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Match round-up - First Division, Day 31

Fourth placed Valencia are back to within a point of Atlético Madrid after a 3-0 victory over city rivals Levante in the Monday night game. Paco Alcácer had an early strike ruled out for a non-existent offside, but soon afterwards he got on the end of a Dani Parejo cross to head the opener past Diego Mariño. Rodrigo and Barral traded shots at each end, but with ten minutes to go to the break Feghouli headed the second from a centre by Lucas Orbán, who this time was in an offside position when he picked up the ball. The visitors came out strongly after the interval though, half time substitute Iván López hitting the bar with a long shot, and José Mari and Morales forcing Diego Alves into a couple of good saves. However with the game in injury time Negredo wrapped things up, the Ex Manchester City striker controlling a long ball into the area before hooking a shot past Mariño. The defeat leaves Levante down in the relegation spots, albeit level on points with Deportivo and Almería. (13.04.15)

Sixth placed Villarreal have been faltering recently, and they dropped points again after a 1-1 draw at Getafe in the Sunday mid-day game. Marcelino made seven changes to freshen up a side which had only picked up two points from the last four games, and they did create some chances in the first half, Uche bring a good save out of Guaita and Moreno curling a shot just wide of the post. Pedro León fired a long free kick over the top and Naldo wide from a corner in reply, but some seven minutes into the second half Uche gave the visitors the lead from the penalty spot after he was brought down by Lacen in the area. Diego Castro equalized a few minutes later though with a back header from Roberto Lago’s centre, and Giovani and León tested the two keepers after that. The game eventually petered out to draw however, Villarreal playing the last quarter of an hour or so with ten men after Musacchio was carried off with a broken ankle after all three substitutions had been made.

With Málaga also losing ground, several teams are still in with a chance of reaching the last European spots, Espanyol getting the edge on the rest after a 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao later in the evening. There were few chances in the opening minutes, the best a shot wide by Beñat and a couple of efforts by Stuani. With five minutes to go to the break however Víctor Alvarez got to a loos ball and poked a pass through for Sergio García to run on and beat Iraizoz. The visitors improved after Valverde brought on Ibai Gómez and Susaeta a quarter of an hour in to the second half, Ibai in particular coming up against Casilla and then crossing in for De Marcos to head wide, but Espanyol held on to take their unbeaten run to five games. The result takes the Catalans a point above their opponents, and also gives them a little bit of revenge for that semi-final cup defeat earlier in the season.

Further down the table some seven teams are fighting to avoid the three relegation spots, although Córdoba already look doomed after they lost 0-2 to fellow strugglers Elche in the last match of the day. The Andalusians had only won one match at home all season, and although Fede Cartabia went close early on, they fell behind when Enzo Roco got a slight touch to Edu Albácar’s long free kick to put off keeper Juan Carlos just before the break. Pasalic went close either side of half time, but Krhin headed a long Fede free kick against the post soon after the restart. However Víctor Rodríguez saw his shot headed over the top by a defender at the other end, and from the resulting corner Pasalic headed in the second from the far post. Tyton had to save from Luso, and Fidel turned a shot wide after that, but any hopes of a comeback ended when Borja García was sent off for a retaliatory push on Víctor with ten minutes to go, and his side end the weekend nine points away from safety.

The win takes Elche out of the bottom three, and Deportivo also climb out of the drop zone after a 2-2 draw at Real Sociedad, a good start for new coach Víctor Sánchez del Amo. Visiting keeper Fabricio was in action early on to keep out a couple of shots from Canales, and Xabi Prieto just got a foot to stop Oriol Riera from netting at the other end. With just over half an hour on the clock Prieto opened the scoring from the penalty spot after a Canales cross hit José Rodríguez on the arm, but soon afterwards referee Pérez Montero awarded another spot kick at the other end, again after the ball hit Ansotegi on the arm. This time Rulli got down to save Lucas Pérez’s kick, but the striker got to the ball quicker than anyone and poked it back into the net. Chory Castro restored the lead though with a spectacular first time volley from wide out on the left early on in the second half, but once again Depor levelled the scores, Toché heading the ball wide of Rulli after Riera headed back a long Manuel Pablo cross. (12.04.15)

Real Madrid closed the gap on leaders Barcelona to two points after Luis Enrique’s side were held to a 2-2 draw at fifth placed Sevilla on Saturday evening. The Catalans started strongly, Neymar bringing an early save out of Sergio Rico before Messi cut in from the right wing to curl a shot past the keeper. With half an hour gone Neymar made it two with a curling free kick into the near top corner of the net, and Luis Suárez could have added a third had he been able to find the target a couple of minutes later. By now Barça appeared to be cruising to victory, but Iborra fired a shot over the top, and shortly before half time Bravo could only punch a long shot from Banega into his own net. Rico had to tip a Messi free kick over the bar and then keep out a shot from Iniesta either side of half time, Suárez driving the rebound over the bar with the goal at his mercy. Bacca went close again at the other end though, and Luis Enrique decided to play it safe, replacing a disgruntled Neymar with Xavi. The move didn’t pay off however, and with six minutes to go Piqué gave the ball away to Reyes, and Aleix Vidal set up Gameiro to level the scores and save Sevilla’s unbeaten home record this season.

Real Madrid meanwhile beat Eibar 3-0 in the first game of the day to put the pressure back on the Catalans. With a Champions League tie against Atlético coming up midweek, Ancelotti made six changes to his line-up, Keylor Navas, Chicharito and Jesé getting rare starts. The visitors put up little resistance though, and Ramos and Isco both hit the woodwork (Isco’s shot hitting both posts) before Cristiano Ronaldo bounced a free kick past an out of position Irureta. Ronaldo and Chicharito both missed chances soon afterwards, and with half an hour on the clock Chicharito headed the second from Arbeloa’s cross. Irureta made up in part for his mistake with saves from Ronaldo and Modric either side of the break, and Chicharito failed to convert a couple of chances later on in the second half. And with seven minutes left Jesé intercepted a sloppy Boateng pass and ran on past two defenders to make it three with an angled shot across the keeper.

Atlético Madrid are now seven points behind their city rivals in the table after they also drew 2-2 at Málaga. Fernando Torres went close a couple of times early on, and midway through the first half Simeone’s side took the lead, Kameni uncharacteristically letting a long throw from Jesús Gámez through his hands to allow Griezmann the easiest of tap-ins. Later in the first half though Torres headed a Recio corner into his own net, the first goal that Oblak had let in for five games, and Weligton felt himself unlucky not to have a penalty soon after the restart. Koke headed wide and Torres brought a couple of saves out of Kameni in response, but Oblak had to punch clear an effort from Amrabat, and with twenty minutes to go Samuel latched on to Amrabat’s through ball to lift a shot past the visiting keeper. Some seven minutes later however Griezmann levelled the scores once again after Raúl Jiménez headed over a Gámez centre, referee Mateu Lahoz waving away reasonable claims for offside, and that was how it stayed.

Later in the evening Celta thrashed Rayo Vallecano 6-1, the result taking the Galicians a point above their opponents to ninth spot pending Sunday’s games. The visitors went in front first though, Manucho flinging himself at Embarba’s cross to head past Sergio Alvarez with seconds on the clock, and soon afterwards the keeper had to push another header from Amaya over the top. Larrivey made it all square though against his old side after Nolito laid the ball across in the fifth minute, and a quarter of an hour later Santi Mina latched on to Nolito’s through ball to score a second. When Nolito tested Toño again, Paco Jémez put on two full backs to change his formation, but Larrivey got a third after Toño could only get a hand to Nolito’s shot, and Mina made it four before half time following a Krohn-Dehli assist. In the first ten minutes of the second half the 19 year old striker added two more after good work by Orellana and Nolito to become the youngest player ever to score four in La Liga, and it could have been more had Toño not kept out Larrivey a couple of times after that.

Almería meanwhile climbed out of the relegation spots after a 3-0 victory over fellow strugglers Granada, a first win for new coach Sergi Barjuan who took over from Juan Ignacio Martínez a few days ago. The locals were on top for most of the first half, Espinosa, Ximo Navarro and Wellington Silva bringing good saves out of Roberto before Espinosa and Trujillo combined to set up Thomas for the opening goal on the stroke of half time. Rubén celebrated his return from a long injury lay-off with a good save from Robert Ibáñez soon after the interval, but with just under an hour gone Espinosa made it two after controlling a long pass on his chest before turning past his marker to score. Thomas hit the bar with the goal at his mercy a few minutes later, and although Riki tested Rubén again at the other end, Thomas wrapped things up with more than a little fortune after Hemed put him clear with three minutes to go, his first shot coming back off the visiting keeper and deflecting in off his chest on the rebound. (11.04.15)