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Match round-up - First Division, Day 28

Espanyol moved five points clear of the drop zone after beating Rayo Vallecano 2-1 on Monday evening. Abraham opened the scoring early on, and only a good tackle by Tito and a save by Yoel prevented Burgui and Víctor Sánchez from adding to the lead before the break. After the restart Burgui wasted a couple of chances, and Quini cleared a lob from Marco Asensio off the line with the keeper beaten. With twenty minutes to go though Bebé picked up the ball on the left of the area to cut in and beat Pau López, and soon afterwards he fired a long shot just over the crossbar. However Hernán Pérez volleyed the locals back in front after Enzo Roco’s centre was headed clear, and the Catalans held on despite having Víctor Sánchez sent off for a second bookable offence with two minutes left on the clock. The defeat leaves Rayo just outside of the bottom three, above Granada on goal difference. (07.03.16)

Barcelona maintain their eight point lead at the top of the table after a 0-4 victory at Eibar on Sunday afternoon, a result which extends their unbeaten run to 36 games. Munir took advantage of a rare start to open the scoring after Messi and Luis Suárez combined to set him up early on, and Suárez could have scored a second had the young forward not steered his pass wide in front of goal. For a while the locals fought back, Escalante shooting just past the post and Busquets almost putting through his own net, but with four minutes to go to the break Messi produced another “house special” after Capa gave the ball away to Munir, running on from midfield to fire an angled shot across Riesgo. That took the wind out of Eibar’s sails, and Messi shot wide before converting a penalty after Ramis slipped and blocked his pass with his arm. Luis Suárez rounded things off near the end with his side’s fourth, nut-megging Capa and holding off a couple of tackles to thread a shot past the keeper and in to the net, taking the total goals scored this season by the “MSN” front three to one hundred. Can anyone stop them from a historic second treble in a row?

Atlético Madrid consolidated second spot after they beat Valencia 1-3 later in the evening, and they stay four points clear of city rivals Real Madrid in the table. Oblak had to be on his toes to keep out a long volley from Cheryshev early on, but midway through the first half the visitors went ahead after Javi Fuego lost the ball to Vietto, Koke passing the ball on for Griezmann to fire a low shot past Diego Alves. Four minutes later however Cheryshev equalized after Paco Alcácer headed down Siqueira’s cross, and the Russian midfielder just failed to find the target after Alcácer put him through again before the interval. With twenty minutes to go though Alves produced the save of the weekend from a volley by Vietto, and from the resulting corner Giménez headed on Koke’s kick for an unmarked Fernando Torres to stab the ball in on the far post. Shortly before that Simeone brought on Carrasco, who was returning after a short injury lay-off, and with five minutes to go he picked up a pass from Griezmann and cut past Mustafi to drill in a low shot which Alves let through his hands. Valencia ended with ten men after Aderllan Santos picked up a second booking, and the Ches ended the weekend ten points off the European places.

Athletic Bilbao are the current incumbents of that sixth spot after a 0-2 victory at Sporting Gijón, the result taking them above Celta in the table. The Basque side have been in good form recently, and Raúl García brought a good save out of Cuéllar before Beñat beat the keeper with a wide free kick some twenty-five minutes in to the first half. Soon afterwards Sanabria broke free only to steer his shot wide, but before the interval Aduríz fired a shot on the turn just wide of the post, and with an hour on the clock he passed through for De Marcos to make it two with an angled shot. A few minutes later the local keeper could only push a shot from Sabin into the path of Aduríz, who uncharacteristically shot wide, and although Laporte was sent off for a second bookable offence, Eraso could also have added to the scoreline late on. Sporting have not won now in seven games, and they end the weekend still in next to bottom spot.

The Asturians are now three points above bottom club Levante, who drew 1-1 at Real Sociedad to keep their slim hopes of survival alive. The Basque side took the lead early on after Yuri played a corner back into the box, Diego Reyes turning past his marker to fire a shot under Diego Mariño. However ten minutes later Deyverson made it all square, the striker looping a header back over Rulli after Reyes headed clear a corner. Carlos Vela missed the easiest of chances before the break, and Toño replied after the restart with a shot which Rulli pushed away for a corner. From then on though the locals took control as the rain continued to fall, but Vela, Oyarzabal and Bruma all failed to find the target later on.

Granada are also still in the bottom three after they lost 2-0 at Betis in this Sunday’s mid-day game. The visitors came into the match full of confidence after two wins in a row under new coach José González, but they hardly troubled Adán in a dull first half, the only chances a couple of efforts from Musonda and Jorge Molina which Andrés kept out. Soon after the interval though Vargas was sent off after picking up a second yellow card for a hard tackle on Rochina, and Adán had to be at his best to save a header from Barral, and then an effort from Rochina. With five minutes to go however N’Diaye headed the opener from Joaquín’s corner, and Joaquín himself almost made it two with a chip just wide of the post. And with the game in injury time Andrés was sent off for handling the ball outside of the area, and with outfielder Biraghi in goal, Rubén Castro curled the resulting free kick past him and in to the net. Juan Merino’s team have now gone six games without defeat, and they end the weekend eight points clear of their regional neighbours. (06.03.16)

Third placed Real Madrid closed to within a point of Atlético pending their game on Sunday after Zidane’s side thrashed sixth placed Celta 7-1 on Saturday afternoon. It took them a bit to get going though, and they could have gone behind early on when Iago Aspas headed against the bar and then fired the rebound at Keylor Navas. Young keeper Rubén Blanco had to save from Ronaldo, Isco and Casemiro though, and with four minutes to go to the break Pepe got on the end of Isco’s corner to head in the opener. That opened the floodgates, and soon after the restart Ronaldo added two more, the first with a shot over the keeper from outside of the area, and the second with a free kick into the roof of the net. Aspas got one back on a quick breakaway, but Ronaldo combined with Lucas Vázquez and Isco to complete a hat-trick, and soon afterwards he headed his fourth of the match from Jesé’s corner, a goal which takes him past the mythical Zarra as Spain’s second best goal-scorer of all time (behind Messi, of course). Jesé himself made it six after winning the ball off Radoja in midfield, and Bale signalled his return to the side after an injury lay-off to run on from his own half to round things off. A great result, but points dropped in recent matches mean that they are still nine points behind leaders Barcelona.

Madrid are however seven points clear of fourth placed Villarreal, who surprisingly lost 0-1 at home to Las Palmas later in the evening. Marcelino’s side were unbeaten in fourteen games, and Adrián López and Soldado both failed to covert chances early on. With half an hout gone though David García looped a header past Areola after Jonathan Viera crossed in from Montoro’s short corner, the defender’s first league goal in over 400 games. Soldado, Leo Baptistao and in particular Bakambu failed to find the target in the second half, and with the game coming to close Javi Varas made the save of the day from Denis Suárez. But the Canary Islanders held on for their third victory in a row which takes them four points clear of the drop zone pending the rest of the weekend fixtures. .

Sevilla meanwhile stay fifth after they drew 1-1 at Getafe. The Andalusians have yet to win away from home this season in the league, but Vitolo, Gameiro and Rami all had efforts saved by Guaita before the break. Víctor Rodríguez got the ball in the net at the other end only for the strike to be ruled out for offside, and Medrán, Sarabia and Buendía all went close either side of half time. With ten minutes to go a well struck Banega free kick which Guaita could only push into the net looked like giving Emery’s team the three points, but with four minutes to go Velázquez turned a shot past Sergio Rico after Sarabia’s corner fell to him to level the scores. That was Getafe’s first goal after 642 minutes of football, and it gave them their first point in eight matches.

Deportivo’s poor recent run is even worse though, and they have now gone twelve games without a victory after a high scoring 3-3 draw against Málaga. Charles headed the visitors into the lead somewhat against the run of play on the half hour mark, but Lucas Pérez should have equalized soon afterwards, Kameni keeping out his first shot, and Weligton blocking his follow up on the line, The visiting keeper injured himself in the action and had to be replaced by Ochoa, and soon afterwards Borges made it all square after Fede Cartabia set him up. Camacho headed the visitors back into the lead though from another corner with just over an hour gone, but Cartabia ran in from midfield to level it once again, and Pérez made up for his earlier mistake, turning Fajr’s centre past Ochoa with ten minutes to go. However with a minute left on the clock Arribas headed Recio’s free kick into his own net, and the visitors held on for a point despite having Camacho sent off for a second bookable offence with the game already in injury time. (05.03.16)