With one of the toughest trips of the season, Real Madrid headed to San Mames knowing they would be up against the second best home record in La Liga behind their own as they faced Athletic Bilbao. Fortunately for Zinedine Zidane, Karim Benzema and Casemiro was on form as the holding midfielder played in Cristiano Ronaldo to cross for the Frenchman to open the scoring. Ernesto Valverde and his team wouldn’t give up though and Inaki Williams beat Marcelo to cross for Raul Garcia who nodded back to the path of Aritz Aduriz to level the scores. Real would emerge with the three points, though, as the Brazilian linchpin turned goalscorer, pouncing at a corner only three minutes after Aduriz’s equaliser.
That certainly put the pressure on Barcelona as they welcomed Valencia, who have enjoyed some good results at the Camp Nou in recent years. Voro’s side did little make life easy for Luis Enrique’s team, with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala the hero scoring from a corner. However, he soon turned to villain after Luis Suarez leveled the scores with a composed effort, and Mangala then pushed him down in the box to receive a red card and concede a penalty, which Lionel Messi dutifully stepped up to dispatch coolly. It was another loanee, this time Barcelona’s own, that ensured that the lead was short lived, with Munir firing into the far corner almost directly from kick-off to ensure the sides went in level at half-time. Messi didn’t let that last long, though, splitting the Valencia defence early in the second half to give his side the lead again, with former Valencia man Andre Gomes adding a fourth in the final minute of the game.
Sevilla capped off a dreadful week by seeing their title hopes all but ended as they fell to defeat in their final trip to the Vicente Calderon as Atletico Madrid revived hopes of a top three finish. Jorge Sampaoli’s side are seemingly in freefall and even Joaquin Correa’s late consolation effort did little to comfort the Argentinean. Atleti looked comfortable both on and off the ball after breaking the deadlock with a Diego Godin header. A tight affair was opened up when Antoine Griezmann smashed home a superb free-kick from distance, with Koke adding a third only 15 minutes later to reduce the gap between the two sides to just two points.
That result was of even greater importance for Diego Simeone and co. given the results of the chasing pack. Friday night saw Las Palmas, still reeling from the news that Quique Setien will leave the club at the end of the season, produce a most un-Las Palmas like performance to see off Villarreal. Kevin-Prince Boateng opened the scoring in the 10th minute but the Canary Island outfit held firm with their best defensive performance of the season to ensure that the Yellow Submarine would end the weekend seven points behind fourth place.
That gave a fresh opportunity to Real Sociedad as they too apply the pressure. A superb run of form put them into contention, but Alaves made it two defeats in a row in two Basque derbies in a row for Eusebio’s team, following on from their home defeat to Athletic Bilbao last weekend. Deyverson’s strike gave the Copa del Rey finalists the lead just before half-time and Esteban Granero did little to help his team’s efforts to get back into the game by seeing yellow twice in just seven minutes.
At the bottom end, Sporting Gijon secured a crucial win to keep their faint hopes of survival alive with a win over Granada. The two sides are both battling relegation but Sverrir Ingason’s goal for the away side spurred Sporting into life. The introduction of Lacina Traore propelled his side to score three goals in seven minutes, turning the game on its head before Traore missed a penalty which would have rounded off a complete display.
In another crucial six-pointer at the bottom, Leganes held Malaga to a 0-0 draw as neither side wanted to risk defeat, happy to take a five or six point gap on the relegation zone. In a dull encounter, both sides remained solid defensively. So too did Deportivo A Coruna in a Galician derby as they sought to climb clear of danger against Celta Vigo, but Iago Aspas scored the decisive goal to earn an away victory. That means that Depor will join Malaga in being just six points from safety. On the other hand, Osasuna seem more doomed than ever as they faced yet another defeat, this time to Real Betis.
Here are this weekend’s results in full:
Las Palmas 1-0 Villarreal
Eibar 1-1 Espanyol
Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Real Madrid
Alaves 1-0 Real Sociedad
Real Betis 2-0 Osasuna
Leganes 0-0 Malaga
Atletico Madrid 3-1 Sevilla
Sporting Gijon 3-1 Granada
Deportivo A Coruna 0-1 Celta de Vigo
Barcelona 4-2 Valencia
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