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Match round-up - First Division, Day 25

Barcelona end the weekend eight points clear of their closest rivals after both Madrid teams drew on Sunday. Second placed Atlético could only draw 0-0 against fourth placed Villarreal in the last match of the weekend, the result keeping the visitors five points behind their hosts after a twelfth game in a row without defeat. Although both teams had chances in the first half, neither keeper was particularly troubled, Areola saving comfortably from Koke, Correa and Saúl, and Oblak a mere spectator as efforts from Rukavina and Bonera went wide. Griezmann did head a Juanfran cross just wide of the mark though on the stroke of half time, and after the restart Areola had to tip a dangerous effort from Correa over the bar. Oblak’s first and only real save came later on from Bakambu, and in the end both coaches settled for a point.

Earlier in the afternoon Real Madrid were held 1-1 at Málaga, leaving Zidane’s team still a point behind their city rivals in the table. Both keepers were in action early on, Kameni saving from Sergio Ramos and Jesé, and Keylo Navas keeping out Juanpi. Horta missed a good chance soon afterwards, but with just over half an hour gone Ronaldo headed the opener from a Kroos free kick, the referee waving away claims for offside. Two minutes after that Ronaldo had a chance to extend the lead when he was brought down in the area by Weligton, only for his spot kick to be saved by Kameni, and the keeper made further stops from Jesé and Ronaldo either side of the break. Navas was also called on to thwart Duje Cop and Horta though, and midway through the second half the two local centre backs combined to level the scores, Weligton crossing in for Albentosa to steer a shot past the visiting keeper.

Sevilla stay fifth despite a 2-2 draw at Rayo Vallecano in this Sunday’s mid-day game, the Andalusians having now gone some nine months since they last won away from home in the league. Emery’s side appeared to be on track for the three points when N’Zonzi and then Iborra scrambled goals past Juan Carlos in the first twenty minutes, but a couple of aggressive substitutions by Paco Jémez led to Manucho getting one back on the stroke of half time. Iborra had hit the post before that though, and after the restart Krohn-Dehli and Rami went close. However with just over an hour gone Miku got on the end of Bebé’s cross to save a much needed point for the locals.

Athletic Bilbao are still three points off the European spots though after they lost 0-1 to local rivals Real Sociedad in this weekend’s big derby game. Aduríz had an early strike ruled out for a borderline offside, but a few minutes later Jonathas fired the visitors in front after controlling a long centre from Carlos Vela. The striker should have added a second when he shot straight at the keeper before the break, and after the restart visiting keeper Rulli and his defence kept out efforts from Raúl García, Aduríz and Muniain to give Eusebio’s team a fourth win in a row.

Valencia are up to eleventh after they won 1-2 at Granada, a result which cost the job of coach Sandoval, who was sacked later on after the Andalusians ended the weekend at the foot of the table. Rochina and Peñaranda went close for the locals early on, but Andrés had to be at his best to keep out Paco Alcácer and André Gomes before the break. Some ten minutes in to the second half Dani Parejo gave the Ches the lead after Alcácer played across a Gomes cross, but after that the hosts should have equalized, Barral hitting the bar from three yards out and El-Arabi wasting a couple of easy chances. However with the game already in injury time Santi Mina made it two after Andrés pushed out a shot from Alcácer, and a headed goal by Edgar came too late to prevent a fourth defeat in a row. (21.02.16)

Barcelona kicked off the Saturday games with a 1-2 victory over Las Palmas which takes them nine points clear at the top of the table pending Sunday’s matches. Luis Suárez got the opener early on after Iniesta and Jordi Alba set him up, but just four minutes later Willian José equalized after Jonathan Viera flicked a pass from Tana in to his path. The Canary Islanders held their own after that, Viera and Aythami testing Claudio Bravo and Javi Varas keeping out Messi and Iniesta. However with six minutes to go to the interval Neymar restored the lead after Varas could only block a shot from Messi, and the local keeper had to be at his best to save from Suárez after the restart. The result was in doubt though after that, Araujo in particular missing a couple of good chances later on in the second half.

The four teams below Barça all play on Sunday, but Celta climb above Eibar to sixth after a 3-2 win over the Basque side later in the evening. Guidetti put the Galicians ahead on the half hour mark after Iago Aspas intercepted a poor clearance by Dos Santos, and Bongonda brought a good save out of Riesgo before Jonny picked up a pass from Wass to make it two. Midway through the second half Riesgo did well to tip a shot from Guidetti over the bar, and two minutes later the Swedish striker got his second of the evening after Hugo Mallo played a Wass centre back across the area. Nolito came on for his first appearance after a long injury lay-off, and he put Aspas through to test Riesgo again. However with ten minutes to go Saúl Berjón got one back from the penalty spot after Jota’s shot hit Sergi Gómez on the arm, and five minutes later Inui fired home a second to set up a nervous last few minutes for the home fans.

Lower down the table Espanyol moved four points clear of the drop zone after they beat Deportivo 1-0, the result taking some of the pressure off coach Constantin Galca. Neither side had won a single game in 2016, and there were few chances in a tense first half, Lux saving from Marco Asensio and Caicedo, and Luis Alberto going close a couple of times at the other end. Asensio fired a shot wide though soon after the restart, and a couple of minutes later he got what was to prove the only goal after Burgui headed back a cross from Javi López. Later in the second half Oriel Riera headed a corner just wide of the mark, but Asensio in particular missed two or three opportunities after that to extend the lead.

Betis and Sporting Gijón edged away from the relegation spots as well after they drew 1-1 in the Benito Villamarín stadium. The locals had the better of the first half, Musonda crossing in for Rubén Castro to head just wide, and then bringing a good save out of Cuéllar. After the interval Van Wolfswinked had a strike ruled out for offside, but some twenty minutes in to the second half Carlos Castro put the visitors in front after running on to a through ball from Halilovic to beat Adán. Two minutes later however Pezzella fired home the equalizer from a wide Vargas free kick, and Cuéllar and his defence had to be at their best to prevent Rubén Castro and Musonda from finding the winner later on. The result keeps the Andalusians three points above their opponents in the rankings. (20.02.16)

Levante moved off the bottom of the table pending Granada’s game on Sunday after they beat Getafe 3-0 on Friday evening. The Valencia based side got off to a good start, Guaita having to save from Verza and Deyverson before Morales threaded his way through to open the scoring in the tenth minute. Alvaro did test Diego Mariño at the other end, but with the first half coming to a close Rossi made it two from the penalty spot after Vergini hacked down Morales in the area. After the break Mariño had to keep out Alvaro, Yoda and Wanderson, and Alvaro saw his shot deflected on to the post. However with ten minutes to go new signing Verdú picked up a pass from Morales and battled past Damián Suárez to poke a shot inside Guaita’s near post, handing the visitors their fifth defeat in a row. (19.02.16)