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Match round-up - First Division, Day 36

Rayo Vallecano still have an outside chance of a place in next season’s Europa League after a 2-0 win over neighbours Getafe on Monday evening, the result taking them to within five points of seventh placed Málaga. Paco Jémez was serving out a ban and had to watch the game from the stands, but he saw his side take the lead with just under half an hour gone when Manucho got on the end of Insúa’s deflected cross to turn the ball past Guaita. Zé Castro fired a shot just over the top early on in the second half, but Cobeño had to save from Escudero and Pedro León, and Juan Rodríguez felt himself unlucky to have a headed goal disallowed for a questionable offside. Substitute Miku made it two however with an angled shot after picking up a through ball from Trashorras, and Guaita had to save from Pozuelo a few minutes later. With three minutes to go Roberto Lago and Javier Aquino were both sent off for fighting after they clashed in the area, but by then Rayo had done enough for a victory which leaves their rivals down in fifteenth place, just five points above the drop zone. (11.05.15)

Third placed Atlético Madrid maintain the four point gap over Valencia after a 2-2 draw at Levante in this Sunday’s mid-day game. The home side went ahead twice, Barral opening the scoring on the half hour mark after Miranda could only head a Morales cross back for Iván López to lay the ball back into the path of the striker. Just three minutes later Siqueira equalized, Tiago winning the ball inside the area and crossing in for the full back to volley a shot past Mariño, but Kalu Uche restored the lead after the break with a little bit of fortune, the substitute bundling the rebound into the net after Oblak kept out his first shot. Fernando Torres came on though to save a point for the visitors with a header from Koke’s corner, and Mariño had to be on his toes to prevent José María Giménez from scoring the winner from another corner near the end. The result takes the Valencia based side five points clear of the relegation spots, and unless there is a major disaster it looks like they will be safe for another year.

Atlético have at least made sure of one of the four Champions League spots though after fifth placed Sevilla were held to a 1-1 draw at Celta later in the evening. The Galicians were missing several players through suspension and injury, but the visitors (with Unai Emery absent due to the death of his father) also rested several key men after their midweek Europa League semi-final. The Andalusians took the lead early on, Gameiro picking up a return pass from Iago Aspas to beat Sergio Alvarez, and the keeper had to be at his best to save from the French striker soon afterwards. Charles and Pablo Hernández tested Sergio Rico at the other end though, and with just under an hour on the clock Santi Mina levelled it with a hotly disputed penalty after Charles fell rather to easily under a challenge from Arribas. Both keepers made saves after that, but in the end the two teams settled for a point which keeps the locals in the chase for the European spots. Sevilla though stay three points behind Valencia, and it now looks like their best chance of making it to next season’s Champions League is to win the Europa League final, which this year gives access to the top competition.

Sixth placed Villarreal meanwhile sealed their place in Europe for next season with a 1-0 victory over neighbours Elche. Marcelino’s team had been losing ground recently after nine games without a win, and they were close to going behind early on, Juan Carlos having to save from Jonathas, and Mosquera firing a shot against the upright. Jonathan Dos Santos drove a shot over the bar in reply though, and midway through the first half Joel Campbell headed what was to prove the only goal after Manu Herrera could only push a long shot by Bruno up into the air. Juan Carlos had to keep out an Enzo Roco header from Fajr’s free kick shortly before the break, but after the restart it was one way traffic, and only some first rate saves by Manu Herrera from Trigueros, Gerard Moreno and his own defender Pelegrín prevented the scoreline from increasing. Even so though the visitors could have saved a point late on when Mosquera looped the ball onto the crossbar following a corner.

Málaga improved their chances of a return to Europe as well after beating regional rivals Almería 1-2, their first victory in nine games taking Javi Gracia’s side back up to seventh. The locals needed a result as well though to move away from the danger zone, and in the opening minutes Thomas saw his shot deflected over the bar by Tissone, and Wellington Silva got free on goal only to shoot wide. Rubén had to save from Javi Guerra soon afterwards however, and with just over twenty minutes gone the visitors took the lead, Casado deflecting Amrabat’s wayward shot after Duda had headed a Samuel cross over to the striker. The ex Málaga full back made up for his mistake just three minutes later with a long free kick which Thomas headed past Kameni, and the visiting keeper had to save from Espinosa soon after the restart. With twenty minutes left on the clock though Javi Guerra got on the end og Amrabat’s cross to restore the lead, and Samuel could have added a third when he lobbed a shot just over the bar with the goal at his mercy. Despite the defeat Almería stay a point ahead of Deportivo, Granada and Eibar pending the aforementioned decision on the deduction of three points by FIFA for late payment of interest charges on an international transfer. (10.05.15)

Whether the proposed strike puts an end to the season or not, the title race appears to be over after Barcelona opened up a four point gap over rivals Real Madrid. Luis Enrique’s side were first up, and they built on their midweek Champions League win with a 2-0 victory over Real Sociedad. The Catalans had most of the play in the first half, but they were unable to get past an inspired Rulli, who made top class saves from Messi, Neymar and Piqué. Luis Suárez and Dani Alves also went close, and after the interval Rulli was called upon again to keep out a Marc Bartra header from Xavi’s corner. A couple of minutes later Neymar finally got the goal they were looking for, the Brazilian striker heading in on the far post after Mikel González could only head back Messi’s cross. After that though the legs started to tire, and there were some nervous moments for the home fans before substitute Pedro made sure of the points with a spectacular overhead kick after a defender deflected Messi’s cross into the air. Messi could have increased the lead after that when he ran past everyone only to shoot just wide of the post, and Finnbogason wasted a possible moment of glory near the end when he fired a shot straight at ex Real keeper Claudio Bravo after making himself space on the edge of the area. Another win for Barça though, and a sixth clean sheet in a row for Bravo, who has now set a new club record of 22 for the season.

Real Madrid though were held to a 2-2 draw by Valencia later in the evening, and they now need to hope that Barça don’t win either of their last two games against Atlético and Deportivo. Casillas had to save from Paco Alcácer early on, but Ancelotti’s side hit the crossbar twice in the next few minutes, the first a Bale free kick, and the second a header from Ronaldo following a corner. However with twenty minutes gone Alcácer got on the end of Gayà’s cross to open the scoring, and soon afterwards Javi Fuego made it two with a back-header from Dani Parejo’s free kick. Diego Alves saved from Bale, and Chicharito hit the post again with an angled shot, and with the first half coming to a close the locals were awarded a penalty when Gayà pushed over Bale in the area. Alves saved Ronaldo’s spot kick though, and after the interval the Brazilian keeper made a couple of good saves from Chicharito before Pepe finally beat him with a header from a James corner. Alves was in action again after that to keep out a Sergio Ramos header, and Negredo volleyed a shot over at the other end in reply. And with six minutes to go Isco made it all square, curling a shot wide of the keeper from outside of the area. However the Ches held fast for an important point which keeps them in fourth spot, and after the midweek Champions League defeat, there were some whistles from the home supporters as the players left the field.

Later in the evening Athletic Bilbao drew 1-1 with Deportivo to return to seventh spot, just above Espanyol on head-to-head goal difference. The Galicians had gone thirteen games without a win, and Williams brought on early save out of Fabricio before Aduriz headed the opener after Laporte headed across a long Beñat free kick. Luisinho curled a shot wide at the other end however, and shortly before the break Alex Bergantiños had a headed goal ruled out for what the referee considered to be a foul on Mikel Rico. Susaeta hooked a shot wide after the interval, and Fabricio managed to deflect a shot from Aduríz on to the crossbar and away. Hélder Postiga was slow to react though when a corner came to him in front of goal, San José managing to scramble the ball clear, and the Portuguese striker headed another chance over the bar. However with the crowd whistling for full time Lopo flung himself at Cavaleiro’s cross, and Herrerín was unable to prevent his header from entering the net. A vital point for Depor, and it takes them out of the bottom three thanks to a superior head-to-head record in a three way tie with Eibar and Granada.

Granada themselves beat the already relegated Córdoba 2-0 in the first match of the afternoon to make it two wins in a row under new coach Sandoval. The home side dominated the game throughout, visiting keeper Juan Carlos having to save a Mainz header and a shot from Piti in the opening minutes. The visitors were left with ten men when Iñigo López picked up a second booking for a foul on El-Arabi with only half an hour gone, and Juan Carlos kept out Javi Márquez and then pushed a Babín header onto the post before Mainz got on the end of a long Piti free kick on the stroke of half time to head the locals into the lead. After the restart Rochina shot just wide of the post, and with twenty minutes to go El-Arabi made it two from the penalty spot after Pantic barged over Rochina in the area. A few minutes later Fede Cartabia was also sent off, and Córdoba are in danger of finishing the season with the lowest number of points on record after only clocking up two since the halfway stage of the season. Their neighbours though are close to saving themselves, although the final relegation spots may also depend on whether Almería win their appeal against FIFA’s three point deduction, which will now be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland on 20th May, just three days before the season finishes. (09.05.15)

Espanyol threw down the gauntlet to the other teams pushing for the remaining Europa League spots with a 0-2 victory at Eibar on Friday evening. The home side were desperate for points as well though, and Kiko Casilla had to keep out a long shot from Saúl Berjón early on. Javi Lara also shot wide, but with half an hour on the clock the visitors went ahead after a prolonged attack, Irureta saving Stuani’s header and Caicedo turning a shot against the post before Sergio García beat the keeper from a wide angle. Lillo did well to clear a Sergio García cross with Stuani closing in a few minutes later, and although Javi Lara went close with a wide free kick, Stuani added a second for the visitors after Caicedo touched on another García centre. Piovaccari did get the ball in the net soon afterwards only to be ruled offside, and Casilla had to punch clear another Lara free kick. The result takes the Catalans to seventh pending the rest of the weekend games, and leaves their hosts just a point above the drop zone after a sixth defeat in a row. (08.05.15)