The relegation battle looks like being closely fought this season, with only two points separating six clubs after next to bottom side Rayo Vallecano drew 2-2 at Deportivo on Monday evening. The Madrid based team took the lead twice in the first half, Miku getting the opener from Quini’s cross with eight minutes on the clock. Some ten minutes later Lucas Pérez equalized on a quick breakaway after latching on to a long pass from Luis Alberto, but four minutes after that keeper Manu Fernández (deputizing for the suspended Lux) gave the ball away to Miku, who passed across for Jozabed to restore the lead. Fayçal Fajr levelled it again with an impressive shot just a minute in to the second half, but although Luis Alberto hit the post and Pérez, Cani and Fajr all went close, the visitors held on for a vital point. Depor stay safely in ninth spot, although they have still to clock up a victory since the start of the New Year. (01.02.16)
Third placed Real Madrid closed to within a point of Atlético after a comfortable 6-0 victory over a depleted Espanyol in the last game on Sunday. With Caicedo injured, Moreno suspended, and Marco Asensio and Burgui both unable to play for contractual reasons, Galca had to cobble together a makeshift attack. Keylor Navas was hardly troubled though, and once again Zidane’s team got off to a quick start, Benzema heading a James cross past debutant keeper Arlauskis, Ronaldo converting a penalty after he was brought down by Roco, and James making it three with a deflected shot, all in the first quarter of an hour or so. Ronaldo had already scored five against Espanyol earlier in the season, and this time he notched up a hat-trick, his second coming after James put him through on the stroke of half time, and the third a header from Jesé’s cross with eight minutes to go. Some four minutes later new signing Oscar Duarte could only turn another Jesé centre into his own net for the sixth, and it was all over.
Earlier in the day Sevilla beat bottom club Levante 3-1 in the noon kick-off to move up to fifth in the table. Emery’s team had already won their last nine home matches, and with less than a minute gone they were in front, Gameiro beating Diego Mariño after a Trémoulinas cross deflected to him off the back of Iborra. Soon afterwards Sergio Rico fumbled a shot from Morales on to the bar, but Mariño had to keep out Gameiro a couple of times before the break, and just two minutes in to the second half Iborra made it two against his old side after Gameiro set him up. Rossi opened his account for his new team a few minutes later with a shot which Rico got to, only to see the ball spin past him and in to the net, but with a quarter of an hour left on the clock Konoplyanka wrapped things up with an angled shot in off the bar from left of the area.
Celta drop to seventh however after they lost 2-1 at Las Palmas, a fifth defeat in six league games for the Galicians. Berizzo’s team were on a bit of a high though after knocking Atlético out of the cup midweek, and they went in front in the fifth minute, Bongonda running on to a Planas through ball to beat Javi Varas. Willian José hit the bar at the other end however, and with just over half an hour gone Jonathan Viera levelled it from the penalty spot after Montoro’s long free kick hit Cabral on the arm inside the area. Viera and Wakaso both tested Sergio Alvarez after the restart, and the visitors were left with ten men when Orellana picked up a second yellow card for diving in the area with twenty minutes still to go. The visitors appeared to have held on though until the last minute, when Willian José battled through to poke a shot past Alvarez. It was a much needed win for the Canary Islanders, and they climb out of the relegation zone as a result. .
Sporting Gijón are also out of the bottom three after they won 0-1 against Valencia in the Mestalla stadium. Gary Neville’s side had not won in ten league games, but they had at least qualified for the cup-semi-finals, and they had all the play in a one-sided first half. However Negredo brought a couple of good saves out of Cuéllar, and Feghouli, Piatti and Abdennour also failed to convert opportunities before the break. Up to then Sporting’s only effort was a long shot wide by Isma López, but some five minutes in to the second half Sanabria put them ahead from the penalty spot after Danilo tripped Jony in the area. After that the Ches tried their best, Negredo in particular heading against the post and then missing three or four clear chances, but it was just not his night. A first home defeat for the locals since November 2014, and Neville had no words to explain what had happened. (31.01.16)
Barcelona move three points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand after a 2-1 victory over their closest rivals Atlético Madrid on Saturday afternoon. The two teams started the match level on points, but the visitors took an early lead when Koke turned in Saúl Ñíguez’s cross in the tenth minute. Saúl had already tested Bravo before that, and Augusto Fernández fired a long shot wide as the visitors had the better of the opening twenty minutes. However by half time Luis Enrique’s side turned the scoreline around, Messi making it all square from a Jordi Alba cross, and Luis Suárez running on to a long ball from Dani Alves to hold off Giménez and turn a shot under Oblak. Just before the break Atleti were left with ten men when Filipe Luis was sent off for a dangerous tackle of Messi, but only a providential foot from Bravo prevented Griezmann from levelling the scores again after the interval. A few minutes later though Godín was also red carded after picking up a second booking for a sliding tackle on his fellow countryman Luis Suárez, and although they battled right through to the end, there was little chance they could prevent a defeat after that.
Later in the evening Villarreal consolidated fourth spot with a 1-0 win over Granada, the result taking Marcelino’s team level on points with Real Madrid pending their game on Sunday. Bakambu went close for the hosts early on and Andrés had to keep out Soldado a couple of times later in the first half, but Areola was also tested by Isaac Success and Robert Ibáñez before the half time whistle. Some ten minutes after the restart however Bruno scored what was to prove the only goal from the penalty spot after Babín pulled down Soldado inside the area, and Soldado himself could have added to the lead had he not come up against Andrés again a few minutes later.
Athletic Bilbao are up to fifth after they beat Getafe 0-1, Williams heading in a Balenziaga cross midway through the first half to give the Basque side the three points. The Basque side had the better of the first forty-five minutes, with Guaita saving well from Sabin Merino, and Sabin and Aduríz going close after that. Iraizoz had little work to do until he deflected an effort from Scepovic for a corner after the restart, although Alvaro came close to saving a point for the locals when he headed against the post near the end. The locals ended with ten men however when a frustrated Cala picked up a second booking in injury time.
Athletic are now a point above neighbours Eibar, who drop out of the European spots after they lost 1-2 to Málaga. The Andalusians were looking for points after defeats against Sevilla and Barcelona, and Chory Castro caused a few problems before crossing in for Juanpi to turn the ball into the net with his heel on the stroke of half time. Juncà, Inui and Keko tried their luck at the other end, but midway through the second half Juanpi shot wide with the goal gaping in front of him, the referee patting him affectionately on the head as the young Venezuelan midfielder stared absently in to space wondering what had happened! With the game in injury time Santa Cruz wrapped things up with a second goal for the visitors, a a strike by Borja Bastón soon afterwards came too late to change the result .The other Basque side Real Sociedad also played on Saturday, a 2-1 victory over Betis taking them above their opponents and up to thirteenth spot. Within half an hour Eusebio’s side were two up, Xabi Prieto heading in a cross from Héctor, and Iñigo Martínez heading the second from a long Rubén Pardo free kick. Rubén Castro got one back soon after the restart though from Van Wolfwinkel’s pass, and the result was in doubt right up until the final whistle, Van Wolfwinkel, Castro and Dani Ceballos all causing problems for Rulli later on. (30.01.16)