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Match round-up - First Division, Day 34

Thursday’s games largely involved teams in the lower reaches of the table, Granada thrashing relegation rivals Levante 5-1 to stay a point above the bottom three. The Andalusians had the better chances before Isaac Success ran on to a long Rubén Pérez through ball to open the scoring midway through the first half. Deyverson fired a shot over the top in reply, but El-Arabi made it two from the penalty spot after the ball hit Verza on the arm, and Rochina got a third after Success set him up shortly before the break. After the restart Andrés had to save from Cuero, Verdú and Deyverson, and with eight minutes to go Rubén García got one back with a shot from outside of the area. However any hope of a comeback ended when El-Arabi converted a second spot kick after Peñaranda’s cross hit Orbán on the hand, and the Moroccan striker completed his hat-trick soon afterwards. The visitors ended with ten men after Simao picked up a second booking in injury time, and after results elsewhere went against them, they end the mid-week round of games back at the bottom of the rankings.

Getafe climb off the foot of the table however after they beat Real Sociedad 1-2, ending a run of thirteen matches without a victory for the Madrid based side. Carlos Vela put the Basques ahead early on after Guaita could only push out Oyarzabal’s cross, but Emi Buendía volleyed a good chance over the top, and with the first half coming to a close Sarabia got on the end of an Alvaro Vázquez centre to equalize. Some ten minutes in to the second half Alvaro made it two from the penalty spot after he was brought down by Oier, and although Guaita had to save from Granero, Medrán and Sarabia could have increased the lead later on. It was a first win for new coach Juan Eduardo Esnáider, who took over from Fran Escribá some ten days ago, and he has given them new hope that they could yet save themselves. (21.04.16)

One point still separates the top three after they all won their respective games on Wednesday. Leaders Barcelona were first up, and they proved there is still some life left in them with a massive 0-8 victory at Deportivo. After three defeats in a row Luis Enrique’s side appeared to be on the wane, but Luis Suárez scored twice in the first half hour, the opener from a Rakitic corner and the second after Iniesta and Messi combined to put him through. Depor had no reply, and after the interval the rout continued, Suárez setting up Rakitic for the third and then adding two more himself following assists from Messi and Neymar. Messi himself scored the sixth, again from a Suárez pass, and Marc Bartra took advantage of a rare start to run through a devastated defence to add the seventh. That just left Neymar, and he too got on the scoresheet late on. The provider? Suárez of course!

Atlético Madrid stay level with Barça though after they beat Athletic Bilbao 0-1 later in the evening. The Basque side needed points in their push for the fourth Champions League spot, and Muniain and Raúl García tested Oblak early on. There was a blow for Simeone when Godín limped off with only twelve minutes gone, but with half time approaching Fernando Torres got on the end of Griezmann’s centre to steer a header past Iraizoz. After the restart Beñat brought another good save out of Oblak, but Atleti could have added to the scoreline after that, Iraizoz having to keep out Griezmann and Carrasco, and Carrasco firing a shot over the top in injury time.

Real Madrid remain a point behind the two leaders after they won 3-0 against fourth placed Villarreal in the last match of the day, an eighth league victory in a row for Zidane’s side. Neither side created too many chances in the opening minutes, but with four minutes to go to the break Benzema headed the opener in to an empty net after Sergio Asenjo could only push out an angled shot from Cristiano Ronaldo. Navas had to save from Denis Suárez before the half time whistle, but Modric fired a shot just wide, and midway through the second half Lucas Vázquez ran on to a return pass from Benzema to make it two. Modric wrapped things soon afterwards from Danilo’s centre, and the only negative news for the coach was a late injury to Ronaldo whilst trying an acrobatic overhead kick, the locals consequently having to play out the last couple of minutes with ten men.

Drama down at the bottom of the table too, with last minute goals in two matches which completely changed the outlook. Sporting Gijón move out of the bottom three after a 2-1 win against Sevilla, Isma López deflecting in a Rachid shot in injury time (from a possibly offside position) to give the Asturians the three points. Emery’s side have yet to win away from home in the league this season, but they went ahead early on, Iborra volleying a shot past Cuéllar after Llorente’s cross came across to him. Midway through the first half however Krychowiak turned Jony’s shot in to his own net trying to clear, and although Cuéllar had to save from Konoplyanka before the break, Sanabria came close to giving the locals the lead when he lobbed a shot over after the restart. Coke and Llorente tested the local keeper again, and Dani Ndi shot wide at the other end, but with the game seemingly heading for a draw López got that oh so vital winner.

Rayo Vallecano meanwhile were held to a last minute 1-1 draw at Málaga, a result which drags Paco Jémez’s side back in to the relegation battle. Juan Carlos had to save a couple of times from Chory Castro in the first three minutes, but later in the first half Quini fired a shot against the upright, and Embarba also went close. After the interval Miku hit the bar, Javi Guerra heading the rebound wide, and with just over an hour gone the visitors took the lead, Embarba’s shot hitting Raúl Baena on the foot and looping up over Ochoa. Charles had hit the side-netting shortly before that though, and with the game in time added on Ricca levelled the scores after Horta and then Santa Cruz headed on a long Juanpi free kick.

Sevilla’s defeat leaves them five points adrift of the top six, and their seventh place is now under threat from Valencia, who move to within six points of them after a 4-0 win over Eibar. Paco Alcácer helped himself to a first half hat-trick, the first coming in the tenth minute after he was brought down in the area by Dani García, the striker knocking in the rebound after Riesgo had saved his penalty kick. A quarter of an hour later Alcácer made it two after Cancelo laid the ball back, and with half time approaching he headed in the third from Rodrigo’s cross. After the break André Gomes hit the bar, and some ten minutes in to the second half Rodrigo and Cancelo combined again for the full back to score his side’s fourth. Escalante did go close for the visitors after that, but Dani Parejo could have added a fifth had Riesgo not kept him out late on. (20.04.16)

A mid-week round of games this week, sixth placed Celta kicking things off with a 1-1 draw at Espanyol which took them level with Athletic. Iago Aspas gave the Galicians the lead midway through the first half with an acrobatic touch past Pau López from an Orellana cross. However Pape Diop, Abraham and Hernán Pérez all failed to covert chances in the next few minutes, and with six minutes to go to the break Marco Asensio equalized after Sergi Gómez could only head a Javi López centre out to him. The Catalans had the better of the play after the restart, but in the end they had to make do with a point which keeps them eight points above the drop zone pending the remaining matches.

Betis are home and dry this season though after they beat Las Palmas 1-0 later in the evening, the result taking them just above their opponents to a safe 41 points. Rubén Castro felt himself unlucky to have an early strike ruled out for a questionable offside decision, and the Canary Islanders were left with ten men when Aythami was given a second booking for a foul on Castro shortly before half time. After the interval the Andalusians went for broke, Lizoain having to save from Bruno, and Dani Ceballos and Castro going close, and with six minutes left on the clock Van Wolfswinkel picked up a Ceballos pass to score what was to prove the only goal of the game. (19.04.16)