La Liga Roundup, Gameweek 35: Barcelona Win For Tito Vilanova
Just two days after the death of Tito Vilanova, Barcelona staged a remarkable comeback to beat Villarreal but Atletico Madrid remain on course to become Spanish champions after a narrow win over Valencia. Atleti are four points ahead of Barca and six in front of Real Madrid, who thumped Osasuna to keep up the pressure in third spot. Carlo Ancelotti’s side have a game in hand on their two title rivals.
Atletico Madrid edged closer to winning La Liga as midfielder Raul Garcia headed home just before half-time to see off Valencia 1-0. Atleti had to play the final minutes of injury time with 10 men after Juanfran was sent off for a reckless tackle, but they held on to register their first win at Mestalla in 11 years. Diego Simeone’s now require just two wins from their remaining three games to lift their first Spanish title in 18 years.
Barcelona came from two goals down to beat Villarreal 3-2 and remain in the title race on an emotional night at El Madrigal. In their first game since the death of former coach Tito Vilanova last Thursday at the age of 45, Barca gave muted display in the first half and trailed to a goal from Ruben Cani on the stroke of half-time. Manuel Trigueros then doubled the lead for the home side 10 minutes after the break, but Barca fought back as own goals from Gabriel Paulista and Mateo Musacchio brought the scores level before Lionel Messi struck the winner seven minutes from the end.
A brace from Cristiano Ronaldo set Real Madrid up for a comprehensive 4-0 win over Osasuna. The Portuguese struck after just six minutes and added another early in the second half. Further goals from Sergio Ramos and Daniel Carvajal secured a fourth win in a row for Los Blancos. Osasuna, meanwhile, have now won only one of their last 10 league games and are just two points above the bottom three.
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Athletic Bilbao strengthened their grip on a shot at the Champions League next season as they defeated Sevilla, their closest rivals for fourth place, 3-1 at San Mames. Markel Susaeta put the hosts one up direct from a corner-kick in the fourth minute and Iker Muniain tightened the Basques’ hold on the game with an acrobatic finish early in the second half. It got worse for Sevilla when Diogo Figueiras was sent off with 18 minutes remaining and Ander Herrera headed a third. Kevin Gameiro reduced the deficit with a consolation, but Athletic deserved the win and now have an almost unassailable six-point lead over the Andalusians.
Getafe survived Ciprian Marica’s first-half sending off to beat Malaga1-0 and record their first home win in five months. The Romanian striker provided the assist for Adrian Colunga’s decider but then picked up a second yellow card before the break. Malaga were unable to make the most of their numerical advantage, which was wiped out when defender Marcos Angeleri was sent off with a quarter of an hour remaining. Getafe remain only two points clear of the drop zone, despite their win.
Real Sociedad cemented their Europa League place next season, overcoming Real Betis 1-0 at the Benito Villamarin. The defeat was the 23rd of a miserable season for the Andalusians and Getafe’s win over Malaga confirmed Betis’ relegation to La Segunda, just two years after returning to the top flight. La Real did just enough to take the points and did so thanks to Carlos Vela’s penalty early in the second half.
Rayo Vallecano continued their remarkable rise up the table as a second-half salvo earned them a 3-0 win at 10-man Granada. The hosts had Yacine Brahimi sent off soon after the break for a second yellow card and moments later Atletico Madrid loanee Saul Niguez broke the deadlock for Rayo with a 30-yard strike. Top scorer Joaquin Larrivey doubled the lead five minutes later to set Rayo on their way to a seventh win in 10 games and substitute Seba Fernandez added a third late on, netting for the first time in more than two years. Rayo look set for a mid-table finish but El Grana, who are far from safe, left the pitch to boos from their supporters.
Almeria gave their survival hopes a boost as they ended a run of four straight defeats, coming from behind against nine-man Espanyol to win 2-1 at Cornella-El Prat. Christian Stuani put the hosts ahead just before half time, but he was sent off shortly after the break, following which the game turned. Fran Velez equalised for Almeria and substitute Suso’s stunning left-footed free-kick won it for Francisco Rodriguez’s side, moving them up one place to 18th and within two points of safety with three games remaining. Javi Lopez was sent off in stoppage time to compound Espanyol’s misery.
Celta Vigo hammered Real Valladolid 4-1 at Los Balaidos to climb into the top half of the table and keep their opponents in relegation trouble. Nolito put the Galicians ahead on 38 minutes and Charles double their lead just a minute later. Nolito added his second immediately after the break and Valladolid defender Stefan Mitrovic put through his own goal to make it four for Celta. Manucho grabbed a consolation 15 minutes from time, but the defeat leaves Valladolid three points from safety.
Elche moved three points clear of the drop zone after drawing 1-1 against mid-table Levante at the Martinez Valero. Richmond Boakye’s strike just after the hour mark put Elche on course for a deserved win, but the men from Valencia equalised through Angel Rodriguez’s 74th-minute strike.