La Liga Roundup, Gameweek 26: Real Madrid Hold the Lead in Spain
Real Madrid top La Liga after finishing all-square with Atletico Madrid in the city derby. Carlo Ancelotti’s men are just a point ahead of Barcelona, who won at home against lowly Almeria, while Atleti trail the Catalans by two points.
Cristiano Ronaldo struck eight minutes from time to secure a 2-2 draw for Real Madrid in a pulsating capital city derby against Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon. Atleti had looked on course for a win over their neighbours after first-half strikes from Koke and Gabi had put them ahead following Karim Benzema’s early opener for Los Blancos. But Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo lashed home his 22nd Primera goal of the season in the 82nd minute to deny Atletico’s hopes of completing a league double over their more illustrious rivals for the first time since 1951, having defeated them at the Bernabeu 1-0 earlier in the season.
Barcelona defeated Almeria 3-1 at Camp Nou despite another lacklustre performance against the Andalusian strugglers. Alexis Sanchez put the Catalans ahead on nine minutes and Lionel Messi double the lead on 24 minutes with a masterful free kick. Almeria battled their way back into the game and Angel Trujillo took advantage of some dreadful marking to head home a corner before the half-hour mark. With Barca dominating possession but seemingly devoid of ideas, Carles Puyol made the game safe from close range and Xavi Hernandez added a fourth with a fine finish from outside the box with two minutes remaining.
Aritz Aduriz kept Athletic Bilbao on course for a Champions League place with a hat-trick in a comprehensive 4-0 win over Granada at San Mames. The striker headed home the opener from Andoni Iraola’s right-wing cross after just seven minutes and fired in a fine 20-yard second to put the hosts in total command inside 20 minutes. He then won the penalty which earned defender Diego Mainz a red card and completed his treble in the 73rd minute. Carlos Gurpegi sealed the win, which leaves fourth-placed Athletic six points clear of Villarreal.
Villarreal lost ground to Athletic as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to basement side Real Betis. The Yellow Submarine looked set to take all three points when Bruno Soriano gave them the lead from the penalty spot on 70 minutes, but the game changed 10 minutes later when Uche Ikechuwku was sent off for a second booking. Betis were able to take advantage of having an extra man and Ruben Castro headed in the equaliser shortly after Ikechukwu’s dismissal. The draw gave Betis their first point five league games, but they remain 11 points from safety.
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Sevilla earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Real Sociedad at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan with substitute Kevin Gameiro’s second-half strike proving the ultimate difference between the two teams. The French striker picked up Carlos Bacca’s cross from the left and slotted home a close-range shot on 77 minutes. La Real remain sixth, a point behind Villarreal as Unai Emery’s side moved up to seventh.
There was a surprise win for relegation-threatened Rayo Vallecano, who overcame ten-man Valencia 1-0. Joaquin Larrivey grabbed the vital goal on 61 minutes when he headed in Razvan Rat’s cross. Valencia lost Antonio Barragan on 77 minutes, when the defender was shown a second yellow card. Rayo remain in the bottom three despite their win, while Valencia are three points outside the Europa League places.
Levante‘s excellent run continued as they beat Osasuna 2-0 despite playing the last half-hour with ten men. Joaquin Caparros’ men have transformed themselves from relegation strugglers to Europa League contenders and have now gone eight games unbeaten. First-half goals from Papakouli Diop and Ruben Garcia ensured three points for Levante, but Victor Casadesus made it harder for his side with a red card in the 60th minute for a foul on Alvaro Cejudo.
Espanyol‘s hopes of a Europa League place suffered a setback as they were held to a 0-0 draw at Getafe. Javier Aguirre’s side had won two of their previous three games, but could not find a way through the Getafe defence. The draw left Los Periquitos in mid-table and just six points above their hosts, who themselves are four points clear of the relegation places.
Elche claimed a 1-0 victory over Celta Vigo to go six points clear of the relegation zone and up to 13th in the table, just one point behind Celta, who remain 11th. Midfielder Carles Gil came off the bench in the second half to score the winning goal with just six minutes remaining. Celta had been the better side for most of the game and could have scored themselves but for Manu Herrera’s double save to deny Fabian Orellana and Andreu Fontas.
Malaga and Real Valladolid each had to settle for a point from their relegation battle at La Rosaleda which left both sides with much to do to avoid the drop. Veteran striker Roque Santa Cruz put Malaga ahead after 13 minutes, but Daniel Larsson levelled for the visitors after half an hour. The result kept Malaga three points ahead of their opponents in the fight for survival, but was another opportunity squandered to pull further clear of the bottom three.