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La Liga Week 31 Review: Valencia Hammer Villarreal, Fierce Fight for Last European Berth

Let's celebrate
Let's celebrate

Athletic Bilbao 0 - 3 Real Madrid
Real Madrid delivered a masterful performance at San Mames to keep their slim title hopes alive. Mourinho rested several starting XI members, but even the overhauled lineup had no problem outplaying the Basques. Thirteen minutes from kickoff keeper Gorka Iraizoz brought down Angel Di Maria in the box for a penalty and Kaká calmly beat Iraizoz with a powerful shot. In the second half Di Maria won another penalty and again Kaká stepped up scored (54'). Athletic tried to mount a comeback, but all hopes of one were ruined when substitute Cristiano Ronaldo scored on a counter attack (70').

FC Barcelona 3 - 1 UD Almería
Barca survived a scare and came from behind to beat bottom club Almería. The hosts struggled to get going in the early stages of the game, but they soon dominated the game, however they couldn't score the opening goal. In one of Almería's rare counters the ball got to Miguel Corona and he promptly beat José Manuel Pinto (50').

On the following attack David Villa received the ball on the right side and while in the box he got upended by Diego Alves, resulting in a penalty that Lionel Messi comfortably scored from (53'). Nine minutes later Barcelona won a corner, Messi sent the ball in the box where Thiago Alcântara outjumped everybody and headed the ball in the far corner (64'). In added time Messi pressured Almería's back-line, stole the ball and chipped the ball over the goalkeeper (90+2') to tie Ronaldo's goalscoring record.

RCD Mallorca 2 - 2 Sevilla FC
Sevilla fought back from two deficits to earn a hard earned point on the island of Mallorca. In what was a very evenly matched game between two top ten teams the hosts took the lead when Akihiro Ienaga headed the ball in from close range (16'). The islanders were left to rue their missed chances when Ivan Ramis tackled Álvaro Negredo in the box. Negredo took the penalty himself and sent Dudu Aouate the wrong way and tied the game (31'). Two minutes before halftime Jonathan De Guzman put Mallorca back in front with a 25-yard shot. Mallorca played well enough to win, but a mistake while defending cost them the victory as Ivan Rakitić made them pay with a shot from the edge (68').

 

 

Hércules CF 0 - 0 RCD Espanyol
Espanyol's bad stretch continues, one win in six games, and they are now looking from outside in on a spot in Europe. Both teams had chances in an entertaining encounter, but Hércules looked better than their Catalan opponents. The hosts created more clear-cut chances, but they failed to make them count and almost paid for their wastefulness when Espanyol's Daniel Osavaldo beat Juan Calatayud, but the goal was controversially ruled out for offside and the game ended in a goalless draw.

Racing Sentander 1 - 1 Levante UD
Levante's last minute goal stretched their unbeaten run to seven games and they took a step closer to retaining a place in the Primera Drivisión. Levante boast the best record of any team outside the top two in the second half, but they didn't have their best game on Sunday. Racing constantly pressured the visitors' back-line and they took the lead when Victoriano Nano headed the ball past his own goalkeeper (32'). The hosts looked like they will take the three points, but a late rally presented Levante with an opportunity and Rafa Jorda tied the game (90').

Málaga CF 0 - 0 Deportivo La Coruña
A battle between two teams that haven't assured themselves of top-flight status in the next season ended with a result that helped neither of them. Málaga were the better team throughout the match, but they failed to make their chances count. Moments before halftime Deportivo were reduced to ten men, Laure went to the locker room for a second bookable offense. Despite the advantage the hosts couldn't beat Daniel Aranzubía who made a couple brilliant saves.

Sporting Gijón 1 - 0 Osasuna
In-form Sporting Gijón, three straight wins and no loses in five games, followed up their win over Real Madrid with a hard fought victory over Osasuna. Inspired by last week's result, the hosts played the game with a lot of energy and threatened to score on numerous occasions, but they were frustrated for more than an hour by Ricardo. Then, in the 66th minute, defender Manuel Lolo allowed David Barral to steal the ball inside the box and the forward made no mistake and buried what turned out to be the game winner. The goal meant it was all over for the visitors who struggled to get anything going in the game

Atlético Madrid 3 - 0 Real Sociedad
Atlético boosted their European berth hopes with a well deserved win over the struggling Real Sociedad. The hosts dominated from the opening kick-off and it was only a matter of time when they would take the lead. It took them all of twelve minute to draw first blood, Filipe Luís fired home his first as a Colchoneros. The lead doubled just before half-time when Jose Antonio Reyes brilliantly set up Mario Suárez who had no trouble tucking the ball into the open net (45'). Sergio Agüero sealed the victory with a well placed shot on a quick counterattack (78').

Valencia CF 5 - 0 Villarreal CF
Valencia took a giant step toward securing a third place finish in the league with an impressive victory over their main competitors Villarreal. The highly anticipated local rivalry was supposed to be a tightly matched affair, but it turned out to everything but that. Los Che were the better team from the start and they took the lead when Roberto Soldado slid the ball under Diego Lopez after being sent through by Miguel. The Yellow Submarine looked uninspired, but they almost ended the half on level terms, but Nilmar couldn't seize the opportunity.

In the second half the hosts exploded, led by Juan Mata's double. On both occasions the winger found himself all alone in front of the net (55', 73'). Between Mata's two strikes Ever Banega got on the scoresheet with a shot from close range (62'). The manita was complete when Soldado scored his second with a nice chip over Lopez after another defensive breakdown by the sunken Submarine.

Real Zaragoza 2 - 1 Getafe CF
The relegation threatened Real Zaragoza claimed a vital win and managed to put some daylight between them and the bottom three. The hosts took the early lead when Leonardo Ponzio fired a 30 yard shot past the outstretched Oscar Ustari (14'). Zaragoza again capitalized on a visitors miscue in midfield twenty minutes later. The lost ball resulted in a quick counter and Ikechukwu Uche perfectly fed the ball to Nicolás Bertolo who had no trouble doubling the lead. It looked good for the hosts until they made a mistake of their own and allowed Francisco Casquero to score (45+2'). It was a perfect set-up for a comeback, but Gatefe were not able to force an equalizer.

Recap
The coaching change hasn't benefited Almería so far, but to be honest they did face Barcelona at the Camp Nou, however, they did make the Catalans work hard for the three points. Fellow relegation threatened teams Málaga and Hércules only managed to draw despite playing at home against teams that are in the middle of their worst stretches of the season. Their managers can't be happy with that result and with the distance between the drop-zone and the "safe-zone" growing there is no time like the present to start winning.

The match that caught everybody's eye was Valencia's rout over Villarreal. It was a brilliant game by Los Che and it seems like the injuries and the lack of depth finally caught up with the Yellow Submarine. It appears that the one through four places in the league are all but decided and it might be best for Villarreal to focus their remaining forces on the Europa League.

It was to be expected that previous weeks high goalscoring numbers (35) won't be sustainable. It turned tout to be a 10 goal drop-off from that week, four of those 25 goals came from that little white spot in the penalty area. The referee's took it easy on the player as only one player was sent off, Laure was sent off for two yellow cards.

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GP W D L +/- Pts
1 same FC Barcelona 31
27 3
1 69 84
2 same Real Madrid 31 24 4 3
50
76
3 same Valencia CF 31 18 6
7
16
60
4 same Villarreal CF 31 16 6
9
12
54
5 up Sevilla FC 31 13
7
11
2
46
6 up Atlético Madrid 31 13 6
12 7
45
7 down Athletic Bilbao 31 14 3
14
2
45
8 down RCD Espanyol
31 14 2
15
-5
44
9 same Levante UD 31 11
6
14
-7
39
10 same RCD Mallorca 31 11
6
14
-9
39
11 up Sporting Gijón 31 9 11
11
-6
38
12 down Racing Santander 31 9
10
12
-14
37
13 down Osasuna 31 9
8
14
-1 35
14 same Real Sociedad
31 11
2
18
-14 35
15 up Deportivo La Coruña 31 8
11
12
-15 35
16 down Getafe CF
31 9
7
15
-9 34
17 same Real Zaragoza
31 8
9 14 -13 33
18 same Hércules CF 31 8
6
17
-20 30
19 same Málaga CF
31 8
6
17
-23 30
20 same UD Almería 31 5
11
15 -22 26