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Match round-up - First Division, Day 24

Barcelona stay three points clear at the top of the table after an impressive 6-1 win over a depleted Celta on Sunday evening. Most of the goals though didn’t come until late on, the two teams going in level at half time after a Guidetti penalty cancelled out a house-special Messi free kick. Luis Suárez hit the post just a minute or so after the restart though, and Sergio Alvarez had to save from Iniesta before Messi lifted the ball through for Suárez to restore the lead. Guidetti and Wass went close after that though, and it was not until a quarter of an hour from the end that Suárez made it three after Messi and Neymar combined to set him up. With ten minutes to go though Jonny brought Messi down in the area, and although Messi opted to take the spot kick, he cheekily passed the ball across for Suárez to complete a hat-trick. After that Celta’s challenge ended, and Rakitic and Neymar added two more, both from Suárez assists.

Atlético Madrid temporarily drew level with Barça though after they beat city neighbours Getafe 0-1 earlier in the evening. Fernando Torres had taken half a season to get his 100 th goal for his club, but it only took him a minute to get his 101 st, the veteran striker turning a Carrasco cross past Guatia before many of the spectators had taken their seats. After that however there were few chances at either end, Oblak pushing a shot from Sarabia around the post, and Torres shooting wide on a quick breakaway. After the interval there were timid attempts from Moi Gómez, Koke and Vergini, although Correa should have wrapped things up near the end, the Argentinian forward trying to pass to a colleague rather than go it alone when free on goal.

Sevilla stay fifth after they won 2-0 against Las Palmas, their eleventh home win in a row in the league. After their success midweek in the cup though it took them some time to get going, and the visitors had the better of the first half, with Sergio Rico having to save from Jonathan Viera and Tana, and Viera firing a shot against the woodwork. However with twenty minutes to go Banega wriggled past two defenders to fire in a shot which ex Sevilla keeper Javi Varas couldn’t stop, and five minutes later substitutes Krohn-Dehli and Vitolo combined to set up Gameiro for the second. The defeat leaves the Canary Islanders still in the drop zone having only taken three points away from home all season.

Eibar took advantage of defeats for Athletic Bilbao and Celta to climb back up to sixth place after a 2-0 victory against bottom club Levante. As in many matches this weekend, the poor weather conditions made play difficult, and there were few chances before Inui played Jota’s cross back across goal for Borja Bastón to open the scoring. Inui went close a couple of times either side of the break, and with just under an hour gone the locals went two up after Adrián González bundled the ball off Toño and over the line, the referee waving away claims for a possible foul on Diego Mariño. The visiting keeper had to save from Jota and Inui after that, and Riesgo was only troubled once by Deyverson later on.

Granada stay in the bottom three as well after they lost 3-0 at a rainy Real Sociedad in this Sunday’s mid-day game. Rulli had to be on his toes to keep out a Ricardo Costa header early on, but with twenty minutes on the clock Xabi Prieto fired a shot against the post, and Yuri picked up the rebound and crossed in for 18 year old Oyarzabal to squeeze a shot past Andrés. With the first half coming to a close Jonathas made it two with a first time volley from a long Carlos Vela centre, and Vela shot just wide before setting up Oyarzabal for the third on the hour mark. Granada felt themselves unlucky however not to get one back in injury time, Fran Rico’s free kick and Rochina’s follow up shot both coming back off the crossbar. (14.02.16)

Real Madrid threw down the gauntlet to the leaders on Saturday, a 4-2 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the first match of the afternoon taking them above Atlético and to within a point of Barcelona pending their Sunday games. Ronaldo opened the scoring with a shot past Iraizoz early on, but seven minutes later Eraso equalized after Keylor Navas could only push a poor Varane back pass into his path, and Aduríz brought a good save out of Navas before turning a shot against the crossbar with the keeper beaten. With half time approaching though James put Madrid back in front with a shot from the edge of the area, and just before the break Kroos made it three with a shot on the turn after Ronaldo put him through. With eight minutes to go Varane was sent off for a second bookable offence, but Ronaldo got his second of the day soon afterwards, and Elustondo completed the scoring with a header from a De Marcos cross near the end.

Later in the evening Villarreal consolidated fourth spot, a 1-0 win over Málaga opening up an eleven point gap over the chasing teams pending tomorrow’s fixtures. Soldado went close a couple of times before picking up a return pass to beat Kameni with just under twenty minutes gone, and the visiting keeper had to be at his best to save from Jonathan Dos Santos later on in the first half. Areola was also tested at the other end though when Duje Cop got free on goal, and after the interval Juanpi and Duda also tried their luck. An eleventh game without defeat though for Marcelino’s side, and they must now be clear favourites for that last Champions League spot. .

A nerve wracking match between Valencia and Espanyol followed, both coaches on a knife edge after a string of poor results. Gary Neville opted to bring Diego Alves back in goal after a long injury lay-off, and he did well to keep out Caicedo early on. Pau López also had to save from Parejo and Aderlan at the other end, but some seven minutes in to the second half Oscar Duarte got in front of the local keeper to head the opener from Burgui’s corner, and only a couple of good stops by Alves prevented Diop and Moreno from extending the lead. However with twenty minutes to go Negredo levelled it with a shot which deflected in off Oscar Duarte, and just six minutes later Cheryshev flung himself forward to meet Feghouli’s cross and head home the winner. Neville had his first league victory at the thirteenth attempt, but Galca returned home empty handed, his side still only a point above the drop zone with teams below them still to play this weekend.

The day ended with a 2-2 draw between Deportivo and Betis, the 14th time the Galicians have shared the points this season. Alex Bergantiños headed the Galicians into the lead from a Lucas Pérez corner, but just five minutes later Musonda headed the equalizer from a Vargas cross. Adán had to save from Luis Alberto, Pérez and Cani later in the first half, but with eight minutes to go to the break Vargas fired the visitors ahead following a short Rubén Castro free kick. Fayçal Fajr levelled it again though soon after the restart, turning the ball in on the far post after Pérez had failed to connect with a Fernando Navarro cross, and the locals came close to winning it after that, Bruno clearing a shot from Pérez off the line, and Adán tipping a late header from Oriol Riera over the bar. (13.02.16)

All square in Friday night’s relegation battle between Sporting Gijón and Rayo Vallecano, a 2-2 draw taking both a little further away from the drop zone pending the rest of the weekend games. The locals went ahead early on, Guerrero intercepting a bad back pass from Quini to steer a shot past Juan Carlos. The visiting keeper had to save from Isma López son afterwards, and although Miku levelled it after Pablo Hernández set him up on a quick counter-attack, Halilovic restored the lead on the stroke of half time, poking a shot into the net from the ground after picking up a pass from Jony. Juan Carlos had to keep out Guerrero after the restart, but with just under an hour gone Jozabed equalized again after Cuéllar misjudged Tito’s long centre, and Rayo came close to winning it in the end, Embarba and Trashorras both hitting the woodwork with the game in time added on. (12.02.16)