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Match round-up - First Division, Day 29

Elche are now three points clear of the drop zone after a 1-1 draw at Espanyol in the Monday night game. Sergio García opened the scoring for the Catalans in the seventeenth minute with a shot in off the crossbar, his team’s first goal in over seven hours of football. However they were unable to build on their lead, and Edu Albácar, Adrián and Coro all went close for the visitors before the break. Lucas Vázquez brought a good save out of Tyton after the restart, and Casilla did well to close down Jonathas as he advanced on goal a few minutes later. With ten minutes to go however Cristian Herrera headed the equalizer after the local keeper could only push out a long shot by Jonathas, the referee waving away appeals for offside, and Tyton kept out Sergio García as the locals pushed forward in the dying minutes. (06.04.15)

Barcelona stay four points clear at the top of the table after a narrow 0-1 victory at Celta in the last game of Sunday evening. Half a season ago the Galicians won by the same scoreline in the Nou Camp, and they had the better of the first half, Bravo having to save from Larrivey, who then fired a good chance into the stands. The striker also had a goal ruled out in between as Orellana was offside in the build up, and only a long shot from Messi caused any problems for Sergio Alvarez in the local goal. After the restart though Neymar got the ball in the net only for the referee to disallow the strike for offside, this time incorrectly, and Messi, Alves and Xavi all fired shots wide. Nolito went close at the other end and Piqué put in a timely tackle on Charles as he lined up to shoot, but a couple of minutes later Mathieu flung himself forward on the far post to head a wide Xavi free kick in off the crossbar, his second goal in as many games. With four minutes to go Celta were left with ten men when Orellana was caught throwing a lump of turf at Busquets, and Messi could have scored a second had he not lobbed his shot over the bar when free in front of the keeper.

Real Madrid put the pressure on Luis Enrique’s side though with a massive 9-1 win over Granada in the mid-day game, Cristiano Ronaldo scoring no less than five of those to overtake Messi in the goalscorers chart. Bale started things off midway through the first half after holding off his marker to round Oier and score, and Ronaldo scored three in an eight minute period soon afterwards, the first after latching to a reverse pass from James, the second after Oier could only push out a cross from Marcelo, and the third with a bender which went through the hands of the keeper. El-Arabi hit the crossbar just before the break, the ball bouncing onto the goal-line and away, but seven minutes in to the second half Benzema controlled a James corner before poking home the fifth. Two minutes later Ronaldo headed the sixth after Bale laid over a long Marcelo centre, and two minutes after that Benzema got the seventh with a shot which deflected in off Babín. With a quarter of an hour to go Robert Ibáñez gave the visiting fans something to cheer about with a shot wide of Casillas, but Mainz put through his own net and Ronaldo headed in the ninth for Madrid’s highest score in 47 years.

Valencia had to settle for fourth spot this weekend, a 0-0 draw against neighbours Villarreal not enough to take them back above Atlético Madrid. Chances were few and far between in the first half as both teams got off to cautious start, Diego Alves fumbling Jonathan’s early free kick and Mustafi and Paco Alcácer failing to find the target. After the restart Giovani got free on goal only to be pulled up for handling the ball, and Sergio Asenjo had to make a double save from Rodrigo and Alcácer. Negredo tested the keeper again with an overhead kick and then was closed down by Musacchio in another attack, and Dani Parejo fired a late free kick over the bar. A good point for the visitors in the end however, only the third team to take anything away from Mestalla this season, and they remain in sixth spot in the rankings.

Further down the table Deportivo remain just a point above the relegation spots after a 2-1 defeat at Getafe, the Galicians having only picked up two points now from their last seven matches. The locals started the day just three points above their opponents, but they went in front in the eighteenth minute following a corner, Alexis turning the rebound into the net after Fabricio spilled a looping header from Juan Rodríguez. Luisinho volleyed a shot wide and Borges headed a free kick straight at Guaita, but soon afterwards some sloppy defending allowed the locals to win the ball near to goal, and Sarabia crossed in for Escudero to score the second. After the interval Lucas Pérez and Oriol Riera both failed to convert chances, and although Toché got on the end of Cuenca’s cross to get one back with twelve minutes to go, the locals closed up shop to ensure three vital points against a direct rival in the struggle to avoid the drop. (05.04.15)

Atlético Madrid are back up to third pending Valencia’s game on Sunday after beating bottom club Córdoba 0-2 on Saturday evening. Both goals came before the break, Griezmann opening the scoring in the fifth minute after winning the ball off Zuculini and running on to beat Juan Carlos. The local keeper had to save a Godín header soon afterwards, and Koke turned another shot wide before Sául Ñíguez headed the second after Giménez headed on Jesús Gámez’s long throw-in. Caretaker coach José Antonio Romero brought on Ghilas and Fede Cartabia at the break though, and that improved things, Ghilas having a shot blocked and Bebé bringing a first save out of Oblak, and then rattling the crossbar with a long free kick. Juan Carlos kept out another Godín header, but Oblak had to make the save of the day near the end from Crespo’s looping header to maintain the clean sheet. A tenth defeat in a row for the locals though, and they are now eight points away from safety.

Earlier in the afternoon fifth placed Sevilla had temporarily moved to within a point of Simeone’s side after a 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao, albeit that Atleti’s win restored the four point margin. The Andalusians went in front in only the third minute, Aleix Vidal heading on a long Trémoulinas clearance and rounding Iraizoz to score. The visiting keeper had to save from Vitolo soon afterwards and Krychowiak headed over the bar, and with just over twenty minutes gone a quick passing move ended with Vitolo slipping the ball through for Bacca to make it two. After the restart the locals took it easier, and Sergio Rico had to be on his toes to keep out San José, Williams and Beñat, but a comfortable win in the end for Emery’s side, who are now unbeaten in eight games.

Seventh placed Málaga move six points clear of Athletic, although they will be feeling that they could have opened up a bigger gap after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Real Sociedad. Juanmi had a headed goal ruled out for a marginal offside and Samuel brought a good save out of Rulli in the opening minutes, but later in the first half Kameni had to save from Canales and Chory Castro, and Granero scuffed a shot wide when a rebound fell to him in front of goal. Soon after the restart though Recio headed the opener from a long Samu Castillejo free kick, and a few minutes later Rulli had to tip a dipping shot from Boka over the bar. However with seven minutes to go Rubén Pardo equalized with a low shot after Finnbogason laid the ball across, and there was little time for the locals to react.

Elsewhere Levante climbed out of the relegation zone to the detriment of Almería after beating the Andalusians 1-4. Barral started things off, turning in Ivanschitz’s cross with just over a quarter of an hour gone, and although Mariño had to save from Hemed and Thievy, Víctor Casadesús headed the second from a Morales centre a few minutes later. Some eight minutes in to the second half Ivanschitz controlled a Casadesús centre and ran on towards goal, and although Julián blocked his shot, the ball fell kindly for Barral to turn it into an empty net. The locals were left with ten men when Dubarbier picked up a second booking, but even so they got one back from the penalty spot after Thievy fell in the area under a challenge from Vyntra. Barral completed second hat-trick of the season soon afterwards though after Casadesús set him up, rounding off a result which cost the job of local coach Juan Ignacio Martínez, who was sacked a few hours after the match ended. (04.04.15)

Rayo Vallecano are up to ninth in the table after coming from behind to beat Eibar 1-2 on Friday evening. Arruabarrena gave the Basque side the lead from the penalty spot after Cristian Alvarez brought down Piovaccari in the area with ten minutes to go to half time. However the visitors turned the scoreline around before the break, Alberto Bueno running in from the left to head Tito’s cross past Jaime, and Manucho steering another header past the keeper from Embarba’s corner just two minutes later. Only a reaction save from Jaime prevented Manucho from heading a third with ten minutes to go, but the locals came close to equalizing after that, Tito clearing a Raúl Navas header off the line and Alvarez saving an acrobatic shot from Manu del Moral. Navas was sent off after picking up two bookings in the last minute though, and the defeat means that Eibar have now only picked up one point from their last ten games, ending the day just three points above the drop zone pending the rest of the weekend games. (03.04.15)