Monday night’s relegation battle between Levante and Sporting Gijón ended without goals, leaving the hosts still down at the bottom of the table, and their opponents three points above them in eighteenth place. The rainy conditions left the pitch in poor condition, and chances were few and far between, the best before the break a header wide of the mark from Deyverson and a shot against the post by Pablo Pérez. After the interval the locals were on top, Rossi and Morales going close and Casadesús volleying a shot against the crossbar, but the Asturians held on for a point which takes them above Getafe on goal difference. It was all too much for the Levante players though, and Feddal was given a red card after the final whistle for arguing with the referee. (04.04.16)
Villarreal are looking good for the fourth Champions League spot, a 1-2 victory over Eibar on Sunday evening taking them eight points clear of their nearest rivals. The locals still needed a couple of points or so to ensure they stay up, and Borja Bastón went close before Capa gave them the lead, the full back drilling a shot back past Areola after the keeper pushed Jota’s cross away from Bastón. With ten minutes to go to the break however Adrián López equalized after Riesgo could only deflect Soldado’s angled shot in to his path, and soon after the restart Soldado made it two from close to goal after a Denis Suárez centre came to him off Dani García, the rebound effectively playing him onside. Adrián could have wrapped things up later on when he shot straight at the keeper when free on goal, but Marcelino’s team had already done enough for a victory which takes them a step closer to a return to Europe’s top competition.
The three teams below Villarreal all failed to win this weekend, Athletic Bilbao remaining a point behind fifth placed Celta after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Granada in this weekend’s mid-day game. Lekue (who had replaced the injured Sabin in the opening minutes) put the locals in front with just under half an hour gone after Aduríz headed on a long Iraizoz clearance, and Aduríz himself curled a shot against the crossbar minutes later. With the first half coming to a close the veteran striker had an opportunity to increase the lead after he was fouled in the area by Lombán, but he fired his spot kick against the upright. And in the end that proved costly, Peñaranda levelling the scores later on after El-Arabi played on a Robert Ibáñez centre, virtually the visitors’ first shot at goal. Williams did hit the post again near the end, but it was a valuable result for the Andalusians, who are now a point clear of the bottom three pending Monday’s match between Levante and Sporting.
Athletic go above Sevilla however after the Andalusians lost 1-2 at home to Real Sociedad in the last game of the day. Unai Emery’s side had won their last thirteen league games in the Pizjuán stadium, but they found themselves behind in only the second minute when Markel Bergara headed in an Illarramendi free kick. And although Gameiro brought a good save out of Rulli at the other end, the Basques went further in front when Krychowiak headed another Illarramendi free kick past his own stranded keeper. A few minutes after the interval Gameiro got one back from the penalty spot after Bergara pulled down Krychowiak in the area, and midway through the second half the central midfielder got himself sent off after picking up a second yellow card for a foul on Banega. Emery urged his men forward, but although Gameiro and Banega went close, the visitors shut up shop for three points which takes them safely up to tenth.
Málaga and Espanyol are also edging towards another season in the top flight after they drew 1-1 in the Rosaleda stadium. Diop headed the Catalans into an early lead from a Marco Asensio corner, but Duje Cop made it all square from the penalty spot after Juanpi fell rather easily under a challenge from Víctor Sánchez on the stroke of half time. After the restart the locals had the better chances, Chory Castro curling a shot just wide, and Recio and Charles coming up against Pau López, although Hernán Pérez could have won it for the visitors when he volleyed a shot over the top later on. The result takes Málaga on to forty points, usually good enough to steer clear of any relegation problems, with their opponents still four points below them in the table. (03.04.16)
It’s not over just yet! Barcelona’s lead at the top of the table has been cut back to six points after they were beaten 1-2 by Real Madrid in the latest “clásico”! A capacity crowd including all the club’s former presidents and many political dignitaries paid tribute to the recently departed Johan Cruyff before kick off with a giant mosaic, and there was a standing ovation in minute 14, Cruyff’s old shirt number. However the visitors had apparently not read the script, and they overturned an opening goal to come away with a win which restored their dignity after a difficult season. Luis Suárez missed a good chance in the opening minutes (albeit that he should have been pulled up for offside), and soon afterwards Messi fired a free kick over the top, and Rakitic brought a good save out of Keylor Navas. The visitors responded with a Ronaldo free kick and a Benzema volley which both missed the target, but after the restart Navas had to be at his best to keep out a chip from Messi, and a couple of minutes later Piqué got in front of Pepe to head a Rakitic corner down past the keeper for the opener. However six minutes after that Benzema levelled the scores with an acrobatic volley after a centre from Kroos deflected up off Jordi Alba, and with ten minutes to go Bale felt himself unlucky to have a headed goal ruled out for what the referee ruled was a foul on Alba. Madrid were now on top though, Cristiano Ronaldo brushing the crossbar with an angled shot, and although Sergio Ramos got himself sent off for a second bookable offence, Ronaldo controlled a Bale cross to fire home the winner.
The result brought to an end Barça’s run of 39 games without defeat, and left Zidane’s side seven points below them in the table, still just one behind Atlético Madrid, who convincingly beat Betis 5-1 earlier in the evening. Fernando Torres and Griezmann put the locals two up by half time, the first after running on to Koke’s through ball, and the second with a soft chip into the area which Adán somehow let under his legs. The visiting keeper made up for it in part with good saves from Torres and Griezmann before the break and Griezmann after, and Oblak had to be on his toes to keep out Westermann at the other end soon after the restart. A few minutes later though Juanfran collected a square pass from Correa to make it three, and Thomas could have added to the lead when he shot against the post with the keeper beaten. Rubén Castro did get one back for the Andalusians after Oblak uncharacteristically dropped a Damiao centre at his feet, but Correa set up Griezmann for the fourth, and with the game coming to an end the French striker crossed in for Thomas to complete the scoring. Atlético visit Barcelona next Tuesday in the Champions League quarter finals, and although youngsters Nacho and Lucas did well in defence in the absence of their senior colleagues, Simeone will be hoping to have the likes of Godín and Savic fit in time for that match.
Celta are up to fifth pending Sevilla’s game on Sunday after they drew 1-1 with regional rivals Deportivo, although they will feel they could have done better after their opponents played the last quarter of the game with ten men. The heavy rain made play difficult throughout, although the visitors got the better start, Sidnei going close before Borges collected a Luis Alberto cross to put them ahead. Luis Alberto felt he should have had a penalty soon afterwards, but Orellana volleyed a shot against the top of the bar before passing through for Nolito to level the scores on the half hour mark. Depor keeper Lux injured himself in the play and had to be replaced a couple of minutes or so later, and midway through the second half Arribas got himself sent off after picking up a second booking for a foul on Nolito. The Spanish international forward fired the resulting free kick over the bar though, and the Coruña based side held on in the downpour for their sixteenth draw of the season.
Further down the table Las Palmas came back from a goal down to beat Valencia 2-1, a result which took them two points above their opponents in the rankings. Pako Ayestarán was in charge of the Ches for the first time after Gary Neville was sacked midweek, and things seemed to be going his way when Rodrigo scored in only the second minute following a terrible mistake by Javi Varas. A few minutes later Lemos cleared off the line from Rodrigo with the keeper beaten, and Paco Alcácer was pulled up for a dubious offside when free on goal. However some five minutes in to the second half Jonathan Viera levelled it from the penalty spot after Javi Fuego pulled back Tana in the area, and a quarter of an hour later the Canary Islanders took the lead when Aderlan’s attempted clearance hit Mustafi and bounced back in to the net. After that Diego Alves had to make important saves from Willian José and Araujo to prevent the result from getting any worse, but it was a fifth defeat in six matches for the visitors, and with a difficult fixture list from now to the end of the season, there is now a serious possibility that Valencia could actually go down. (02.04.16)
A big win for Rayo Vallecano in this week’s Friday night game, a 2-0 victory over Getafe taking them three points clear of their local rivals in the table. Javi Guerra had a strike ruled out for a questionable offside decision before opening the scoring on the quarter hour mark, turning the ball past Guaita after the keeper had blocked a Raúl Baena header and a shot from Miku following a corner. Before that Sarabia had brought a good save out of Juan Carlos, but the visitors hardly got close to the local goal until later on, when Medrán and Emi fired shots wide. Miku and Quini went close for the locals either side of half time, and Llorente felt he should have had a penalty before Miku got on the end of a Pablo Hernández cross to make it two. With the game coming to a close Juan Rodríguez headed a good chance straight at the keeper and Amaya was lucky to be let off a hand ball appeal, but once again Fran Escribá’s side were unable to find the route to goal. They have only picked up two points and scored twice in their last twelve games, and the defeat leaves them further down in the relegation zone pending the rest of the weekend games. (01.04.16)