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Match round-up - First Division, Day 35

Celta moved to within four points of Villarreal after beating Granada 2-1 in the Monday night game. Iago Aspas put the Galicians in front from the penalty spot after a clumsy kick by Biraghi on Guidetti on the quarter hour mark, However Babín headed a Rochina free kick against the bar later in the first half, and Rubén Blanco had to be at his best to keep out Peñaranda after the interval. With twenty minutes to go El-Arabi touched a Fran Rico shot on past the keeper to square the match, but soon afterwards Aspas combined with Orellana and Nolito to restore the lead. The defeat leaves the Andalusians just a point above the drop zone with three matches to go, and with Sevilla and Barcelona to come, they really need to beat Las Palmas next weekend to have any real chance of survival. (25.04.16)

Villarreal are making hard work of tying up the last Champions League spot, and they still have a bit to go after they could only draw 0-0 against Real Sociedad in the last match on Sunday. The first chance fell to the visitors, Aritz Elustondo heading a corner just wide, but Rulli had to be at his best to save from Soldado at the other end, and Bruno beat the keeper only to see his free kick come back off the crossbar. After the interval though the Basque side started well, Bergara firing a shot in to the side netting and Carlos Vela breaking free only to see Asenjo save his attempted chip, and with the game coming to an end Bakambu replied with an angled shot which Rulli kept out.

Villarreal’s closest rivals Athletic Bilbao were also held to a 2-2 draw though at bottom club Levante in the mid-day kick off, maintaining the gap at six points, albeit that Celta could reduce that by two if they can beat Granada on Monday. The Basque side will be grateful for a point however after they went two down, Víctor Casadesús opening the scoring for the home side early on after chesting on a pass from Lerma before rounding Iraizoz to score. Bóveda and Raúl García went close for the visitors before the break, but midway through the second half Levante scored again, Etxeita turning a cross from Morales past his own keeper. Valverde threw everything forward, and Mariño had to save from Etxeita before Susaeta got one back with an angled shot. And with the game already in injury time San José got on the end of a Williams cross to score the equalizer, silencing the fans in the Ciutat de Valencia stadium.

It was a major set-back for Rubi’s men, although the defeats for Rayo and Sporting meant they didn’t lose ground on the teams above them, and their city neighbours Valencia also gave them a hand drawing 2-2 at Getafe later in the evening. After their midweek win at Real Sociedad, Juan Eduardo Esnáider’s side came in to the match with renewed hope. And they had the better of the first half, Pedro León rattling the crossbar with a long shot, and Alvaro Vázquez hitting the side netting with another shot. Pako Ayestrán made two changes at the break however, and within three minutes Dani Parejo had given then the lead with a well struck free kick. Soon afterwards though Pedro León missed a sitter, and two goals in ten minutes from Alvaro Medrán and Scepovic turned the scoreline around. But their joy was short-lived, and Paco Alcácer levelled it again after Negredo set him up late on. To make matters worse Parejo and Alcácer are both ex-Getafe players, and ironically it could be their goals which end their twelve year stay in the top flight.

Sevilla meanwhile moved eight points clear of the Ches in the fight for seventh spot after they beat Betis 2-0 in their local derby. Emery’s side were on top for most of the first half, Konoplyanka testing keeper Adán, and Banega, Mariano and Gameiro going close. After the restart Sergio Rico had to tip a long shot from Cejudo over the bar, and Westermann dragged a shot wide following a corner, but midway through the second half Gameiro got on the end of N’Zonzi’s floated cross to head the locals in front. And with ten minutes to go Coke fired in the second after Carriço laid the ball back to put the squeeze on Athletic and Celta. Sevilla are in fact almost sure of a Europa League place for next season, especially as they are in the cup final as well, but they will be looking to get past their rivals to ensure that they enter the competition at the later stages rather than having to play tricky qualifiers in pre-season. (24.04.16)

No slip-ups from any of the big three tonight, all of them winning to stay within a point of each other with three matches to go. Real Madrid were first up at Rayo Vallecano, and although they went two down in the first quarter of an hour, they fought back to win 2-3. Paco Jémez’s side needed points to get away from the danger zone, and they got off to the best possible start, Embarba putting them ahead from Bebé’s cross with only seven minutes gone. A few minutes later Miku poked home the second after Varane deflected a Trashorras corner to him, and only a couple of good saves from Keylor Navas prevented Embarba and Bebé from adding to the lead. With Ronaldo carrying a knock and rested, and Benzema also limping off close to half time, it was left to Bale to come to the rescue, and the Welsh wizzard (who had already hit the post in the opening minutes) headed one back from a Kroos corner on the half hour mark. Soon after the restart Lucas Vázquez levelled the scores with a well placed header from Danilo’s cross, and Bale intercepted a poor Embarba pass to run on and score the winner with ten minutes to go. Even so Rayo could have saved a point when Varane deflected a Miku shot over the bar in injury time, but it was not to be, and they end the day just three points above the drop zone.

That took Real Madrid top for two hours until Atlético Madrid beat Málaga 1-0 later in the evening. It was a dour match with very few chances throughout, although Griezmann should have opened the scoring when he turned Koke’s cross past the post early on. Cop brought a good save out of Oblak and Carrasco tested Ochoa shortly before half time, and Saúl fired a shot just wide soon after the restart. Simeone (who was sent to the stands at half time as someone from the home bench threw a ball on to the pitch to stop a Málaga attack) decided to bring on Correa, and within five minutes he had made the difference, cutting across the area to fire in a shot which took a slight deflection off Albentosa. The new man came close to increasing the lead a couple of times after that, but Juanpi could have saved a point for the visitors when he shot wide near the end. .

The wins for their two rivals put the pressure on Barcelona, who were hosting Sporting Gijón in the following match. In the end however they notched up a 6-0 victory to remain in top spot, with Luis Suárez scoring four for the second time in as many days to head up the top goalscorers chart. The Catalans almost went behind when Alex Menéndez got free on goal only to come up against Bravo, but a couple of minutes later Messi headed them into the lead after Cuéllar could only push out a high ball in to the area from Iniesta. The keeper did well to save from Messi a few minutes later, but the visitors also had their chances, and they felt unlucky not to have been given a penalty when Piqué stopped a Halilovic shot on the line with his upper arm on the stroke of half time. After the restart though it was one way traffic, and with just over an hour gone Luis Suárez got on the end of Iniesta’s cross to make it two. That deflated Abelardo’s team, and they gave away no less than three penalties in the next ten minutes, Luis Suárez converting the first two, and Neymar the third. And with two minutes to go Suárez wrote his name in the record books with his side’s fourth after Messi put him through, leaving the Asturians down in the bottom three for another week at least.

Later in the evening Eibar and Deportivo played out a 1-1 draw which left both safely in mid-table, albeit that Depor still need a point or two to be totally sure of staying up. Adrían González gave the locals the lead after a Hajrovic corner fell to him in the eighth minute, and Hajrovic came close to a second when he hit the far post with a wide free kick soon after the restart. Fayçal Fajr shot just wide in reply, and Fede Cartabia also curled an effort past the upright before he finally levelled the scores with an angled shot from right of the area. Borja Bastón tried his luck for the locals as well but in the end honours were shared, a record 18 th draw of the season for the Galicians. (23.04.16)

Games are coming thick and fast right now, the week 35 fixtures starting on Friday evening, just a day after week 34 closed. Las Palmas and Espanyol were first up, the Canary Islanders running out 4-0 winners to move up the table to a heady eighth. The visitors still needed points to move clear of the danger zone though, and they had the better chances in the first half, Burgui and Jordan bringing good saves out of Raúl Lizoain, Hernán Pérez and Marco Asensio shooting wide and Lemos making a timely tackle on Burgui as he advanced on goal. However with half time approaching El Zhar latched on to a Jonathan Viera pass to open the scoring, and just four minutes after the restart Viera made it two after Arlauskis could only push out a shot from Willian José. A few minutes later Bigas headed the third from a Viera cross, and with fifteen minutes to go Wakaso volleyed home a spectacular fourth after a corner came across to him. Hernán Pérez and Burgui did force late saves from Lizoain, but it was another disappointing defeat for Galca’s side. They have only picked up two points from their last five games, and with a difficult calendar to come they are not out of the woods yet. (22.04.16)