With all eyes on the Nou Camp for El Clasico this weekend, one could have been forgiven for forgetting there were nine other fixtures in effect, as Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao secured big wins in their hunt of European football.
ATLETICO MADRID 3-1 ESPANYOL
A big win over Valencia in the Europa League semi-final was swiftly followed up with another big win to give Atletico a big chance of returning to the competition again next season.
Los Rojiblancos move up to seventh following a win over fellow contenders Espanyol thanks to the intervention of Turkish midfielder Arda Turan. Diego Godin and Dida had exchanged strikes in the opening 20 minutes of the match, before the intervention of Turan. He struck first with a stunning overhead kick to put Atletico back in front, before another strike ensured they took all three points and another important step towards securing European football for another year.
RACING SANTANDER 0-1 ATHLETIC BILBAO
Athletic made up for their initial disappointment after defeat to Sporting Lisbon in midweek, as they stole a major march in the race to secure European football for a second season running.
Athletic moved up to sixth as they secured a narrow victory over hapless Racing, with Gaizka Toquero’s 12th minute strike enough to grab an important three points.
Racing on the other hand are 11 points from safety with an a maximum of 12 to be collected and will probably have their relegation to the Segunda confirmed next weekend.
VALENCIA 4-0 REAL BETIS
Valencia re-established themselves as Champions League hopefuls, as they opened up a six point gap between themselves and fifth-placed Levante with the dominant kind of home performance Los Che fans have been demanding all season.
Betis made it difficult for themselves with indiscipline, but in truth they were rarely in this match. Jonas had given Valencia an early lead with his sixth minute effort continuing his personal good run of form, before Jose Antonio Dorado saw red shortly before the hour mark.
Sofiane Feghouli quickly made them pay before late goals from Roberto Soldado and Pablo Piatti ensured an emphatic win. And the day was to get even worse for Betis, as they were reduced to nine men, with Jorge Molina seeing a straight red in stoppage time.
OSASUNA 1-1 MALAGA
Osasuna dropped out of the European places, as they slipped down to eighth following a stalemate with high-flying Malaga. Both sides needed the points to maintain their respective European pushes, but had to settle for a point apiece in Pamplona.
Francisco Nino gave the home side the lead after 53 minutes, but it lasted just 14 minutes, as Santi Cazorla levelled with a sumptuous strike from the edge of the box to ensure both sides enjoyed a share of the spoils.
SEVILLA 1-1 LEVANTE
Three points now separate Levante from a shock appearance in the Champions League next season, with their eyes now averted downwards to the chasing pack coming up fast behind them. Sevilla were one of those sides, but failure to put a sequence of results once again came back to haunt them as they lost more ground on their rivals.
Alvaro Negredo maintained his role as sole goal-scorer for Sevilla by opening the scoring after 20 minutes, but that lead didn’t last long as Arouna Kone continued his impressive season by returning to haunt the club that released him last season, and keep the gap between the two clubs to a healthy three points.
GRANADA 1-0 GETAFE
Getafe’s hopes of crashing the European party suffered a big blow and seem unlikely, as Granada all but ensured their survival in their debut Primera season.
Franco Jara scored the only goal of the game to give Granada a big three points and something to build on for next season.
MALLORCA 1-0 REAL ZARAGOZA
Granada’s safety was made even more secure as Zaragoza failed in the Balearic Island of Mallorca. Mallorca’s participation in next season’s Primera is assured already, but they still had enough to turn over their relegation-haunted rivals.
Victor scored the only goal of the game ten minutes before half-time, leaving Zaragoza with a six point gap to overhaul in the remaining four games if they are to seal a dramatic recovery.
SPORTING GIJON 2-1 RAYO VALLECANO
Sporting gave themselves a shot in the arm in their bid to beat the drop, but it could be too little too late despite this victory over nine man Rayo.
Gaston Sangoy gave Sporting a first-half lead, but that was cancelled out early in the second half by Mikel Labaka. However, Labaka blotted his copybook by earning a sending off for a rash challenge on Mate Bilic with 15 minutes remaining.
To make matters worse, Bilic got up, dusted himself off and hit a tremendous free-kick to give Sporting a valuable three points, whilst Rayo ended the game two men light when Jose Cascado picked up his second booking of the match.
REAL SOCIEDAD 1-1 VILLARREAL
Villarreal didn’t pick up the win they would have wanted as they still sit above the relegation zone, but it was another important point in the hope of securing top flight football for next season, in what has been a disaster of a season.
They looked set for that valuable three points after Marcos Senna had given them the lead just before half-time, but Carlos Vela continued his recent goal-scoring form four minutes from time to ensure the points were shared.
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