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Match round-up - First Division, Day 28

Barcelona move four points clear at the top of the table after a 2-1 victory over second placed Real Madrid in the latest “clásico” between the two Spanish giants on Sunday evening. It was a close fought match, Ronaldo firing a shot against the crossbar before Mathieu headed the opener from Messi’s wide free kick in the twentieth minute. Ten minutes later Neymar missed an easy chance and play went straight up the other end, Benzema back-heeling Modric’s pass across for Ronaldo to slide home the equalizer. That boosted Madrid’s confidence, and before half time Bale had a strike ruled out for a dubious offside (by Ronaldo?), Bravo had to tip a shot from Ronaldo over the bar and Bale fired another chance wide. After the interval Bravo had to save again from Benzema, but soon afterwards Luis Suárez restored the lead for the Catalans, the ex Liverpool striker controlling a long ball from Dani Alves before turning a shot past Casillas. There were chances at both ends after that, Neymar and Messi shooting wide and Casillas saving from Jordi Alba, and Bravo having to react quickly to keep out a deflected shot from Benzema. But Luis Enrique’s side had the three points, and although the head-to-head record is still in favour of Madrid, that will only apply if the two teams are level at the end of the season. With ten matches to go anything could still happen, but right now that looks unlikely.

Earlier in the evening Sevilla kept up their push for a Champions League spot, a 0-2 victory at Villarreal keeping them four points behind Atlético. The Andalusians had already beaten their hosts twice in the last eleven days to knock them out of the Europa League, and Sergio Asenjo had to be at his best to keep out Carriço, Bacca and Diogo Figueiras before the break. Nico Pareja had to clear off the line from Joel Campbell with the keeper beaten, and Moi Gómez crashed a shot against the upright in reply, but just four minutes in to the second half Coke put the visitors ahead after running on to Diogo’s back-heel pass to fire an angled shot in off the far post. A quarter of an hour later Vitolo made it two, steering a shot past his new international colleague Asenjo after Rukavina could only head back Coke’s cross, and the game was out of Villarreal’s reach. Gerard Moreno did turn a deflected shot against the post later on, but Marcelino’s side lost out to their opponents once again, and they end the weekend six points behind them in the table.

Real Sociedad are up to ninth after a 3-1 victory against bottom club Córdoba, who themselves are now seven points away from safety after a ninth defeat in a row. Caretaker coach José Antonio Romero was in charge of the visitors after Djukic was sacked earlier in the week, and although Pantic was sent off in only the sixth minute for bringing down Agirretxe, he saw Andone Florin head his side into the lead from Bebé’s corner soon afterwards. Local keeper Rulli had to make a couple of important saves soon afterwards to prevent his team from falling further behind, but with just over half an hour gone Agirretxe got his head to a Canales cross to make it all square. Bebé rattled the crossbar minutes later, but Agirretxe and Pardo went close, and Zaldúa fired a shot against the upright before the half time whistle. After the interval Luso headed wide and Rulli had to save from Bebé, but with a quarter of an hour to go Chory Castro controlled a Canales cross on his chest before beating Juan Carlos with a shot on the turn. Five minutes later the Andalusians were left with nine men after Iñigo López picked up a second booking, and with the game in injury time Finnbogason wrapped things up with a third goal following a cross by Carlos Vela, who was returning after a two month injury lay-off. To make matters worse Pinillos was also given his marching orders for insulting the officials, and Córdoba already have one foot back in the second division.

Deportivo are only a point above the bottom three though after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Espanyol in this Sunday’s mid-day game, the Galicians having now gone six matches without a win. Both teams had chances in a lively first half, Oriol Riera and Fariña going close and Casilla having to save from Cavaleiro, and at the other end Fabricio turning a shot from Cañas around the post and Caicedo having a strike ruled out as Víctor Sánchez was offside in the build up. After the break Riera and Lucas Pérez failed to find the target and Cavaleiro came up against Casilla again, but with ten minutes to go Javi López hit the bar after Moreno headed on a Lucas Vázquez corner, and Arbilla tested Fabricio again with a well struck free kick before the final whistle. (22.03.15)

Atlético Madrid stay just a point behind third placed Valencia after they beat neighbours Getafe 2-0 on Saturday afternoon, the win bringing to an end a run of three draws in a row in the league. Simeone made six changes to his line-up after the epic Champions League victory on Tuesday night, with Fernando Torres and Raúl Jiménez starting up front, and Oblak replacing the injured Moyà in goal. With only three minutes on the clock Torres opened the scoring with a header from Koke’s long free kick, the first Liga goal the striker had scored since he left Spain in 2007. And soon afterwards Koke almost made it two, his shot coming off the post and hitting Guaita, who just managed to scramble the ball away from the goal line. Jiménez turned a shot wide a few minutes later, and Koke shot straight at the keeper when free in front of goal, and with the first half coming to a close Tiago headed in the second from the far post after Jiménez headed on another Koke free kick. Up to that point the visitors had only troubled the local defence with a shot from Hinestroza which José María Giménez blocked, and after the interval Oblak only had to push a long shot from Escudero round the post. Torres headed over at the other end and Tiago shot wide, but after such an intense week Atleti slowed things down from then on.

Málaga stay seventh, although they lose more ground on the top six after a 1-0 defeat at Rayo Vallecano later in the evening. Both teams had chances early on, Raúl Baena going close a couple of times and Samu Castillejo replying with a shot which Cristian Alvarez blocked. Midway through the first half though Kakuta headed what was to prove the only goal from Alberto Bueno’s cross, and just a minute after the restart Bueno came close to a second with a long shot which Kameni tipped over the bar. Manucho came on for the injured Leo Baptistao before the break and caused a few problems for the visitors, and Juanmi tried his luck a couple of times for Javi Gracía’s side. But with a quarter of an hour to go Angeleri got himself sent off for a second bookable offence, and Rayo held fast for a fourth straight home win which takes them into the top half of the table pending Sunday’s games.

Eighth placed Athletic Bilbao are now five points behind Málaga after they beat Almería 2-1, a fifth win in a row for Ernesto Valverde’s side. Michel Macedo hooked a shot over the crossbar following an early corner, but soon afterwards Etxeita got above the defence to head Beñat’s corner past Julián. Ibai Gómez rattled the crossbar a few minutes later after a corner came back out to him, and midway through the first half Mikel Rico made it two, lobbing the ball back over Julián after the keeper punched out a Williams cross. Hemed brought a good save out of Iraizoz after that, but before the break Rico and Ibai tested the visiting keeper again, and Muniain curled a shot just wide. However two minutes in to the second half Balenziaga deflected a shot from Wellington Silva into his own net, and it was not until Fran Vélez was sent off near the end after picking up a second yellow card that Almería’s challenge ended.

Meanwhile Celta are back up to ninth after a late 0-1 win at Levante. Heavy rain before kick-off had left the pitch in difficult conditions, but Santi Mina almost battled through from his own half to score early on, Diego Mariño turning his shot round the post for a corner which Fontàs headed just wide. Kalu Uche headed over the top and Rubén García fired a shot wide at the other end, but just before the break Orellana curled a shot against the upright. Sergio Alvarez had to save from Uche soon after the interval, Orellana turned a good chance wide and Nolito almost caught out Mariño with an inswinging corner. But the match appeared to be heading for a draw until three minutes from the end, when Pablo Hernández and Nolito combined to set up Charles for the winner.

The defeat leaves the Valencia based side further down in the drop zone, now just two points above next to bottom club Granada, who were held at home to a 0-0 draw by Eibar. The Andalusians had the better of the first half, but their only efforts at goal were a shot by Colunga which Jaime kept out, and another shot wide from Piti. Soon after the break Oier gave the ball away, but then recovered well to turn Manu del Moral’s shot round the post after it deflected off Murillo, and Bóveda brought a great save out of the keeper with a header from Javi Lara’s free kick. Javi Márquez and Roberto Ibáñez went close a couple of times after that, but it was another disappointing performance from Abel Resino’s team, and they remain five points below the Basque side, who picked up their first point in nine games. (21.03.15)

This weekend the top two play each other in the latest “clásico” on Sunday night, and third placed Valencia took advantage to close the gap on them both thanks to a 0-4 victory over neighbours Elche on Friday evening. Nuno’s side were on top right from the start, Alcácer seeing his shot cleared off the line by Lombán with the keeper beaten, and then turning in Mustafi’s shot only to be ruled out for a borderline offside. With the first half coming to a close André Gomes opened the scoring after Tyton could only push out an angled shot from Feghouli, and some twelve minutes into the second half Alcácer got on the end of a Gomes cross to poke home the second. Elche’s only real chances came from a couple of long efforts by Jonathas, and the visitors went three up when Enzo Roco turned Barragán’s cross into his own net under no pressure from anyone. Tyton did well to keep out Piatti a few minutes later, but with the game in injury time Otamendi got above the defence to head in the fourth from Piatti’s corner. (20.03.15)