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La Liga round-up: Real Madrid go eight points clear as both Barcelona and Valencia slip up


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By Peter McVitie

Tuesday 31 January 2012


A first-half strike from Vladimir Weiss was enough to secure three points for Espanyol as they defeated Mallorca 1-0 at the Cornella-El Prat on Saturday.


Rui Fonte had the opportunity to put the home side in the lead early on as he brought down a long pass from Romaric but the Portuguese forward’s shot was saved by the goalkeeper.


Mallorca had their share of opportunities in the opening minutes but failed to test Francisco Casilla.


Mauricio Pochettino’s side took the lead on 18 minutes when Weiss was brought down as he challenged for a ball into the box, and as the young Slovakian got up to appeal for a penalty he collided with Mallorca goalkeeper Dudu Aouate who dropped the ball, Weiss then played on and was able to place the ball into the empty net to put his side into the lead and eventually earn the victory.


Athletic Bilbao came from behind to defeat Rayo Vallecano 3-2 in a fantastic performance inspired by hat-trick hero Fernando Llorente.


Michu opened the scoring in the first ten minutes for Rayo as he was found unmarked from a corner kick and slotted the ball into the net with ease.


Bilbao equalised five minutes later as Inigo Perez sent a free-kick into the danger area and Llorente rose to meet it and divert it past Dani Gimenez.


The Spanish international gave his side the lead in 23 minutes as he chested down a high ball outside the danger area, held off his marker and smashed it low across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner.


The celebrations were cut short as Javi Arribas pulled the home side level again three minutes after going behind. Gorka Iraizoz could only parry Mikel Labaka’s shot into the path of Javi Arribas who was able to tap in the equaliser.


Marcelo Bielsa’s side secured the victory with more than 20 minutes left on the clock as Gaizka Toquero broke down the right-wing and crossed into the box for Llorente to send a powerful header into the net.


Real Madrid extended their lead at the top of La Liga with a 3-1 victory over bottom side Real Zaragoza.


Jose Mourinho’s men were heavy favourites heading into this fixture but had their work cut out for them as they went behind after just ten minutes. Zaragoza attacked from a quick free-kick and Carlos Aranda took the ball down the right-wing and with a low cross found Lafita who lost his marker Pepe and tapped it home.


Madrid pressed in search of an equaliser and it came more than 20 minutes after they fell behind. Kaka took Ricardo Carvalho’s through ball in his stride inside the box and coolly sent it under the goalkeeper and over the line.


The league leaders emerged from the break raring to go and took the lead less than five minutes after the restart through Cristiano Ronaldo as he darted to the back post to meet Mesut Ozil’s pass and knock it in.


The latter put the game beyond doubt just seven minutes later when Kaka played a delightful pass to his feet in the danger area and the Germany international smashed it into the net.


After Madrid’s victory, the onus was on Barcelona to pick up three points against struggling Villarreal in order to maintain the pressure on Los Blancos at the top of the league. The Yellow Submarine, however, had other plans and they held the Spanish, European and World champions to a stalemate at El Madrigal.


Pep Guardiola’s side had several chances to take the lead but could not capitalise on their majority share of possession and were left to rue several wasted opportunities which included a weak Dani Alves shot straight at Diego Lopez and a Lionel Messi chip over the keeper that bounced wide.


The home side had opportunities to take the lead and came close as Gerard Pique’s poor clearance looped towards his own net but was cleared off the line by Javier Mascherano. Marcos Senna then forced an acrobatic save from Victor Valdes which kept the sides level.


Granada climbed out of the relegation zone at the weekend with a 2-1 victory over Real Betis on Sunday. Goals from Odion Ighalo and Carlos Martins in the first-half were enough to give the visitors the three points, despite Jonathan Pereira’s late strike for Betis.


Martins dribbled past three players before passing to Ighalo outside the box and the striker took it in his stride before slotting past Casto.


The attacking midfielder then extended Granada’s lead as a mistake from Casto allowed Franco Jara to cut back to Martins who was able to tap it into the open goal.


Betis had several chances to get back into the match and eventually pulled one goal back when Júlio César dropped the ball from a corner and Pereira stabbed it home after 81 minutes.


The goal turned out to be nothing other than a consolation as Granada held onto the lead.


Daniel Guiza and Diego Castro helped Getafe record a 2-1 victory over fourth placed Levante as the visitors stretched their unbeaten record to six games.


Francisco Casquero sent a ball over the top of the defence which Guiza brought down before firing towards goal: the shot was saved by Levante goalkeeper Gustavo Munua but the ball rebounded off of the striker and rolled into the net as Getafe took the lead after half an hour.


Guiza had a hand in the second goal as Castro played a long ball forward to the striker who beat one defender but was tackled by the encroaching Munua. The shot-stopper knocked it onto the path of Castro who was able to adjust his body and slam it low into the net with his first touch.


Ruben Suarez netted a penalty in injury time as the home side tried to claw their way back into the match but the Azulones held strong and walked away with the three points.


Sporting Gijon remain in the drop zone after suffering a 5-1 mauling at the hands of Real Sociedad.


The home side got off to a great start with David Zurutuza scoring two goals inside the first three minutes. Antoine Griezmann found Zurutuza in plenty of space at the back post and the midfielder beat Juan Pablo Colinas with his first touch. The 25-year-old went on a surging run into the box before putting it past Colinas once more.


The Rojiblancos pulled one back early in the second-half through Miguel de las Cuevas but Gorka Elustondo met a Carlos Vela corner to extend the Txuri-urdin’s lead. Last minute strikes from Mikel Aranburu and Griezmann made it five for Sociedad as they climbed to 12th place.


Valencia missed the opportunity to gain ground on Barcelona as they too dropped points this weekend with a draw away to Racing.


Unai Emery’s side fell behind in the opening minutes as Pedro Munitis chipped into the box and Adrian Gonzalez was the only player to react as he diverted the ball past Diego Alves.


Substitute Aritz Aduriz brought Los Che level just moments after coming on when he poked Tino Costa’s cross into the net.


The striker then gave Valencia the lead as he followed up Ricardo Costa’s 25-yard effort and headed it home after Tono had parried the ball away.


Bernardo Zuniga equalised for the Verdiblancos when Jairo Samperio crossed it and the defender rose high to head into the net to rescue an important point for his team.


Manuel Pellegrini’s Malaga climbed up to eighth place with a win over Sevilla on Sunday evening.


Weligton gave Los Boquerones the lead seven minutes into the match as he was left unmarked, rising to meet Santi Cazorla’s free-kick and knock it home with a powerful header.


Luna Rodriguez equalised soon after as he drifted in behind the Malaga defence which stood and watched Coke Andújar’s cross reach the 20-year-old at the back post as he levelled the scores.


Sebastián Fernández restored Malaga’s lead four minutes later as Jose Salomon Rondon beat the offside trap and cut inside before squaring it to Fernandez who slid it into the net and was enough to secure the three points for Pellegrini’s side.


Diego Godin’s first-half goal clinched three points for Atletico Madrid as they beat Osasuna on Monday night to remain unbeaten under new Coac


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