La Liga Roundup, Gameweek 36: Shock Defeat for Atletico as Barcelona and Real Madrid Stumble
The Spanish championship race took another twist as Atletico Madrid slipped to a surprise defeat at Levante. Neither of their title challengers were able to take full advantage, Barcelona drawing 2-2 with Getafe and Real Madrid held to the same scoreline by Valencia.
Atletico Madrid remain three points clear of Barcelona at the top of La Liga, despite being beaten 2-0 at mid-table Levante, a result that has given renewed hope to the Catalans and third placed Real Madrid. A seventh minute own goal from Filipe Luis saw Atleti fall behind at the Ciutat de Valencia and then David Barral added a decisive second for Levante midway through the second half.
Barcelona were pegged back twice by lowly Getafe and had to settle for a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou. Lionel Messi put Barca ahead in the 23rd minute, but the lead was cancelled out by Angel Lafita on 37 minutes. A victory for Tata Martino’s side looked likely when Alexis Sanchez fired home in the 67th minute, but the struggling Madrid side snatched an unlikely point as Lafita equalised for a second time 90 seconds into stoppage time.
Real Madrid salvaged a 2-2 draw against Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu after trailing twice against Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side. Jeremy Mathieu put Valencia ahead moments before half-time, but Sergio Ramos levelled for Los Blancos just before the hour mark. Dani Parejo put Valencia back in front five minutes later and Los Che were looking good for three points until Cristiano Ronaldo met Angel di Maria’s cross in stoppage time to grab a point for Carlo Ancelotti’s side and keep the title race wide open.
Athletic Bilbao confirmed their place in next season’s Champions League with a comprehensive 3-0 win at Rayo Vallecano. First-half goals from Mikel San Jose and Oscar De Marcos and a third from Ander Herrera 15 minutes from time sealed victory as Ernesto Valverde’s fourth-placed Basque side moved eight points clear of Sevilla. Defeat for Rayo brought to a halt their recent fine run, but they nevertheless remain 11th in the table and assured of top-flight football once again next season.
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Europa League finalists Sevilla returned to action only four days after their semi-final heroics against Valencia to earn a goalless draw at home against Villarreal, with both sides in contention for a Europa League slot next season. Both sides had chances to win the game and, with Sevilla tiring, Villarreal took control after the break, but neither side were able to fashion a winner.
Real Sociedad missed out on the chance to go level with Sevilla as they were held to a 1-1 at Anoeta courtesy of a last-gasp equaliser from Granada. The visitors were reduced to 10 men after 54 minutes when Recio received a second yellow card, but La Real’s numerical advantage lasted only three minutes as Mikel Gonzalez was shown a straight red for a bad foul on Manuel Iturra. Carlos Vela put the home side ahead with 12 minutes remaining, but Odion Ighalo rescued a valuable point for El Grana, levelling three minutes into stoppage time.
Celta Vigo overcame Osasuna 2-0 at El Sadar to leave the Navarrans deep in relegation trouble. Celta striker Nolito scored twice in the first half to take his recent tally to seven goals in four games and leave Javi Garcia’s men inside the drop zone with just two games to play.
Real Valladolid boosted their survival hopes with a 1-0 home win over Espanyol. Antonio Rukavina gave Valladolid a first-half lead and the result was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests, especially after Espanyol had Luis Pizzi sent off with almost 20 minutes remaining. The win takes Valladolid level on points with Osasuna in the bottom three.
An 11th minute strike from Garry Rodrigues was enough for Elche to claim a 1-0 victory over Malaga at La Rosaleda. Rodrigues’ strike clinched a much-needed three points for Fran Escriba’s side as they battle against an immediate return to La Segunda. Malaga created little but made Elche fight all the way as Alberto Botia’s late red card saw the visitors play out the final minutes with 10 men.
A stoppage-time header from Ramon Azeez claimed three vital points for 10-man Almeria, who moved out of the relegation zone following a thrilling 3-2 victory over already relegated Real Betis. After a goalless first half at Juegos Mediterraneos, Oscar Diaz gave the Andalusians the lead on 52 minutes, only for Braian Rodriguez to equalise seven minutes later. Within a minute, Betis were ahead through Salva Sevilla, but the lead lasted just seven minutes as the home side levelled with an Aleix Vidal strike. Almeria had Suso sent off 10 minutes after the break, but Francisco Rodriguez’s side continued to fight for their lives and moved up to 16th with Azeez’s winner.