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La Liga Round-up Week 26: European battle hots up as Madrid maul Espanyol


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By Peter McVitie

Tuesday 06 March 2012


It was another high-scoring weekend in La Liga with 33 goals being scored as the season continues to build up to an exciting climax. This round of fixtures saw Real Zaragoza regain ground on their relegation rivals whilst the battle for European football continues to heat up.


Barcelona defeated Sporting Gijon 3-1 on Saturday night, despite going down to ten men early in the second-half. The Blaugrana took the lead on 42 minutes as a lovely passing move ended with Adriano cutting back from the byline to Andres Iniesta and the Spaniard slotted home.


After a great end to the first-half, it was the worst possible start to the second for Barca as Gerard Pique was sent off after bringing down Miguel De las Cuevas on the edge of the area. Gijon were quick to take advantage of the extra man as they equalised through David Barral five minutes later. Seydou Keita restored Barcelona’s lead with ten minutes left on the clock with a wonderful goal from 25 yards before Xavi netted his side’s third in the dying minutes.


Espanyol dropped down to 11th after a 5-0 mauling at the hands of Real Madrid on Sunday. The hosts led 2-0 at the break through goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Sami Khedira before Gonzalo Higuain’s fourth and fifth goals against the Periquitos this season surrounded Kaka’s 66th minute strike.


Markel Susaeta’s brace either side of half-time was enough to secure three points for Athletic Bilbao as the Basque club maintain the pressure on fourth placed Levante who defeated Real Betis 3-1 on Monday night. Jose Barkero and Xavi Torres gave the Granotas a two goal lead and Jorge Molina reduced the deficit for Betis on the stroke of half-time. Arouna Kone rounded off the scoring early in the second-half with his ninth goal of the season.


Malaga came from behind to defeat Getafe 3-1 at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez on Saturday. Diego Castro put the hosts in the lead moments before half-time but goals from Eliseu Pereira, Jeremy Toulalan and Santi Cazorla secured the three points for Manuel Pellegrini’s men and lifted them into fifth place.


Papa Diawara’s second-half strike cancelled out Eduardo Salvio’s ninth minute opener as Sevilla picked up a point against Atletico Madrid to ensure both sides remain level on 33 points. Rayo Vallecano are still lingering outside the European spots, sitting in eighth place on 34 points after overcoming a two goal deficit to inflict further damage to relegation candidates Racing Santander with a 4-2 victory.


A last minute goal from Abraham Minero secured a vital three points for Real Zaragoza as they defeated fellow relegation candidates Villarreal.


The Yellow Submarine took the lead after the first quarter of an hour through Alejandro Martinuccio. Luis Garcia looked to have salvaged a point for Zaragoza as he fired one in from the edge of the area but the Blanquillos went on to claim a much needed victory as Abraham Minero knocked past Diego Lopez in the final minute to make it 2-1 to the home side.


The results tighten up the bottom of the table as Zaragoza narrow the gap between themselves and second bottom club Sporting Gijon down to three points. Manuel Jimenez’s men still have their work cut out for them, however, as they are nine points from safety. The fight for European places remains as tight as ever as five points separates fourth from 11th place with Espanyol, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid still very much in contention for continental football next season.


Results:


Saturday


Getafe 1-3 Malaga


Real Mallorca 1-1 Osasuna


Rayo Vallecano 4-2 Racing Santander


Barcelona 3-1 Sporting Gijon


Sevilla 1-1 Atletico Madrid


Sunday


Real Zaragoza 2-1 Villarreal


Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Real Sociedad


Granada 0-1 Valencia


Real Madrid 5-0 Espanyol


Monday


Levante 3-1 Real Betis


To make sure you don't miss any of A Different League's Spanish coverage this season, follow the La Liga dedicated Twitter feed: @differentliga




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