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La Liga Week 32 Review: El Clásico, Levante Continue to Impress, Málaga Improving

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Málaga CF 3 - 0 RCD Mallorca
Julio Baptista's return from injury sparked an impressive victory that moved Málaga out of the relegation zone for the first time in thirteen weeks. The inspired hosts dominated the first half and they had a two goal lead to prove it. Sebastián Fernández opened the scoring, when he tucked in Salomon Rondon's low cross (26'). Baptista doubled the lead with a powerful shot from a just inside the box (40').

The Brazilian added another one when he connected with a cross and scored to the far corner (57'). By then the islanders were effectively out of the game, yet they still tried to get on the board, but Wilfredo Caballero, forced to make some good saves, kept a clean sheet.

Getafe CF 1 - 0 Sevilla FC
Sevilla missed a great opportunity to strengthen their hold on a European spot. The hosts on the other hand ended their season long eight game winless streak. Geta outplayed their opponents in almost every facet of the game. At times they completely outplayed the Sevillistas, but the in-form Javi Varas almost kept the game scoreless. He made several good stops, but he couldn't stop Miku from scoring the game winner. In the 76th minute Daniel Parejo lofted a pass over the defense and into the path of Miku, who controlled the ball and slid it past Varas for the much-needed three points.

 

 

UD Almería 0 - 3 Valencia CF
Three second half goals lifted Valencia over the all but Segunda División bound Almería. Los Che dominated from the opening whistle, but the visitors' hard work limited them to long range shots that were no match for Suarez Esteban. In the second half, however, Almería folded under the constant pressure and finally gave up a goal. Roberto Soldado opened the floodgates with a header from 12 yards (50'). Marius Stankevicius added to the lead when he tucked the ball home from just a couple feet from the goal (67'). Substitute Jordi Alba added the icing on the cake nine minutes from time with a shot from just inside the box.

Real Madrid 1 - 1 FC Barcelona
El Clásico or El Frustratico, no matter how you call it, this was one of the two biggest games of the season, the other being the first Clásico. Mourinho opted for a defensive line-up while focusing on physical play and counterattacks. Barcelona dominated possession, but both teams had chances to score the all-important opener. The best chance of the half was Ronaldo's header that was cleared off the line by Adriano.

Barcelona started the second half on a brighter note and they were presented with a brilliant chance when Raul Albiol brought down David Villa in the box. Lionel Messi stepped up and fired the penalty down the middle, just over Iker Casillas (53'). The hosts pressed forward to increase the lead, but as the game neared the final whistle they allowed Real to push for the equlizer.

In the 82nd minute Dani Alves cleared the ball away from Marcelo with a sliding tackle in the box, but the Real Madrid full-back theatrically fell to the ground winning a penalty for his side. Ronaldo made no mistake and sent Victor Valdés the wrong way. The game ended in a draw that, considering Barcelona's eight-point lead, favors the Catalans more than the Los Blancos.

Real Sociedad 2 - 1 Sporting Gijón
Real Sociedad finally ended their longest run without a win of the season, a run that ended at seven games. On the other side Sporting lost for the first time in five games. The two clubs now sit in 11th and 12th respectively, but neither can consider themselves safe as they are just five points out of the relegation zone.

The hosts were led by Antoine Griezmann who opened the scoring with a glancing header (32'). It the second half the game started to really develop and chances were featured on both sides. Miguel de las Cuevas equalized in the 69th minute with a powerful 25 yard drive. The game was going for a fair draw, but Griezmann caught a lucky break as his shot bounced of two defenders and into the back of the (79').

Levante UD 2 - 1 Hércules CF
Levante extended their uneaten run to eight games and now look all but safe with just six rounds remaining. The hosts started the game in the best possible way as they found themselves in the lead just five minutes from kickoff. Rubén Suárez Estrada took the 30 yard free-kick and brilliantly curled the ball into the top right corner. They continued to dominate and the constant pressure paid off when Juanlu capitalized on Hércules' defensive breakdown (43'). Late in the game David Trezeguet's strike gave the Alicante side a glimmer of hope, but it was too little, too late (82').

Deportivo La Coruña 2 - 0 Racing Santander
After a long stretch of bad results, Deportivo returned to positive results and they are now unbeaten in three games. It was an entertaining affair at the Riazor as both teams had several chances to break the deadlock, but both keepers were on their game early on, especially Daniel Aranzubía. Moments before half-time the hosts took the lead when Lassad Nouioui headed home a perfect cross. Four minutes into the second half the lead doubled from a play, very similar to the tie-breaking play, but this time Lassad turned provider for Xisco. Racing played better after falling deep in the hole, but they were left frustrated by Aranzubia.

Osasuna 1 - 2 Athletic Bilbao
Athletic fought back from a one goal deficit and in the end snatched the unlikely victory. The match was mainly fought in midfield where the lowly Osasuna managed to outplay the Basque giants. Los Rojillos even took the lead  when the ball, after a game of pinball, got to Kike Sola, and the striker spun on the spot and shot the ball past Gorka Iraizoz (51'). Things got even better for the hosts when Athletic lost Xabier Castill to a second yellow card.

Immediately after Osasuna struck the post and were looking to add to the lead, but Athletic weathered the storm and tied it when Fernando Llorente headed home a cross after a quick counterattack (69'). Despite the setback Osasuna were still looking comfortable to take the three points, but three minutes before the final whistle they lost their numerical advantage when Sergio received marching orders.

Five minutes later, in the second minute of added time, they lost the match. Goalkeeper Ricardo inexplicably went after a through ball, that his defender Nélson would have easily handled, but in the process of clearing the ball the two collided and left the ball with Iker Muniain who calmly fired into the open net.

RCD Espanyol 2 - 2 Atlético Madrid
The other Barcelona-Madrid match-up also ended like the first one, in a draw. Altético have found their top form in recent weeks, but they couldn't stop Pablo Daniel Osvaldo who twice led Espanyol to come from behind. Espanyol's defensive woes quickly returned as just two minutes in, they failed to clear the danger and Koke immediately made them pay. Eight minutes before the break Osvaldo struck for the first time with a helpful tip from Atlético's defense.

Another defensive mistake cost Espanyol in the 49th minute. They gave up the ball in a bad spot to Sergio Agüero who neatly chipped it over Carlos Kameni. But Espanyol fought back once more and again it was Osvaldo who managed to bead David De Gea with a brilliant header. Both teams had chances to score the game winner, but in the end it appeared both were content with the result.

Villarreal CF 1 - 0 Real Zaragoza
Villarreal's league form continues to be at a season low, but they managed to scrape a victory against the relegation threatened Real Zaragoza. It was far from a convincing performance from the Yellow Submarine, but they did threaten to score more often than the visitors did, however, the visiting goalkeeper, Antonio Doblas, made several great stops. Villarreal caught a break when Leonardo Ponzio brought down Giuseppe Rossi in the box. The Italian took the penalty himself and confidently fired the ball into the back of the net (71').

Recap
Málaga, who made several signings in the winter transfer window, might have finally delivered that performance that will raise their confidence to a level where they will start trusting in the talent they have. The players on their roster are more talented than players of several teams that are ahead of them in the standing, but confidence issues and unfamiliarity between players took their toll. They are capable of better results.

The second league El Clásico came and went, with no effect on the standings. Real Madrid desperately needed the win that would leave them with a tiny chance of a miraculous comeback to snatch the league title, but Mourinho apparently didn't agree as he was content with just stopping Barcelona. With six rounds left even the most optimistic Real Madrid fans have trouble envisioning a way for their team to end up in first place

Just as a week ago, 25 goals were scored, but this week one less came from the penalty spot. All three penalty kicks that were awarded were successfully converted. Discipline, however, wasn't very good this week as only six teams ended the game with eleven men on the pitch, but just one of the four player's that were sent off was shown a straight red card (Albiol).

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GP W D L +/- Pts
1 same FC Barcelona 32
27 4
1 69 85
2 same Real Madrid 32 24 5 3
50
77
3 same Valencia CF 32 19 6
7
19
63
4 same Villarreal CF 32 17 6
9
13
57
5 up Athletic Bilbao 32 15
3
14
3
48
6 down Sevilla FC
32 13 7
12 7
46
7 down Atlético Madrid 32 13 7
12
1
46
8 same RCD Espanyol
32 14 3
15
-5
45
9 same Levante UD 32 12
6
14
-6
42
10 same RCD Mallorca 32 11
6
15
-12
39
11 same Sporting Gijón 32 9 11
12
-7
38
12 up Real Sociedad 32 12
2
18
-13
38
13 up Deportivo La Coruña 32 9
11
12
-13 38
14 up Getafe CF 32 10
7
15
-8 37
15 down Racing Santander
32 9
10
13
-16 37
16 down Osasuna
32 9
8
15
-2 35
17 up Málaga CF 32 9
6
17 -20 33
18 down Real Zaragoza
32 8
9
15
-14 33
19 down Hércules CF 32 8
6
18
-21 30
20 same UD Almería 32 5
11
15 -22 26