BARCELONA KEEP HOPES ALIVE

A review of the weekend's action in the Spanish Primera Division.

Last Updated: 02/05/12 at 16:58 Post Comment

Barcelona kept their slim title hopes alive

Barcelona kept their slim title hopes alive

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Barcelona ended one of the most disappointing weeks in their recent history with a thumping 7-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano that ensures Real Madrid will have to wait at least a few more days to win the Primera Division title.

With Madrid beating Sevilla earlier to move 10 points clear at the summit, Jose Mourinho's men would have been crowned champions if Barca had lost at Rayo but the Catalan giants were not about to relinquish their title with a whimper in the capital.

Lionel Messi started and finished the scoring, with Barca's other goals coming from a Pedro Rodriguez brace, Seydou Keita, Thiago and a Robert own goal.

The result leaves Barca seven points behind Madrid with three games remaining and was the perfect response to a week that has rocked the Nou Camp club.

As mentioned, Real Madrid kept up the pace with a 3-0 victory over Sevilla.

A bright start from the hosts brought rewarded after 19 minutes as Cristiano Ronaldo slotted home his 57th goal of the season.

However, Sevilla then enjoyed a decent spell and passed up to glorious opportunities to equalise as Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo both fired over when one-on-one with Iker Casillas.

Any nerves among the hosts were settled quickly after the break, though, as Karim Benzema finished twice at the back post after fine crosses from Angel Di Maria and Sergio Ramos.

Malaga moved level with Valencia in third spot as Nacho Camacho's first-half header was enough to earn all three points from a scrappy encounter with Los Che at La Rosaleda.

The hosts dominated the opening period and Vicente Guaita had to be alert to turn Eliseu's drive onto the post before Camacho opened the scoring with a towering header from Jesus Gamez's cross just before the half-hour mark.

Things got even worse for Valencia when Sofiane Feghouli was dismissed for a second bookable offence just after the hour and Malaga were only denied a more comprehensive victory by a combination of the woodwork and some fine goalkeeping by Guaita.

Radamel Falcao struck a stoppage-time equaliser to salvage a point for Atletico Madrid following a dramatic finish to their clash at Real Betis.

Atletico took a 63rd-minute lead through substitute Jorge Koke but Betis looked to have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat when their own replacements Alejandro Pozuelo (86) and Jonathan Pereira (88) netted in quick succession to put the hosts 2-1 up.

However, there was to be another late twist in the tale when, from a corner four minutes into injury time which saw Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois sent up into the Betis area, Falcao headed home from close range to level the game up at 2-2.

Real Zaragoza kept alive their chances of survival with a deserved 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao thanks to goals in either half from Edu Oriol and Apono.

After an initial early spell of pressure from the visitors, Zaragoza controlled the first period and were unlucky not to be in front midway through the half when Helder Postiga struck the inside of the post with a fine shot from outside the area.

Moments later though they did take the lead as Oriol waltzed through the Bilbao defence unchallenged and slotted calmly past Gorka Iraizoz.

Apono doubled the hosts' advantage six minutes after the break with a swerving free-kick that Iraizoz will have disappointed to see slip through.

The win moved Zaragoza back up to 18th and within four points of safety with three games to go, while with Real Madrid to face in midweek Athletic's chances of Champions League qualification look almost over.

On Saturday, second-half goals from Arouna Kone, Xavi Torres and Valdo helped Levante move back into the top four with a 3-1 win over struggling Granada.

The visitors managed to frustrate Juan Ignacio Martinez's side throughout the first half, but their good work was undone within 30 seconds of the second as Kone headed home his 15th league goal of the season.

Having conceded, though, Granada opened up and they were level midway through the second half as Odion Ighalo forced home the rebound after Gustavo Munua parried Franco Jara's shot.

However, Torres restored Levante's lead five minutes later with a thumping finish at the end of a fine team move and Valdo headed home from close range with six minutes remaining to secure all three points.

Racing Santander's 10-year spell in the top flight is over after an Antoine Griezmann brace condemned them to a 3-0 defeat at Real Sociedad.

Sociedad's win confirms their presence in the top flight next season and they had their French playmaker to thank as he scored twice in the second half to settle the match.

The 21-year-old was a constant thorn in Racing's side and added the finishing touch when he teed up Imanol Agirretxe for the third.

Sociedad players were queuing up for chances in the closing stages with Adrian Gonzalez, Agirretxe and Zurutuza going close, but they had already done enough to save their own season and end that of their opponents.

Raul Garcia struck a brilliant equaliser to keep Osasuna firmly in the hunt for a European place as they drew 1-1 with relegation-threatened Villarreal at El Madrigal.

Villarreal looked set to move six points clear of the drop zone after taking a 44th-minute lead through Bruno Soriano but the hosts paid the price for failing to make the most of several opportunities when Garcia found the top corner with a stunning volley 18 minutes from time.

The result sees Osasuna join seventh-placed Atletico Madrid on 48 points and leaves Villarreal in the bottom four, four points above Sporting Gijon and the relegation zone.

Sporting Gijon produced a fine second-half performance to keep their survival hopes alive with a 3-0 victory away to Espanyol.

Neither side came close to a goal in an evenly-contested first half short on clear-cut chances, but the visitors took only two minutes to make the breakthrough after half-time as Adrian Colunga slotted below Cristian Alvarez from a narrow angle.

The hosts pushed forward in search for an equaliser, but only succeeded in leaving themselves open at the back. Twice they were caught out on the counter-attack as Sporting sealed the points with goals from Oscar Trejo and Mate Bilic in the final 20 minutes.

Sporting remained in the bottom three, but victory boosted their chances of beating the drop with three games to go.

Real Mallorca leapfrogged Getafe into the top 10 of the Primera Division with a 3-1 victory at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

Goals from Victor Casadesus, Alejandro Alfaro and substitute Tomer Hemed put Mallorca in complete charge and Getafe could only manage a late consolation strike from Alexis.

The victory was Mallorca's third in their last four matches and kept alive their hopes of snatching a Europa League berth, but defeat was a blow to the European hopes of Getafe, who have now lost three of their last four.

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