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La Liga Week 31: Real Madrid take relief from rival’s failures

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The top three all failed to win this week but Real Madrid who played badly will be the happiest with their 1-1 draw at Mallorca which leaves them seven points clear with seven games to go. Barcelona played better than in recent weeks but will be most disappointed with their 0-0 draw at home to Getafe, especially after hitting the post three times. Villarreal stay in second place on head-to-head goal difference despite losing 2-0 at Sevilla.

Real Madrid can consider themselves fortunate to escape with a point from their game at Mallorca. Three important decisions all went Madrid’s way towards the end of the first half which had the Mallorca fans waving their handkerchiefs in protest. First Aggelos Basinas was given offside when he had a clear run on goal, replays showed that he started his run from inside his own half. Shortly afterwards Sergio Ramos and Juan Fernando Arango challenged for the ball which then came out to Fernando Navarro who stroked the ball past Iker Casillas; to the crowd’s dismay the referee blew for an inexistant foul by Arango. In the 43rd minute Madrid took the lead when a great run from Arjen Robben left the Mallorca defence in a mess, Robben’s cross was touched by goalkeeper Moya but the ball went straight to Wesley Sneijder who had a simple job to put the ball home. Soon after Mallorca were again furious when the ref didn’t concede a penalty after the ball hit Cannavaro on the arm, however, this time the ref made a good decision as there was clearly no intention from the Madrid defender.

Madrid controlled things a bit better in the second half until Sergio Ramos saw his third red card of the season in the 65th minute. Arango had two good efforts in a minute and this was immediately followed by Mallorca’s equalizer. Ibagaza played the ball in to Arango who flicked it into the path of Borja Valero who burst into the area and curled a right-footer past the diving Casillas. Mallorca sensed victory and it nearly came through Dani Güiza who is normally quite lethal in front of goal, with Casillas beaten, however, Güiza’s shot hit the floor and bounced up and over off the crossbar.

Barça once again failed to take advantage of Madrid’s slip, and a mixture of bad luck and too much anxiety in their play meant they were unable to break down a hard-working Getafe defence. Barça might have scored a hatful but Eto’o, Giovani dos Santos and Xavi all hit the post and Getafe keeper ‘Pato’ Abbondanzieri made fine saves to thwart Milito and Gudjohnsen. It was all too much for the Camp Nou faithful and the supporters vented their frustration at the end with a protest against president Joan Laporta. Click here for a full report on Barça-Getafe.

Villarreal were unable to continue with their recent good form, going down 2-0 at Sevilla. The sevilla coach Manolo Jiminez changed things around by bringing in youngster David Prieto into defence and playing Fazio in midfield, he also left Kanoute on the bench which meant Sevilla played an unfamiliar 4-2-3-1 formation. The experiment paid off and deserved to take an early lead when Luis Fabiano fired home his 23rd of the season. In the dying minutes Villarreal keeper Diego Lopez brought down Navas, and Kanoute sent him the wrong way from the penalty spot.

There have been some crazy games this season at the Vicente Calderon stadium but none more so than this week’s 6-3 victory for Atletico Madrid over nine-man Almeria. Antonio Lopez got the game off to a tremendous start with a belter of a free kick after just two minutes to put the hosts in front. Two minutes later Almeria were reduced to ten men when Ruben Pulido brought down Kun Agüero when he looked like scoring, Diego Forlan made it 2-0 from the penalty spot.

Almeria, however, came back fighting and by the 17th minute they had drawn level through Felipe Melo and Jose Ortiz. Almeria then had chances to take the lead before Simao Sabrosa put Atletico back in the lead on 32 minutes, but Almeria equalized again four minutes later thanks to Alvaro Negredo. Then in the 40th minute Almeria lost Juanito to two yellow cards. With only nine men Almeria could not resist any longer and Simao got his second of the game to make it 4-3 just before the break. Two second half goals from Agüero sealed the points for Atletico who remain in 4th place in the table.

Racing Santander stay fifth despite being surprised 1-3 at home to Deportivo. Young striker Xisco scored a hat-trick last week against Murcia and this week added two more to his account, the first after just two minutes was followed by Coloccini’s effort in the 25th minute as Depor took a 0-2 lead. Jorge Lopez pulled one back for Racing, but Xisco made it 1-3 before half time. Depor’s order and concentration in the second half saw them hold on comfortably for three points which move them up to 13th in the table.

Espanyol’s miserable second half of the season continued with a 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao. Athletic had the better of the first half and went in front through a Garmendia header after 13 minutes. Espanyol had the better of the second half but Tamudo missed their best oportunity, blasting a penalty over the bar with 15 minutes to go.

Despite being in the Copa del Rey final Valencia are having a terrible time in the league. This week they lost 1-0 at lowly Murcia and now find themselves down in 14th place with the threat of relegation if they don’t sort things out quickly. Ivan Alonso scored the only goal of the game in the 34th minute to give Murcia a glimmer of hope for survival. Ronald Koeman must be wondering if he will still be coach when Valencia face Getafe in the final on April 16th.

Even worse off are Zaragoza who are now looking odds-on for the drop after going down 0-3 at home to Betis. Two early goals from Mark Gonzalez left Zaragoza against the ropes and a second half goal from Pavone provided the killer punch. Betis are much improved after their early season problems and move up to tenth place.

Valladolid greatly improved their chances of staying up with a 0-3 win at bottom placed Levante. Joseba Llorente got his 14th of the season to give the visitors a 0-1 lead at half time, and two cracking second half goals from Victor and Borja sealed the victory. Levante now have no chance of saving themselves and could well be relegated next week if the fail to win at Betis.

Finally, Recreativo earned a vital victory at Osasuna to go three points clear of the relegation zone. Sinama Pongolle scored the only goal of the game in the 36th minute to give his team a 0-1 win.

Top Six: Real Madrid 66, Villarreal 59, Barcelona 59, Atletico Madrid 53, Racing Santander 50, Sevilla 48.

Bottom Six: Valladolid 38, Osasuna 37, Recreativo 36, Zaragoza 33, Murcia 29, Levante 19.

Top Scorers: Luis Fabiano 23, Güiza 17, Raul 16, Diego Milito 15 Nihat 14.

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