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Match round-up - First Division, Day 34

The battle between Valencia and Sevilla for the fourth Champions League spot looks like it will go down to the wire, the Ches moving back above their rivals on head-to-head goal difference after a 1-1 draw at Rayo Vallecano on Thursday. Visiting keeper Toño had to save from Parejo and Rodrigo early on, but Embarba gave Rayo the lead with his side’s first shot at goal, Diego Alves (possibly blinded by the sun?) allowing his soft shot through his hands into the net. Parejo fired a shot against the post after the interval, the rebound hitting Toño on the back and going out for a corner, and soon afterwards the midfielder made it all square with a well struck free kick after Morcillo was sent off for bringing down André Gomes. The ten men almost restored the lead though, Alves keeping out Kakuta and Trashorras firing a free kick just wide, and with a quarter of an hour to go numbers were evened up when Rodrigo was also shown a red card for retaliating after Toño clattered into him in the area.

Espanyol meanwhile joined the group pushing for the last European spot, the Catalans beating next to bottom club Granada 1-2 to move to within two points of seventh placed Málaga. Success shot wide and Insúa brought a good save out of Casilla in the opening minutes, but with half time approaching Sergio García picked up a Lucas Vázquez pass and cut past Cala to open the scoring for the visitors. Robert Ibáñez and Javi Márquez went close for the Andalusians after the restart, and with twenty minutes or so to go Mainz headed the equalizer from a Lass cross. However with six minutes to go Paco Montañés got the winner, firing the rebound past Roberto after Cala blocked his attempted pass across goal. The defeat left the Andalusians six points away from safety after an eighth game without a win, and coach Abel Resino was fired not long after the final whistle. (30.04.15)

Real Madrid stay two points behind Barcelona after a 3-0 victory over Almería on Wednesday evening. It took Ancelotti’s side a bit of time to get going, although they still dominated the first half, the visitors only troubling Keylor Navas (one of several changes to the line-up) with a long shot from Mané. Ronaldo tested Rubén and fired a couple of shots wide, and James also went close before thrashing a first time volley past the keeper on the stroke of half time. Soon after the restart Mauro Dos Santos turned a Kroos cross into his own net under pressure from Ronaldo, and Varane, Chicharito and Ronaldo all tried their luck before Arbeloa got on the end of Chicharito’s cross to wrap things up near the end.

Later in the evening Atlético Madrid strengthened their hold on third spot with a 0-1 win at sixth placed Villarreal. It was a close thing in the end though, the locals looking to put an end to a run of seven games without a victory, having only scored once in that time, and honours were fairly even throughout. Griezmann saw his shot pushed on to the post by Sergio Asenjo and Koke volleyed wide, and Oblak and Godín had to keep out efforts by Víctor Ruíz and Manu Trigueros close to half time. With a quarter of an hour to go though Eric Bailly failed to control a back header by Trigueros, and Fernando Torres rushed past him to coolly steer the ball into the net. There was more bad news for Marcelino though, Asenjo picking up a serious knee injury near the end which will keep him out for several months.

Sevilla meanwhile move up to fourth pending Valencia’s game on Thursday after beating Eibar 1-3. Bacca scored twice for the Andalusians in the first quarter of an hour, the first after controlling a long pass from Reyes and rounding Irureta to score, and the second after the keeper failed to hold on to a long Reyes free kick. Piovaccari headed over a couple of times either side of half time from Capa crosses though, and some six minutes in to the second half he got one back, turning a shot past Sergio Rico after Arruabarrena headed across goal following a Manu del Moral corner. Bacca returned the favour though to Reyes on a quick counter-attack soon afterwards, and Irureta had to keep out Banega and Aleix Vidal later on to prevent them from increasing the scoreline.

The last European spots are still up for grabs though, and Celta closed to within two points of seventh placed Málaga after a 1-0 victory against Javi Gracia’s side. The Galicians had the better of the opening minutes, Kameni in action to keep out Fontàs, Pablo Hernández heading over and Charles rounding the keeper only to shoot wide. Darder hit the post at the other end though shortly before the interval, and early on in the second half Horta got free only to allow himself to be tackled. Charles headed against the bar and Hernández headed the rebound against the upright later on, but the game appeared to heading for a draw until Tissone failed to clear Santi Mina’s cross, and Nolito latched on to the loose ball to fire home the winner with only two minutes to go.

Further down the table Deportivo remain in the bottom three after a 4-0 defeat at Elche. The locals were on the brink of being relegated down two divisions for financial reasons, but a change of club president earlier in the week has given them hope of saving the situation, and the players responded with a performance which takes them eight points clear of their opponents in the rankings. Jonathas started things off after a good run by Damián Suárez, and Lombán got the second with a rigorous penalty after Lopo was ruled to have fouled Enzo Roco in the area. Oriol Riera went close with a couple of headers either side of half time, but Pasalic made it three after a shot from Jonathas looped back off Fabricio, and Rodrigues rounded things off on a quick breakaway near the end. (29.04.15)

Another mid-week round of games this week, leaders Barcelona kicking things off with an impressive 6-0 victory over Getafe on Tuesday evening. By half time Luis Enrique’s side were already five goals up, Messi starting things off from the penalty spot after Arroyo brought down Luis Suárez on the edge of the area. Bravo had to scramble back to clear a Hinestroza lob off the line though, and Babá and Velázquez went close, but almost immediately Suárez got on the end of Messi’s centre to volley a spectacular shot past Guaita. Neymar made it three after Suárez set him up, and Xavi picked up a return pass from Neymar to score the fourth. With five minutes to go to the break Suárez got his second of the evening after Xavi touched on Messi’s square pass, and Messi completed the “set” with a sixth goal just two minutes in to the second half. After that though the locals slowed the pace, although Suárez and Messi both came close to hat-tricks later on. Hinestroza also hit the post with a deflected shot, but the visitors had already decided to save their strengths for another day. .

Later in the evening local rivals Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad cancelled each other out in a 1-1 draw. The locals had not won this fixture for the last four years, and once again honours were shared, with chances for both teams, Rulli having to be at his best to push an Aduríz header over the top with a quarter of an hour gone, and Bergara and Vela firing shots wide of the mark later on in the first half. Some six minutes in to the second half though things appeared to swing in favour of Ernesto Valverde’s side when Martínez Munuera awarded them a penalty and sent off Mikel González for bringing down Aduríz, the referee waving away claims by the visitors for a previous foul on their keeper. Aduríz himself converted the spot-kick, and he volleyed a shot just over the top minutes later. However with an hour on the clock De la Bella picked up Rubén Pardo’s pass to equalize, and neither side was able to break the deadlock after that.

Meanwhile Levante moved a step closer to safety after a 1-0 win over bottom club Córdoba. This was probably the Andalusians last chance of saving themselves, and Diego Mariño had to keep out Bebé in the opening minutes as the visitors went for broke. However after that the home side took control, Casadesús, Juanfran, Barral and Camarasa all failing to find the target before Barral connected with a return pass from Casadesús to open the scoring with four minutes to go to the break. Luso fired a shot wide and Iñigo López headed over the bar before the interval, and Bebé, Ghilas and Luso all tried their luck after the restart, but Lucas Alcaraz’s side held firm to move six points clear of the drop zone pending the rest of the mid-week games. Córdoba though are now eleven points from safety, and they could already be down if results go against them over the next two days. (28.04.15)