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Match round-up - First Division, Day 35

Almería and Celta drew 2-2 on Monday evening, a result which didn’t help either side in achieving their respective objectives. The Galicians were looking to close in on the European spots and they went two up by the break, Nolito steering a shot past Rubén after Krohn-Dehli’s attempted pass was blocked, and Santi Mina intercepting a poor Casado back pass to touch the ball on past the keeper. Thievy got one back though soon after the restart, following up when a Ximo Navarro shot came back off the post, and soon afterwards Cabral was sent off for bringing down the striker as he advanced on goal. Midway through the second half Zongo levelled the scores after Hemed laid back Dubarbier’s centre, but numbers were evened up when Dos Santos was also shown a red card for a second bookable offence, and Augusto Fernández almost won it for the visitors when he headed Orellana’s long free kick against the post in injury time. In the end though both teams had to settle for a point which keeps the hosts just above the drop zone, albeit with the outcome of their appeal against FIFA’s three point deduction still hanging over their heads. (04.05.15)

Valencia moved three points clear of Sevilla in the fight for the last Champions League spot after a 3-1 victory over Eibar on Sunday evening. The Ches started strongly, Irureta having to tip a long shot from De Paul over the bar and Paco Alcácer firing an effort just wide of the post. Piovaccari gave the home fans a scare with a header past the upright soon afterwards, but midway through the first half an unmarked Otamendi headed the opener from a Gayà cross, and Irureta had to save from De Paul again before the interval. Manu del Moral did cause a couple of problems for Diego Alves from two corners after the restart, but De Paul rattled the crossbar at the other end, and Dani Parejo made it two with a shot which deflected in off Borja after the ball came back out to him. Alcácer felt himself unlucky to have a strike ruled out for a questionable offside a few minutes later, but with twenty minutes to go he got his name on the scoresheet after Parejo’s free kick came back off the post. Arruabarrena got a late consolation for the Basque side after Angel set him up on a quick breakaway shortly before the final whistle, but they end the day just a point above the drop zone having only picked up four points in the second half of the season

Málaga’s bad recent form continued into this weekend, and they drop down to eighth after a 1-2 defeat against Elche, who themselves assured another season in the top flight (subject to their financial situation). Juanmi had an early header disallowed for a borderline offside, but with half an hour gone Jonathas gave the visitors the lead after Fajr and Víctor Rodríguez combined to set him up on a quick breakaway. Tyton had to save from Juanmi and Amrabat either side of half time, and Samuel got the ball in the net with a high cross-come-shot which referee Undiano Mallenco ruled out for what he considered to be a foul by Amrabat on the keeper. Víctor Rodríguez and Pasalic wasted chances at the other end, and with twenty minutes to go Tyton was sent off for bringing down Javi Guerra as he advanced on goal. However Duda fired the resulting spot kick against the upright, and Pasalic made it two on another quick counter-attack with two minutes left of normal time. Javi Guerra got one back though in injury time after a spectacular Amrabat volley came back off the bar, and substitute keeper Manu Herrera had to make late saves from Duda and Guerra to ensure the three points.

Málaga’s loss leaves the final Europa League spots wide open, although Espanyol missed out on a chance to move level with seventh placed Athletic after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Rayo Vallecano in this Sunday’s mid-day game. The locals had the better of the opening minutes, Caicedo shooting wide, Toño saving from Sergio García and Arbilla firing a free kick against the crossbar. However the visitors took the lead against the run of play, Insúa running on to Alberto Bueno’s return pass to steer a shot past Casilla with half an hour on the clock. Toño kept out Lucas Vázquez and Sergio García either side of the break, but only a timely tackle by Duarte prevented Miku from getting on the end of an Alex Moreno cross. However with ten minutes to go Héctor Moreno equalized with more than a bit of fortune, his long cross bouncing past everyone into the net. Any hope of a local victory ended though when Cañas was sent off after picking up two bookings in succession, the first for a hard tackle, and the second for complaining to the referee.

With three games remaining, Córdoba are the first team to be mathematically relegated, but Granada kept their hopes of survival alive with a 1-2 win at Getafe. José Ramón Sandoval was in charge of the Andalusians for the first time after taking over from Abel Resino a couple of days ago, and he saw El-Arabi give his new side the lead from the penalty spot after Naldo cut out Piti’s cross with his arm. Roberto had to keep out a Hinestroza shot and a back header from his own Javi Márquez later on in the first half though, and on the stroke of half time Pedro León pulled down a long Escudero cross and cut back past his marker to squeeze a shot inside the near post. Roberto had to save again from Sarabia soon after the restart, but El-Arabi got what was to prove the winner with a running header from Piti’s cross on the hour mark. The Andalusians are now just three points away from safety and eight below their hosts, who still have to pick up a point or two to be sure of staying up after a run of four defeats in a row. (03.05.15)

Leaders Barcelona made it 14 goals in five days after thrashing bottom club Córdoba 0-8 on Saturday afternoon. Luis Enrique’s side dominated right from the start, Neymar and Messi going close early on, Juan Carlos having to save from Messi and Iniesta, and Neymar hitting the post. However the first goal didn’t come until shortly before half time when Rakitic connected with Messi’s cross to open the scoring, and Florin could have scored a couple of times for the locals before that. Luis Suárez and Messi added two more either side of the break though, the first from Iniesta’s cross, and the second a running header from a Dani alves centre. Suárez headed a fourth from another Alves cross, and Neymar missed a sitter before Piqué headed a Rakitic corner in to the net to make it five. The pressure continued after that, Neymar standing aside to allow Messi to run the ball into the net with ten minutes to go, and Messi returning the favour to his team-mate five minutes later, handing over penalty duties to Neymar after the Brazilian forward was brought down in the box by Gunino. And Suárez completed his hat-trick near the end after Pantic could only deflect Xavi’s shot to him, leaving the Andalusians firmly anchored to be bottom of the table having only picked up two points in the second half of the season.

Real Madrid stay two points behind Barcelona though after they beat Sevilla 2-3 later in the evening, a first home defeat for the Andalusians in some 14 months. The turning point of the match came in the last ten minutes of the first half, with Krychowiak being attended to off the pitch following a clash of heads with Ramos (who was playing in an unfamiliar midfield role). Emery decided not to make the change and his side paid the price, Ronaldo heading a long Isco cross back past Sergio Rico, and then poking a second past the keeper just a minute later after Chicharito headed on a James centre. With half time looming however Ramos gave away a penalty on Aleix Vidal with a rash tackle, and Bacca stepped up to reduce the gap from the spot. M’Bia came close to levelling the scores when he headed a corner just wide after the interval, and Ancelotti turned to Bale, who was recovering after a brief injury lay-off. Within two minutes the Welsh attacker made his mark, whipping the ball across from the right wing for Ronaldo to complete his hat-trick with a looping header past Rico. However with ten minutes to go Iborra turned an Aleix Vidal cross past Casillas to put his side back in the game, and only a couple of late stops by the visiting keeper from Gameiro and Iborra prevented the locals from saving a point.

Atlético Madrid stay third, although they drop further behind the top two after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Athletic Bilbao. San José headed a corner just over the bar early on, but otherwise the locals were on top, Raúl García and Fernando Torres just failing to find the target, and García bringing a good save out of Herrerín, who had been given a first run out by Valverde. Torres got himself booked for an angry protest to referee Jaime Latre about a possible penalty, and with the first half coming to a close Griezmann got the ball in the net only to be pulled up correctly for offside. After the restart though Jaime ruled out two more strikes for offside by Griezmann and then by Tiago, but in both cases television pictures showed that the referee was wrong, and that the goals should have stood. Later in the second half Kike Sola and Etxeita went close for the visitors, and Herrerín had to be on his toes to keep out Griezmann again. Athletic ended the match with ten men when Bustinza picked up a second booking, but the Basque side had done enough to earn a point which takes them up to seventh in the table.

Athletic remain six points below Villarreal after Marcelino’s team drew 1-1 at Deportivo in the last match of the evening. Both teams had been in poor form recently, the Galicians having gone twelve games without a win and their opponents eight. However the locals needed the points more, and they had the better of the first half, with Oriol Riera forcing an early save out of Juan Carlos, who had stepped in for Sergio Asenjo after the first choice keeper picked up a serious knee injury midweek. Juanfran fired a shot over the top later in the first half, but just three minutes after the interval Jaume Costa put the visitors ahead with a looping shot over the head of Fabricio. Borges equalized though just two minutes later with a shot which flew into the net off the boot of Víctor Ruíz, and there were chances at both ends after that, Vietto testing Fabricio again, Oriol Riera having a strike disallowed for offside and Lucas Pérez also bringing a late save out of Juan Carlos. Another game without a victory for both though, and Depor stay down in the bottom three despite the draw. (02.05.15)

Real Sociedad kept their hopes of a place in Europe alive with a 3-0 victory over Levante in the Friday night game, the result taking David Moyes’ side to within four points of seventh spot. Carlos Vela had a headed goal ruled out for a marginal offside before Xabi Prieto and Yuri combined to set up Finnbogason for the opener in the twelfth minute. Granero fired a long free kick just over the top later on in the first half, and some six minutes after the interval Bergara headed the second from a Rubén Pardo corner. Lucas Alcaraz changed his ultra-defensive formation to bring on Barral and Uche, and his side started to get back in the game, José Mari and Ramis going close and Zaldua having to block a shot from Toño with the keeper stranded. However with four minutes to go Vela wrapped things up with a well struck free kick to leave the visitors still six points above the drop zone pending the rest of the weekend fixtures. (01.05.15)