatti got on the end of Dani Parejo’s cross following a throw-in to poke a shot in off Ansotegi, and just three minutes later the Argentinian forward scored his second of the day after connecting with Feghouli’s cross. Negredo and Rodrigo went close after that, but the three points were in the bag, and the Ches have a chance to move up to third next Sunday night when they travel to the Calderón stadium.

Elsewhere Athletic Bilbao moved up into the top half of the table after they won 0-1 at regional rivals Eibar. Like Marcelino, Valverde rested players for next Wednesday’s cup semi-finals, but they dominated right from the start, Williams heading wide early on. Piovaccari and Manu del Moral did go close at the other end, but Jaime (making his first league appearance of the season) had to save from Guillermo, and with ten minutes to go to the break Gurpegui got on the end of a De Marcos cross following a short corner to head in what was to prove the only goal of the game. Jaime was in action again before half to time to save a back header from his own Dani García and keep out Muniain and later in the second half he produced another top class save from an Aduríz header. A sixth defeat in a row though for Garitano’s team, and they end the day three points behind their opponents in thirteenth spot. (01.03.15)

Barcelona put the pressure on Real Madrid with a 1-3 victory at Granada on Saturday afternoon. Luis Enrique’s side started the day four points behind the leaders, but Oier had to tip a shot from Xavi over the top before Rakitic opened the scoring on the half hour mark after a Luis Suárez cross was only partly cleared by Cala. Ibáñez fired a shot over the top though and Javi Márquez brought a good save out of Bravo before the break, but just three minutes in to the second half Suárez latched on to Rakitic’s return pass to steer a shot past the keeper. Fran Rico got one back from the penalty spot four minutes later after Marc Bartra brought down Lass in the area to put the locals back in the game. However Rakitic and Suárez combined again to set up Messi for the third (from a possibly offside position), and only a great block by Oier late on prevented Messi from making it four.

Granada stay in next to bottom spot, still three points behind Levante, who were beaten 4-2 by Rayo Vallecano later in the evening. Casadesús got on the end of Xumetra’s cross to put ther visitors ahead early on somewhat against the run of play, but ten minutes later Alberto Bueno equalized with a header from Nacho’s long cross, the first of an amazing four goals in fifteen minutes by the ex Real Madrid striker. Soon afterwards he made it two after Mariño spilled Tito’s cross, a minute after that he turned in another centre from Nacho, and with seven minutes to go to the break he completed the “poker” after the keeper saved his first effort. After the interval Barral fired an angled shot against the post, and Kalu Uche got a second for the visitors on a quick counter-attack near the end, but by then the game was over.

Almería and Deportivo are only just above the relegation spots though after they drew 0-0, the Galicians three points above the drop zone, and their hosts a point behind them with the added fact that they are facing an additional three point deduction from FIFA for transfer irregularities, currently under appeal. Hemed tested Fabricio early on and Thievy fired a shot just wide close to half time, but otherwise most of the chances before the break fell to the visitors, Julián having to save from Oriol Riera, José Rodríguez and Isaac Cuenca, and Dubarbier lucky to be let off a penalty appeal for hands. Fabricio kept out Verza and Dos Santos after the interval, but soon afterwards Thievy was sent off for a second bookable offence. The Galicians failed to take advantage however, even though the hosts were left with nine men after Michel Macedo was also shown a red card near the end.

Getafe are managerless once again after Quique Sánchez Flores resigned midweek, and they are now only a point above Deportivo after they lost 3-2 to seventh placed Málaga in the last game of the evening. The Andalusians were full of confidence after their win at Barcelona last weekend, and Juanmi headed them into the lead from a Rosales cross in the tenth minute. Visiting keeper Jonathan did well to tip a Samu Castillejo shot over the bar before the break, but Alvaro Vázquez tested Kameni at the other end, and ten minutes in to the second half the striker levelled the scores from Pedro León’s cross. Two minutes later though Sergi Darder restored the lead with an impressive shot from outside of the area, and Horta made it three with an acrobatic shot from Samu’s centre before Vázquez netted his second of the night after Velázquez headed on a corner with a quarter of an hour to go. (28.02.15)

Espanyol started off the week 25 round of games with a 1-0 victory over Córdoba on Friday evening, a result which takes them up to eighth pending the rest of the weekend games. The Catalans had the better of the first half, Arbilla shooting wide and Abraham going close a couple of times. Casilla had to keep out a Fede Cartabia free kick at the other end, but with the first half coming to an end Abraham opened the scoring with a low shot after Caicedo headed back Héctor Moreno’s cross. The introduction of Bebé at the break changed things though, the ex Manchester United and Benfica forward bringing a couple of good saves out of the local keeper and firing three or four shots just wide of the mark. Crespo headed a corner against the bar and Casilla also had to stop a close range Krhin header from another Cartabia free kick, but Espanyol weathered the storm, and Víctor Alvarez and Lucas Vázquez could have added to the lead near the end. A confidence boosting win for Sergio González’s side prior to their midweek cup semi-final (and two days more rest than Athletic), but Córdoba remain firmly anchored to the bottom of the table after a sixth defeat in a row. (27.02.15)