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La Liga Week 30 Review: Barcelona Increase Lead to Eight Points, Movement All Around the Table

VILLARREAL, CASTELLON - APRIL 02: Gerard Pique of Barcelona celebrates after scoring during the La Liga match between Villarreal and Barcelona at El Madrigal on April 2, 2011 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
VILLARREAL, CASTELLON - APRIL 02: Gerard Pique of Barcelona celebrates after scoring during the La Liga match between Villarreal and Barcelona at El Madrigal on April 2, 2011 in Villarreal, Spain. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
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Real Madrid 0 - 1 Sporting Gijón
I didn't take long for Week 30 to deliver the shock of the day, actually this one might be considered as the shock of the season. After nine years and 150 home matches Mourinho's teams finally lost, to Sporting Gijón of all the teams. Some might remember that Sporting came very close to a surprising draw at home against the same Real Madrid side in November, but Real scored late to win the game. This time the Rojiblancos returned the favour.

Nobody expected anything but total control and domination by Real, but the injury riddled team struggled to get going and had very few opportunities in the first half. They were much better after the break, but they failed to beat the brilliant Juan Pablo Colinas. Santiago Bernabéu was silenced in the 79th minute when Miguel de las Cuevas fired a shot just inside of the post to give Sporting the unexpected lead.

The goal sparked a frantic late onslaught from the hosts, but Colinas was magnificent, but even when he was beaten his defense helped him  out with a couple clearances of the line. The best news for Real Madrid fans was the return of Gonzalo Higuaín, who recovered from his injury one month earlier than expected, but even he couldn't save the Los Blancos

Getafe CF 2 - 4 Valencia CF
Roberto Soldado led Valencia to an important victory in the race for the third spot. The game started better for the hosts as they took the lead when Manu del Moral scored from the edge of the box (13'). Valencia then started to dominate, but they had to wait for their opening goal until the start of the Soldado show. In the first minute after halftime the striker tied the score with a first time effort.

This was only the beginning of his four goal night. He was again sent through in the 64th minute and he beat Oscar Ustari with a clever shot. Two minutes later he stole the ball from the hosts' defense and fired a shot into the net off the far post. He finished his incredible night with a half volley that bounced in of the bar (77'). Because Soldado used to play for Getafe he didn't celebrate any of his tallies. In the dying minutes Adrian Sardinero scored another consolidation goal for the hosts (88').

Villarreal CF 0 - 1 FC Barcelona
In the most anticipated match of the weekend Barcelona recorded a hard fought win to strengthen their hold on first place. Barcelona controlled the early possession, but they were again exposed on counterattacks and Victor Valdés had to make two big stops on Giuseppe Rossi to keep the score level. Barca struggled to create chances in the first half, but after Messi entered the pitch they started to play better. In the 66th minute they were awarded a corner kick and Dani Alves' cross found Gerard Pique who controlled it with his chest and fired it home. It was Barcelona's first goal from a corner kick since September 2010 (Piqué against Atlético Madrid). Villarreal had one last chance to tie it, but Santi Cazorla's close range howitzer was masterfully saved by Valdes.

Levante UD 3 - 1 Málaga CF
Levante have extended their unbeaten run to six games and the Frogs now find themselves in the top half of the table. It was a dream start to the game for the hosts as they were up by two just nine minutes into the game. Five minutes from kickoff Ruben spotted Stuani's run, played a perfect pass to him and the Uruguayan had no problem shooting the ball by Wilfredo Caballero. Four minutes later Rubén Estrada found himself on the receiving end of a cross and he headed the ball in. Málaga pushed forward and at the hour mark Sabastián Fernández made the last defender miss and cut the lead in half (61'). The visitors gave everything they had to equalize, but Levante restored the two lead on a quick counter through Stuani (71').

Deportivo La Coruña 2 - 1 RCD Mallorca
Deportivo put some light between them and the relegation zone with a win over the islanders. However the match didn't start the way hosts would have wanted as the visitors outperformed Depor and took the lead when Jose Luis Marti's cross was met by the head of Pierre Webo (27'). Deportivo came out of the locker room with a mission, a mission to win the game and they took a step closer when Xisco beat Dudu Aouate to the ball and tied the game (55'). They took the lead 12 minutes later when Lassad Nouioui fired a low shot just inside of the post. Mallorca seemed shocked and they never really threatened to equalize.

Real Sociedad 1 - 3 Hércules CF
Hércules are trying to save their season, but despite the win they still find themselves in the bottom three of the standings. Real Sociedad, who spent most of the year in the top half of the table, are now in the middle of their worst stretch of the season as they have now lost their last four games. Both sides had chances to score in the first half, but the real action began halfway through the second half.

Javier Portillo opened the floodgates with a diving header (70'). Royston Drenthe then put the game out of reach with a brace that he completed in just five minutes. His first was a left-footed drive from the edge of the box (84') and the second tally came on a quick counter that he finished with a powerful shot (89'). On the very next play the hosts came right back and Diefo Ifrán scored the consolidation goal. It was the youngsters first goal for the team.

RCD Espanyol 1 - 2 Racing Santander
Espanyol dropped their second game in a row, both loses coming against teams they should easily be beating. It was a forgettable opening 45 minutes, with the only great opportunity coming when Domingo Cisma handled the ball in the area. Pablo Osvaldo, who recently returned from an injury, took the penalty and sent Toño the wrong way (37'). In the second half Espanyol's defensive woes resurfaced and they were victimized by bad plays while covering corner kicks. Five minutes after the break Gonzalo Colsa found himself all alone in front after a bad clearance and he made no mistake. Giovani dos Santos, who seems to be perfect for La Liga football, headed home the game winner after, obviously, a corner (75').

Sevilla FC 3 - 1 Real Zaragoza
Sevilla were able to build on their impressive victory over Valencia in Day 29 with a strong performance at home against the struggling Zaragoza side. Los Nervionenses were the better team throughout, but both teams had their fair share of chances. Two minutes before the interval Diego Perotti received a low cross and from three feet out he couldn't miss. Two minutes into the second half Jirí Jarosik outjumped everybody and redirected the cross into the net. Sevilla decided the game with two successfully converter penalty shots. Frederíc Kanouté took the first one and barely put the ball past Leo Franco (56'). The task of taking the second one was given to Alvaro Negredo, but unlike his teammate, he sent Franco the wrong way (90+2').

Osasuna 2 - 3 Atlético Madrid
A brilliant performance by Diego Costa led Los Colchoneros past the high flying Osasuna team. As has been the case the whole season Atlético struggled to get anything going and they deservedly found themselves down by one when Kike Sola fired home a low cross (31'). The visitors probably should have been out of the game at this point, but Osasuna were eventually left to rue their missed chances. Seven minutes after the opening tally Costa tied it with a chip over Ricardo.

His second goal of the night came in the second half when his low shot went just inside of the far post (60'). The Brazilian completed the natural hat-trick three minutes later with a shot between Ricardo's legs. Atlético had a chance to further increase the lead, but José Antonio Reyes saw his penalty attempt saved. On the other side Javad Nekounam took his spot kick better (80') and made the match interesting, but the hosts couldn't score the equalizer.

UD Almería 1 - 3 Athletic Bilbao
With a strong second half, Athletic made sure they will end their recent string of bad results. Almería proved to be a very difficult opponent and they started the game, better than anyone could have imagined. Pablo Piatti burst through the defense and slot a low shot past keeper Gorka Iraizoz (6'). The Basques had a couple of good chances to tie it up, but it wasn't until Iker Muniaín, who pounced on a loose rebound, that they equalized (29'). Gaizka Toquero then put the visitors in the lead with a shot that goalkeeper Diego Alves should have stopped (52'). Eight minutes later Pablo Orbáiz scored one of the prettiest goals of the season, a dipping 35 yard shot into the top right corner. Later both teams had chances to change to score, but neither managed to do so.

Recap
For the second time this season Almería fired their coach. In November Jose Luis Oltra replaced Juan Manuel Lillo, but after failling to impress his employers Oltra found himself on the hot seat and was now informed his services will not be needed anymore. The coaching job will be handed to Roberto Olabe who is relatively new to the world of coaching.

With the shock defeat of Real Madrid at home, Barcelona have now increased the lead to eight points, which ties the highest difference of the season at the top. With only eight weeks left in the season the league seems all but decided, but with one El Clasico left, Barcelona still can't quite relax.

It turned out to be one of the busiest weeks of the season in the goalscoring department. 35 goals were scored in ten games which means they scored 15 times more than in the week prior to the international break. Four goals came from penalty kicks, it could have been five, but Reyes took his attempt very poorly. Only two players were sent off, but both of them went to the locker room for straight red cards.

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GP W D L +/- Pts
1 same FC Barcelona 30
26 3
1 67 81
2 same Real Madrid 30 23 4 3
47 73
3 up Valencia CF 30 17 6
7
11
57
4 down Villarreal CF 30 16 6
8
17
54
5 up Athletic Bilbao 30 14
3
13
5
45
6 up Sevilla FC 30 13 6
11 2
45
7 down RCD Espanyol
30 14 1
15
-5
43
8 same Atlético Madrid 30 12 6
12
4
42
9 up Levante UD 30 11
5
14
-7
38
10 down RCD Mallorca 30 11
5
14
-9
38
11 up Racing Santander 30 9 9
12
-14
36
12 down Osasuna 30 9
8
13
0
35
13 up Sporting Gijón 30 8
11
11
-7 35
14 down Real Sociedad
30 11
2
17
-11 35
15 down Getafe CF
30 9
7
14
-8 34
16 same Deportivo La Coruña 30 8
10
12
-15 34
17 same Real Zaragoza
30 7
9 14 -14 30
18 up Hércules CF 30 8
5
17
-20 29
19 down Málaga CF
30 8
5
17
-23 29
20 down UD Almería 30 5
11
14 -20 26