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La Liga Week 25 Review: Barcelona Increase Lead, Levante Earn Vital Win

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After a week with no La Liga review, it makes its return this week. I hope you enjoy it.

Sporting Gijón 0 - 0 Real Zaragoza
Sporting were left to regret a handful of prime scoring changes as they were held to a scoreless drew by fellow relegation threatened candidates. Throughout the game Gijón were the better team and every single time they found themselves in a good spot they either sent the ball wide or they had their shots stopped by Antonio Doblas. The home side thought they were finally able to break the deadlock in the 78th minute when Carmelo beat Doblas but the goal was (correctly) disallowed for offside.

RCD Espanyol 4 - 1 Real Sociedad
The Catalans ended their three game losing streak with a comfortable victory over the Basques. The first 40 minutes of the game didn't yield anything worth talking about, but in the 42nd minute Espanyol took the lead when Álvaro Vázquez fired wide, but the ball deflected of Daniel Estrada and into the net. Two minutes later Estrada redeemed himself and tied it at one with a close range finish.

Sergio García put the host in the lead after he brilliantly stopped the ball for himself and then calmly sent the ball past Claudio Bravo (54'). Real Madrid target José Callejón increased the lead with a perfectly placed shot from the right (81') and Javier Márquez put the icing on the cake with 30 yard free kick (90+1')

Atlético Madrid 2 - 2 Sevilla FC
The two struggling teams met at Vicente Calderón but neither of them really managed to help themselves in the hunt for a spot in Europe. Atlético probably deserved a better fate in this one as they dominated the most part of this hugely entertaining match, but in the end they barely escaped with a point. Sevilla took the lead from one of their first shots, a powerful effort from the edge from Álvaro Negredo (41').

Youngster Koke scored his first professional goal to tie the score with a header just inside the post (48'). Sevilla then retook the lead with yet another shot from the edge of the box, this one came from Ivan Rakitić (66'). José Antonio Reyes ensured a point for the hosts and beat Javi Varas to the far side after the Sevilla defense forgot about him (76'). Both teams then had fantastic chances to snatch the late victory but neither managed to do so.

RCD Mallorca 0 - 3 FC Barcelona
Each member of the MVP added to their season totals and led the team to a dominating victory at Mallorca. The islander started strong, but they failed to test José Manuel Pinto and after that early surge they were limited to defending the constant onslaught of the Barcelona players. Lionel Messi put Barcelona in the lead with a looping header after a brilliant first touch (38') after he was sent through on goal with a superb chip from Seydou Keita. In the second half David Villa doubled the lead when he outraced Dudu Aouate to the ball and simply sent it into the unguarded net (57'). Nine minutes later Pedro decided to end his personal four game scoring drought with a shot from the edge that went over the goalie and into the net.

Deportivo La Coruña 0 - 0 Real Madrid
Municipal de Riazor, one of most difficult venues to play for Los Blancos justified its reputation. In 19 years Real Madrid have only managed to earn one victory there and this year even with them dominating, they still weren't able to add the three points to their name. In the first half there weren't many shots on either net, but in the second the direction of play completely changed. It turned out to be a busy day for Daniel Aranzubía, the Deportivo goalkeeper, as he ended the day with nine saves, several of them superb. He also received some help from his posts on two occasions, one of the shots to the post came from Mesut Özil and the other one from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Levante UD 2 - 1 Osasuna
Levante took a big step toward retaining a place in the Primera División with a come from behind win over Osasuna. They started the game on a good note, almost taking the lead, but Juanlu's long range shot deflected of the post. Then it was Osasuna's turn to pressure and scored through Walter Pandiani's perfectly placed header (40'). Three minutes later the hosts equalized. Xisco fired a 20 yard free kick of the post, but the rebound was tucked in by Sergio Ballesteros. Levante took the lead in the 49th minute through Felipe Caicedo. Gustavo Munua started the play with a 60 yard pass to the forward who slid the ball by the out of position Ricardo. Levante dominated the rest of the game but the visitors almost snatched a point with a chance from a counterattack.

Hércules CF 0 - 0 Getafe CF
Both teams were trying to end a stretch of bad results, but while this was a very open, attacking game neither one managed to score the tie-breaking goal. Both goalkeepers were called into action early and often, but both of them were on their game and they were able to keep a clean sheet. Getafe had a legitimate penalty claim in the final stage of the game, when Andreas Fritzler handled the ball in the box. Cristian Hidaldo almost won it for the home team with just tow minutes to spare, but his shot bounced of the crossbar.

Racing Santander 2 - 2 Villarreal CF
Villarreal continue with their unusually bad form and they have now gone four league games without a win. Even though they had the bulk of possession they weren't able to prepare good scoring chances for themselves, they actually only had two shots on net; they scored from both of them. However, it was Racing who were the better team throughout and they took the lead just three minutes into the game. Ariel Nahuelpán was left with a simple finish following some poor defending from the visitors.

Racing then had a handful of opportunities to add to the lead, but it was Marco Rubén who scored with a header for Villarreal (66'). It took the hosts only two minutes to regain the lead through former Barcelona starlet Giovani Dos Santos. Racing were left to rue their missed chances when Nilmar scored from close range deep into injury time (90+2').

Athletic Bilbao 1 - 2 Valencia CF
Valencia mounted a fierce second half comeback to strengthen their hold on third place. The battle between two top five team didn't disappoint with both teams doing their best to win the game. The Basques took the lead in the 14th minute when Fernando Llorente showed tremendous strength with the ball before sliding it home. They also had a couple of chances to increase their lead but they were always stopped by Vicente Guaita. Juan Manuel Mata then found himself on the receiving end of Joaquín's brilliant cross to tie the game (71'). Sensing they have a chance to win it, Valencia pressed for the late winner and they got in when substitute Jonas beat everybody to the rebound left by Gorka Iraizoz after Tino Costa's long range effort (81').

Málaga CF 3 - 1 UD Almería
Málaga moved out of the cellar of the Primera División with the win against fellow relegation candidates. The Andalusian derby started better for the visitors as the took the early lead when Sofiane Feghouli made Wilfredo Caballero pay for his mistake (8'). Chances were scarce for the next 45 minutes, but then Enzo Maresca fired past Deigo Alves for the equalizer. Málaga then took advantage of José Ulloa dismissal and took the lead through Rondón who was left unmarked six yards from the goal-line. Juanmi then put the game out of reach after a wonderful team move that started with a throw-in (90+3').

Recap
With the draw in La Coruña Real Madrid now drop seven points adrift of the leaders FC Barcelona and with 13 games left in the season you have to wonder if Los Blancos can challenge for the title.

After a very promising first half of the season, the newly promoted Hércules appear to be slipping and they will have to pick up the pace if they don't want to end the season as one of the bottom three teams

26 goals were scored this week, surprisingly none of them came from a penalty shot, but how could it be if no referee pointed to the spot. Also three players were sent of, all of them for two yellow cards and all of them in the final minutes of the game.

Don't forget Day 26 of La Liga begins tonight. Games will also be played on March 2 and 3.

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GP W D L +/- Pts
1 same FC Barcelona 25 22 2 1 63 68
2 same Real Madrid 25 19 4 2
36 61
3 same Valencia CF 25 15 6
4
14
51
4 same Villarreal CF
25 14 5
6
18
47
5 up RCD Espanyol
25 13 1
11
-2
40
6 down Athletic Bilbao 25 12 2
11 3
38
7 same Sevilla FC 25 10 5
10
-2
35
8 up Atlético Madrid 25 10 4
11
2
34
9 down Real Sociedad 25 11
1
13
-5 34
10 same Getafe CF
25 9 5
11
-3 32
11 same RCD Mallorca
25 9 4
12
-9
31
12 same Racing Santander 25 7
8
10
-12 29
13 up Levante UD 25 8
3
14
-11 27
14 down Deportivo La Coruña 25 6 9
10
-14 27
15 same Hércules CF
25 7
5
13
-14 26
16 down Osasuna 25 6
7
12
-6 25
17 down Sporting Gijón 25 5
10 10 -8 25
18 same Real Zaragoza
25 5
9
11
-15 24
19 up Málaga CF
25 6
5
14 -17 23
20 down UD Almería 25 4
9
12 -18 21