Once again the top three in La Liga all registered wins at the weekend. Despite making hard work of beating Levante, Barcelona remain 13 points clear of Real Madrid with only 18 more points to play for.
With their impending Champions League semi-final first leg against Bayern Munich on his mind, Barca coach Tito Vilanova again rested key players and his depleted side struggled to break down a stubborn Levante at Camp Nou. The visitors’ goalkeeper Keylor Navas was in fine form, saving David Villa’s first-half penalty, but Cesc Fabregas struck late on to snatch the three points for the Catalans.
Real Madrid defeated Real Betis 3-1 at the Bernabeu. Mesut Ozil opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time and Karim Benzema doubled Madrid’s lead after the break. Jorge Molina’s spot-kick reduced the arrears for Betis, only for Ozil to grab his second to seal the win for Los Blancos.
Radamel Falcao hit his 25th goal of the season in La Liga as third-placed Atletico Madrid won 1-0 at Sevilla, extending their lead over Real Sociedad to 13 points. Atletico fought hard to break down the home side, but Falcao scored with 14 minutes remaining before visiting keeper Thibaut Courtois saved free kicks from Alvaro Negredo and Ivan Rakitic.
Roberto Soldado scored twice as Valencia thumped Malaga 5-1 at the Mestalla. Ernesto Valverde’s men led 4-0 after only half an hour as Soldado’s brace, the second a penalty, was bookended by goals from Daniel Parejo and Sergio Canales. Julio Baptista pulled one back for Malaga, but Ever Banega grabbed a fifth for Los Che, who remain fifth place only a point behind Real Sociedad, who were held to a goalless draw by Osasuna in Pamplona.
The battle to avoid the drop into La Segunda continues to intensify and Celta Vigo came from behind in the battle of the bottom two to beat Zaragoza. Ionut Sapunaru gave Zaragoza the lead, only for Alex Lopez to quickly restore parity. A draw seemed inevitable until Mario Bermejo popped up in stoppage time to win it for Celta, leaving both sides level in last place, a point behind Mallorca.
Deportivo La Coruna’s recent recovery stalled slightly as they drew 1-1 at home against Athletic Bilbao. Bruno Gama gave Depor the lead before Fernando Llorente equalised for the Basques, who had Ander Iturraspe dismissed after he received two yellow cards. The result leaves the Galicians two points clear of the relegation places.
Piti gave Rayo Vallecano an early lead against Mallorca, who remain in the relegation zone despite hitting back to level through Alejandro Alfaro. Granada are also finding it difficult to pull clear of danger, hovering one point above Mallorca after a 1-1 draw with Real Valladolid. Patrick Ebert’s goal for Valladolid was cancelled out by Youssef El-Arabi’s equaliser.
Finally, Espanyol moved up to 10th place with a 2-0 victory at fellow mid-table dwellers Getafe, with Joan Verdu and Christian Stuani on target.