La Liga Roundup, Gameweek 20: Real Madrid Poised as Barca and Atleti Drop More Points [VIDEO]
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid both dropped points but Real Madrid won again to close the gap on La Liga’s top two to a point and leave all three clubs embroiled in a three horse-race for the Spanish title.
Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw by Levante at the Cuitat de Valencia. The home side took a shock lead in the 10th minute with Loukas Vyntra’s headed goal but Barca quickly levelled when Gerard Pique headed in from close range nine minutes later. Levante coach Joaquin Caparros vowed before the game to make Barcelona suffer and his men did just that, defending in numbers and frustrating the champions, who were unable to break through, even with Lionel Messi back in harness.
Atletico Madrid were held 1-1 at the Vicente Calderon by Sevilla, who are now unbeaten in eight games. David Villa put Atleti ahead after 18 minutes but Diego Simeone’s men were unable to improve on their lead. Defender Juanfran rashly impeded Carlos Bacca 20 minutes before the end and Ivan Rakitic beat Thibaut Courtois from the spot for his ninth goal of the season. Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno received a straight red late on, as Unai Emery’s side remained seventh and in contention for a European place.
Real Madrid brushed aside Real Betis, winning 5-0 at the Benito Villamarin to leave the hosts rooted to the bottom of La Liga. Gareth Bale scored his first goal in six weeks, firing home a free-kick midway through the first half after Cristiano Ronaldo had opened the scoring with a thunderous strike from distance. Karim Benzema widened the gap further before the break, taking advantage of a great move from Luka Modric and in the second half Angel Di Maria scored his second goal in as many games before substitute Alvaro Morata piled further misery on Betis.
The result was too much for the Betis hierarchy, who showed coach Juan Carlos Garrido the door following the defeat, just 48 days after he had replaced the sacked Pepe Mel.
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Athletic Bilbao recovered after going a goal down to win 4-2 against Real Valladolid at San Mames holding on to the Champions League qualifying spot as a result. Oscar Gonzalez gave the visitors an early lead, which they held until the 65th minute when Ibai Gomez struck Athletic’s equaliser. Oscar De Marcos put the Basques ahead with 15 minutes left, Gomez added his second and their third and Ander Herrera made it four late on. Valdet Rama grabbed a stoppage time consolation, but Valladolid remain in the bottom three.
Villarreal maintained their chances of a Champions League qualifying place with a 2-0 victory over struggling Almeria. Ikechukwu Uche gave the Yellow Submarine the lead in the third minute and Bruno Soriano made sure of the win with a late penalty after Jonathan Pereira had been brought down by Rafita. Villarreal remain fifth, while Almeria are 17th, just three points clear of the relegation zone.
Getafe battled back from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw with Real Sociedad at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, despite playing the final half-hour with 10 men. Two headed goals from Imanol Agirretxe gave La Real an early lead, but the hosts bounced back to level the scores with goals from Ciprian Marica and Pedro Leon. Getafe had Borja Fernandez dismissed in the second half after he received two yellow cards but the Basques were unable to make their numerical advantage count.
Valencia missed the chance to make up ground on the European places as they drew a blank in a goalless draw at Malaga that was anything but dull. Both sides had numerous chances to score, with more than 20 shots on goal in the first hour alone, but goalkeepers Willy Caballero and Diego Alves were both in imperious form. Caballero kept out Daniel Parejo’s 25-yard free-kick before denying Jonas on the rebound. The Malaga keeper blocked another Parejo effort after the break while Roque Santa Cruz was foiled by Alves at the other end.
Espanyol went into their game against Celta Vigo at Cornella-El Prat following two defeats, but their captain Sergio Garcia hit a superb winner two minutes from time to earn his side a 1-0 win over the Galicians. A dour encounter looked to be heading for a draw, but Garcia’s left-footed finish into the bottom-left corner, his eighth goal of the season, gave Los Periquitos the points and lifted them to eighth in the table.
Osasuna stretched their unbeaten league run to five games with a battling goalless draw at Granada. The Basques had found themselves slipping dangerously close to the drop zone but wins against Espanyol and Betis in their last two outings, combined with earlier draws against Real Madrid and Celta Vigo, had eased their worries. Granada largely controlled the game, especially in the first half, but neither side could find a way to goal.
Rayo Vallecano fell further into the relegation mire after losing 2-0 away to fellow strugglers Elche. The outcome was never in doubt once the visitors went a goal and a player down after 19 minutes when Raul Baena was dismissed for bringing down Coro in the area and Edu Albacar scored from the resulting penalty. Paco Jemez’s side could only try to keep the score down for the rest of the game but failed to prevent Javi Marquez doubling Elche’s lead on 79 minutes to seal the win.