Atletico hold Real as Barca move into second, Week 26 round-up

La Liga

Real scored a late equaliser away at fellow title contenders and rivals Atletico, as Barcelona thrash Almeria to move above Atletico into second.

Real came into the game in high spirits, after thrashing German opposition Schalke 6-1 in the Champions League in mid-week, but Atletico were fresh after a week break.  Real started brightly and took the lead after just 3 minutes when French striker Karim Benzema poked home following a cross from Angel di Maria.  The goal sparked some life into Atletico and they were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty soon after when Sergio Ramos appeared to knock Diego Costa to the ground, the referee waving play on – the Brazilians reputation of simulation must have crossed his mind.  Raul Garcia and Costa himself went close for Atleti, before a good save by Thibuat Courtois from a Ronaldo back heel prevented Real doubling their lead.  Soon after, Atleti hauled themselves level in the 28th minute when Koke picked up Arda Turan’s ball on the right side of the penalty box before steadying himself and drilling across the helpless Diego Lopez.  Costa was proving difficult for the Real defenders to contain, however it was Gabi who gave Atletico the lead, when a brilliant shot from all of 30 yards beat Lopez and whistled into the top corner.  A goal Atleti deserved on the stroke of half time.  After the break Atleti were once again dominant with talisman Costa going close first drilling a shot wide, then a great save by Lopez tipping the ball onto the bar.  In between these two efforts Benzema had the chance to equalise shooting just wide.  Then in the 82nd minute, Cristiano Ronaldo levelled with a low volley flying in the bottom corner.  A draw proved a good result for Real in a hostile atmosphere whilst Atletico missed the chance to do the league double over Real for the first time since 1951.  A draw is a satisfactory result in the race for the title, which will go to the last game of the season.

Barca secured a valuable win at home to Almeria to keep the pressure on Real, and move into second.  The hosts started well with Dani Alves in particular shining down the right hand side, and their good start was rewarded in the 10th minute when Neymar picked out Cesc Fabregas, whose shot was saved by Esteban only for the ball to fall out to Alexis Sanchez to tap in.  Barcelona continued their good start and in the 24th minute they were awarded a free kick just outside of the box, and Messi stepped up and dispatched a wonderful shot which started off outside of the goal before curling into the top corner.  The Barcelona of old would have accelerated from here putting the game beyond doubt, however within 3 minutes, some slack defending and poor goalkeeping let Almeria in and Trujillo headed the ball in.  Barcelona racked up 27 shots during the game, but were always vulnerable on the counter attack which Almeria nearly caught them several times.  The home fans expected more goals to flow, but had to wait until the 82nd minute when Messi rose to meet a corner, heading the ball off the bar and luckily Carlos Puyol was on hand to tap in the ball to make it 3 – 1.  In the final minutes the ever reliable Xavi was on hand to curl a beautiful 20 yard shot into the corner of the net.  Barcelona were back to looking a force to be reckoned with, but when Almeria countered, the Barca defence looked shaky, and up against a stronger team could be exploited.

On Friday evening a dominant win by Athletic Bilbao over a poor Granada side.  20 year old striker Aritz Aduriz scored a hat-trick with his second being the pick of the goals Carlos Gurpegi rounded the scoring for Bilbao.  Diego Mainz was sent off for Grenada in the build-up for Aduriz’s third.

Saturday was the calm before the storm, and Carles Gil secured a victory for Elche at home to Celta Vigo to ease their relegation worries.  Espanyol were held away at Getafe in a scoreless draw to hinder their Europa League push.  Levante took advantage of results going their way securing a 2 – 0 win at home against Osasuna – Papakouli Diop and Ruben Garcia scoring the goals, who also saw Victor Casadesus sent off after an hour.  Malaga and Real Valladolid played out a draw which helped neither team ease their relegation battle, Roque Santa Cruz opened the scoring for Malaga and Daniel Larsson levelled for the visitors after 30 minutes.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Kevin Gameiro’s goal ensured Sevilla beat Sociedad, who were unlucky not to at least draw the game.  Joaquin Larrivey gave Rayo a valuable win at home against Valencia who had Antonio Barragan sent off in the second half for a second booking.  Reuben Castro scored late to level for bottom club Real Betis away at Villarreal.  Bruno Soriano gave the hosts the lead midway through the second half mark who also saw Uche Ikechuwku sent off with 10 minutes remaining.  Villarreal and Sociedad both lost ground in the race for fourth spot, leaving them 6 points adrift of Bilbao.

RESULTS

Athletic Bilbao 4 – 0 Granada

Atletico Madrid 2 – 2 Real Madrid

Barcelona 4 – 1 Almeria

Elche 1 – 0 Celta Vigo

Getafe 0 – 0 Espanyol

Levante 2 – 0 Osasuna

Malaga 1 – 1 Valladolid

Rayo Vallecano 1 – 0 Valencia

Sevilla 1 – 0 Real Sociedad

Villareal 1 – 1 Real Betis

STANDINGS

140303 - La Liga

Table courtesy of Fifa.com

AndrewPowell

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