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Match round-up - First Division, Day 32

Las Palmas came from behind to beat Deportivo 1-3 on Monday evening, the victory taking the Canary Islanders above their hosts to tenth spot. Both teams had chances in the first half, Fede Cartabia testing Javi Varas and Lucas Pérez lifting a shot over the bar for the locals, and Manu Fernández saving from Nili and Jonathan Viera shooting wide for the visitors. Just two minutes in to the second half Lucas Pérez opened the scoring for the Galicians after picking up a long clearance from Fernando Navarro, but a few minutes later Araujo levelled the scores after Momo put him through. Luis Alberto missed a sitter at the other end, but with ten minutes to go David García gave the visitors the lead after Aythami laid back an El-Zhar cross, and with the game in the third minute of injury time Araujo wrapped things up on a quick counter-attack, giving Quique Setien’s side their sixth win in seven matches. (11.04.16)

Villarreal are steadily closing in on the last Champions League spot, a 2-0 victory over Getafe on Sunday evening keeping them eight points ahead of their closest rivals. Denis Suárez started things off on the quarter hour mark, the midfielder picking up a pass from Adrián López and dummying past Alvaro Pereira before shooting wide of Guaita. However after that the visitors had the better chances, Medrán and Sarabia testing Sergio Asenjo, and Goitom and Sarabia going close. Samu Castillejo and Mario just failed to find the target either side of half time, but after the interval Bruno almost scored in his own net trying to clear a dangerous cross. With six minutes to go however Bakambu made sure of the victory with his side’s second after Mario headed across a corner, the defeat leaving Fran Escribá’s team further down in the drop zone having only taken two points from their last thirteen games.

The three Europa League places will almost certainly go to Celta, Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla, especially as Sevilla also have a second bite at the cherry as one of this year’s cup finalists (and also a third chance via the Europa League). The Andalusians are down to seventh however after they lost 2-1 at Valencia, a first win for new coach Pako Ayestarán who took over from Gary Neville recenty. Unai Emery rested several key players after Thursday night’s Euopean tie, and his team were over-run in the first half, Sergio Rico having to save from Paco Alcácer and Dani Parejo, and Santi Mina going close a couple of times. With five minutes to go to the break Parejo opened the scoring with a free kick which took a slight deflection off the head of Muñoz, and Mina and Parejo could both have added to the lead before the half time whistle. Emery was forced to bring on his first choice players after that, and they started to get back in the game, Llorente feeling himself unlucky to have two good penalty appeals turned down when he was held back by Mustafi. With four minutes to go Gameiro latched on to a Krohn-Dehli through ball to level the scores, but with the match in injury time Negredo poked home the winner after a long Parejo free kick fell to him in front of goal.

Celta stay in fifth spot after they beat Sporting Gijón 0-1 in this Sunday’s mid-day game, the result leaving the Asturians down in the bottom three for another week at least. The Galicians had the better of the first half, Nolito and Aspas bringing good saves out of Cuéllar, and Orellana seeing his shot deflected for a corner. Rubén Blanco had problems with a Jony cross through and Sanabria headed a good chance over the top in reply shortly before the interval. But some twenty minutes in to the second half Nolito picked up the ball on the left of the area and cut across to fire a shot inside Cuéllar’s near post, and Radoja could have added to the lead when he shot wide later on.

Athletic Bilbao are still a point behind Celta after they won 1-0 against Rayo Vallecano in the last match on Sunday.night. The Basque side had the better chances early on, Juan Carlos having to save from Muniain and Crespo lucky to be let off a penalty appeal for hand ball. Miku and Javi Guerra both tested Iraizoz before the interval, but on the hour mark Williams picked up a pass from Raúl García and made himself space to curl a shot past the visiting keeper. Athletic tired after that though following their Thursday night Europa League tie against Sevilla ,and Rayo had several opportunities to save a point in the later stages of the match, Iraizoz saving from Javi Guerra, Miku heading against the bar, and Guerra firing a shot just wide of the post near the end. All of that leaves Levante, Getafe and Sporting in the relegation spots, with Granada and Rayo just outside of the bottom three. Barring a major disaster, all of the rest are more or less safe for another season. (10.04.16)

The title race was thrown wide open on Saturday after leaders Barcelona lost and the two Madrid sides both won! Barcelona were beaten 1-0 by Real Sociedad at their bogey ground, the Anoeta stadium, where the Catalans’ last victory dates back to 2007. With only five minutes gone Oyarzabal steered a long header past ex Real keeper Claudio Bravo from Xabi Prieto’s cross, and soon afterwards Vela hit the post, albeit that the referee had already blown for offside. For the rest of the match though Eusebio ordered his team back to defend, and a tired Barça, missing the suspended Luis Suárez, found the wet conditions hard going. Munir and Arda Turan did bring good saves out of Rulli before the break, but Luis Enrique eventually had to call on players he had been resting for the upcoming Champions League match, Iniesta, Rakitic and Jordi Alba all coming on. Rulli though was at his best, tipping a long shot from Iniesta round the post, and keeping out Neymar and Messi, and in the end the visitors went away empty handed, having only picked up one point from their last three matches.

Atlético Madrid are now just three points behind the leaders after they came from behind to beat Espanyol 1-3 earlier in the evening. Carrasco went close a couple of times and Fernando Torres hit the post as the visitors dominated the opening minutes, but Moreno and Rubén Duarte tested Oblak at the other end, and with half an hour on the clock Diop got above the defence to head Asensio’s corner past the visiting keeper. Fernando Torres levelled it however after chesting on Koke’s lofted pass before turning a shot past Pau López, and soon after the restart Griezmann made it two following another Koke assist. Torres volleyed a shot wide and Pau López saved well from Koke, but Gerard Moreno could have equalized had Oblak not been on his toes soon afterwards. With two minutes to go however Koke wrapped things up with a header from a fierce Torres cross to keep up the pressure on Luis Enrique’s side, who visit the Calderón stadium in the Champions League next Wednesday.

Real Madrid meanwhile remain a point below Atlético after they won 4-0 against Eibar in the first match on Saturday. Zidane rested several key players for Tuesday night’s Champions League game against Wolfsburg, but even so they went four up before the break, James starting things off with a well struck free kick in the fifth minute. Cristiano Ronaldo set up Lucas Vázquez for the second a few minutes later, and then got on the end of a Jesé assist to score the third himself a minute or so after that. And with five minutes to go to the break Jesé made it four, turning the ball in on the far post after Vázquez stepped over Ronaldo’s cross. Kiko Casilla had to save from Pantic and Sergi Enrich either side of half time, and Borja Bastón headed against the bar later on as Madrid eased off the gas, but Ronaldo could also have increased the lead a couple of times in the second half. A sixth league win in a row though for Madrid, and they will be hoping for a similar result against The German side in three days’ time.

Later in the evening Betis virtually ensured their place in the top flight for another season with a 1-0 victory over Levante. Once again though it was thanks to Rubén Castro that the Andalusians came away with the three points, the striker flinging himself at Cejudo’s cross to head the only goal with ten minutes to go. Otherwise however the visitors were the better team, Verdú firing an easy chance wide early on, and Rossi hitting the side netting when through on goal. Adán had to save a Medjani header and Verdú curled a free kick just over the bar before the break, and after the interval Rossi and Jefferson Lerma went close. Visiting keeper Diego Mariño barely had a save to make all night, but in the end Castro struck to leave Rubi’s side firmly anchored to the bottom of the table. (09.04.16)

Regional neighbours Granada and Málaga drew 0-0 in this week’s Friday night game, a result which left the hosts two points above the drop zone and their opponents seven below the European spots with the rest of the weekend’s fixtures still to play. The early chances fell to the visitors, Andrés having to save from headers by Camacho and Cop with less than three minutes gone. El-Arabi and Isaac Success failed to find the target at the other end before the break, and after the restart Success felt he should have had a penalty when he was tripped by Ricca, the referee awarding a free kick on the edge of the area. Atsu and Chory Castro tried their luck after that, but the best opportunity of the match fell to Success, Ochoa holding his ground and pushing the ball away for a corner when the young winger tired to go round him with a quarter of an hour to go. (08.04.16)