Athletic Bilbao moved back up to sixth place after a 0-1 victory over regional rivals Eibar on Monday evening. Chances were few and far between in a dour first forty-five minutes, but the locals had to play most of the second half with ten men after Escalante was sent off for a hard tackle on Muniain. After that Raúl García hit the post and Yoel had to save from Muniain, but the game appeared to be heading for a scoreless draw until Raúl García scored the winner after the local keeper could only push out a Beñat free kick in the fourth and final minute of time added on. The result leaves Eibar six points adrift of sixth place, and it now appears to be a three-horse race between Athletic, Real Sociedad and Villarreal for the two Europa League spots, albeit that the seventh placed team could also qualify if Barcelona beat Alavés in the Spanish cup final. (24.04.17)
Another thrilling “clásico” on Sunday evening, Barcelona beating leaders Real Madrid 2-3 in the dying moments to overtake their arch-rivals on head-to-head goal difference, albeit having played a game more. Casemiro opened the scoring midway through the first half after Sergio Ramos turned a Marcelo cross against the post, but just five minutes later Messi picked up a Rakitic pass and cut past Dani Carvajal to equalize. Both keepers were on excellent form, Ter Stegen saving from Ronaldo and Modric before the break, and Kroos and Benzema soon after, and Keylor Navas keeping out Alcácer, Piqué and Luis Suárez after the restart. Bale limped off with an injury, and referee Hernández Hernández could have awarded a penalty to Ronaldo and sent off Marcelo and Casemiro before the interval, and with twenty minutes or so to go Rakitic picked up the ball outside of the area to fire an angled shot wide of Navas. Some four minutes later Sergio Ramos was sent off for a two-footed tackle on Messi, and the local keeper had to be at his best to save from Piqué and Messi as Barça looked to wrap things up. With five minutes to go though it seemed as if Madrid had saved a point when substitute James got on the end of Marcelo’s cross to level the scores once again, but with the game coming to a close Messi connected with a Jordi Alba centre to fire home the winner. The title race is wide open once again, although Zidane’s side still have the advantage, and with four wins and a draw over the last five games they would make sure of being league champions for the first time in five years.
Earlier in the day Real Sociedad won 1-0 against Deportivo to return to the top six pending Athletic’s game on Monday. Other than an early header over the top by Albentosa, the visitors hardly got near Rulli’s goal, and Willian José headed the Basque side in to the lead from Yuri’s cross with just under half an hour gone. Lux had to push a long shot from Iñigo Martínez round the post, and Xabi Prieto and Oyarzabal both fired shots wide before the break, and in the last ten minutes of the game Oyarzabal went close again, and Canales rattled the upright with a long shot. Real move to within two points of Villarreal, but it was another disappointing defeat for Pepe Mel’s side, and they end the day eight points above the relegation spots, still needing a few more points to avoid any danger of the drop.
Celta are just about out of the race for the Europa League spots though after they lost 0-1 at home to Betis. The Galicians are concentrating on this season’s competition though, and after qualifying for the semi-finals on Thursday, Berizzo once again rested many of his first choice players. As a result the visitors had by far the better of the opening play, Sergio Alvarez having to save from Joaquín and Alex Alegría, and Dani Ceballos, Alegría and Brasanac all shooting just wide. The locals could have taken the lead shortly before the break however when Bongonda intercepted a poor Joaquín back pass, but Adán closed him down, and a few minutes in to the second half Brasanac headed the only goal from Durmisi’s cross to ensure another season in the top flight for the Andalusians.
Alavés are now level with Celta in the table after they drew 1-1 at Las Palmas, the Canary Islanders themselves now mathematically safe as well after the weekend’s results. Jesé went close a couple of times for the locals in the opening minutes, and Ibai Gómez responded with a free kick which Lizoain had to push away for a corner. With half time approaching Boateng ran on to a long punt from Tana to lob a shot over the advancing Pacheco, the keeper getting a hand to the ball but unable to stop it from entering the net. However with an hour on the clock Ibai Gómez equalized with a cross-come-shot which bounced past the local keeper, the referee waving away protests by the home players that the offside Deyverson had interfered with play. With a few minutes remaining Lizoain did well to keep out Oscar Romero, and Las Palmas ended with ten men when substitute Livaja was red-carded for a tackle from behind on Marcos Llorente. (23.04.17)
Atlético Madrid remain three points clear of Sevilla after they beat Espanyol 0-1 in the last match on Saturday evening. Neither keeper was particularly troubled in the first half, although Diego López did have to save a long shot from Carrasco. Jurado, Moreno and Javi Fuego all put chances wide before the break, and after the restart Piatti also failed to find the target a couple of times. López had to keep out substitute Gameiro later on in the second half however, and with a quarter of an hour to go Griezmann got what was to prove the only goal after a shot from Sául deflected to him off a defender. Leo Baptistao brought a couple of good saves out of Oblak after that, and Moreno headed wide from a corner, but the Catalans couldn’t prevent a defeat which brings to an end a run of four home wins in a row, and leaves them further away from their objective of returning to Europe next season.
Villarreal stay fifth after a controversial 2-1 victory over Leganés earlier in the afternoon, Bakambu scoring an injury time winner from a Jonathan Dos Santos with his outstretched hand. Sansone went close for the locas a couple of times early on, but Andrés had to be at his best to keep out Siovas before the interval, and Luciano Neves had a strike ruled out for offside soon after the restart. Midway through the second half Bakambu opened the scoring after Soldado set him up, but Erik Morán brought another good save out of Andrés, and with the game in the ninetieth minute Guerrero equalized after latching on to a short pass from Alberto Bueno. Two minutes later though Bakambu struck to leave the Madrid based side just five points above the relegation spots pending the rest of the weekend fixtures.
Sporting Gijón narrowed that gap to four points after a 2-2 draw at bottom club Osasuna later in the evening, although they will feel that they missed an opportunity to close up further on their rivals after a couple of poor refereeing decisions went against them. Burgui in particular felt hard done by when an early goal was ruled out for a non-existent offside, and a few minutes later the locals took the lead when Jorge Meré turned a Roberto Torres cross in to his own net under pressure from Kenan Kodro. Duje Cop went close a couple of times before the break, and Burgui had a good penalty appeal turned down, but with twenty minute to go Kodro connected with a square pass from Torres to put the home side two up.The Asturians bounced back however with two goals in as many minutes, Canella firing home the first after Oier could only deflect a Burgui centre in to his path, and Carlos Costa netting the second after Cop lifted the ball across the area with his heel, but a brilliant save by Sirigu near the end deprived Castro of scoring the winner.
Málaga are virtually safe though after a 2-0 victory over Valencia in the lunchtime game, Michel’s team now thirteen points clear of the bottom three. The visitors had taken ten points from their last four games, and Munir came close to giving them the lead with a shot just wide of the far post midway through the first half. With ten minutes to go to the break however Recio headed the opener from a Javi Ontiveros cross, and just five minutes later Sandro scored the second with a long shot past Diego Alves from Ricca’s headed pass after the striker’s free kick hit Garay in the face, the defender having to be stretchered off semi-concussed as a result. After the interval Alves had to keep out Sandro again, and in the closing minutes Kameni saved from Santi Mina, and Mangala turned a shot against the upright with the keeper beaten. (22.04.17)
Three rounds of league games in a little over a week coming up, Sevilla kicking things off with a 2-0 victory over regional neighbours Granada on Friday night. Sampaoli gave Ganso his first run out in over three months, and the Brazilian midfielder staked his claim for more regular football with goals at the start of the first and second halves, the opener in the fourth minute after combining with Jovetic. Mariano, Jovetic and Sarabia all went close after that, and Sergio Rico didn’t have a save to make until he kept out a long shot from Carcela-González on the stroke of half time. Just a minute after the interval Ganso got on the end of a cross from Sarabia to make it two, and only a good stop by Ochoa prevented him from completing a hat-trick soon afterwards. The visiting keeper was in action after that to make further saves from Iborra, Jovetic and Escudero, and Ponce and Carcela could have pulled one back when they fired shots wide in the closing minutes. The result takes the locals level on points with third placed Atlético pending their game tomorrow, and leaves Tony Adams’ new side further down in the drop zone. (21.04.17)