If there was any doubt that Real Madrid are going to win their 31st La Liga title, it was dispelled after their 0-2 victory over Racing Santander. With a ten point advantage over closest rivals Villarreal, Madrid now need just five points from their remaining five games and they will now be hoping to clinch the title before the home game against arch enemies Barcelona on May 7 which will mean the Catalans will face the embarrassment of having to applaud their rivals onto the pitch.
Madrid took control early on and were rewarded with a goal from captain Raul after 13 minutes. Sneijder, dominating the midfield, sent Robinho down the left and Raul got a touch on to the Brazilian’s cross to deflect the ball past Toño in the Racing goal. Racing had a couple of chances near the end of the first half, but in general Madrid’s back four of Ramos, Pepe, Cannavaro and Heinze looked solid and Casillas had less work to do than usual.
Madrid controlled the game in the second half and Robinho and Robben had chances to increase the lead. Then substitute Higuain had a goal disallowed when the referee adjudged Raul to have fouled Toño, but in injury time Higuain got Madrid’s second which sealed the points and puts the title within their grasp.
Barcelona’s poor run of results continued when they could only manage a 0-0 draw at home to city rivals Espanyol. Despite the result Barça had reason to take hope from the game as Andres Iniesta and Leo Messi both played 45 minutes in the second half without problems and both now seem certain to start against Manchester United in Wednesday’s Champions League semi final clash. Toure Yaya who has been playing with a back injury gave his best performance in a while and helped to give the defence a more solid look. If Samuel Eto’o and Bojan Krkic had shown better finishing Barça would have won this game easily.
Villarreal took advantage of Barça’s slip to move back into second place after beating Valladolid 2-0 at El Madrigal. Good finishing from Nihat after 15 minutes and Cazorla at the start of the second half were enough to see off Valladolid who had some good chances but failed to find the net. Valladolid now face a tense relegation battle in the last five games with their last game away to Recreativo which could decide who goes down.
Atletico Madrid receiveded a blow to their Champions League chances, losing 1-3 at home to Betis. Despite being without Edu, Pavone and Mark Gonzalez, Betis took an early lead when Juande latched onto a rebound. Kun Agüero who was Atletico’s only player of merit grabbed an equalizer on 25 minutes, but second half goals from Xisco with a direct free kick, and Capi who scored after a great counter attack led by Melli, sealed the three points for the visitors.
Sevilla also suffered a set-back in their challenge for Europe, getting thumped 1-4 at home to this season’s revelation Almeria. Sevilla started strongly and had five chances to open the scoring before Dani alves scored past his own goalkeeper to give Almeria the lead. Almeria then took full control of the game and before half time Negredo had a penalty saved by Palop. In the second half, however, there was no stopping the visitors and goals from Negredo and Juanma Ortiz made it 0-3. Then to make matters worse for Sevilla they lost Adriano to a red card for protesting and then Negredo got Almeria’s fourth. Kanoute then had a penalty saved by Diego Alves but a few minutes later he pulled one back for Sevilla. However, it did little to disguise an embarrassing defeat which leaves Almeria just three points behind Sevilla and with a serious possibility of gaining a Uefa Cup place.
In the big relegation match between third and fourth bottom, Zaragoza got the better of Recreativo with a comfortable 3-0 win. Sergio Garcia got Zaragoza off to the best possible start with a goal in the second minute. Oliveira added a second in the 20th minute and the game was all but over when Recre’s Ruben was sent off before half time. Oliveira made it 3-0 with fifteen minutes and the fact that Zaragoza’a Vicente and Ayala got sent off near the end made no difference to the final outcome. Zaragoza move above Recre on goal difference.
Murcia moved closer to the Segunda Division after losing 1-4 at home to Mallorca. Dani Güiza bagged a hat trick to move him in sight of Luis Fabiano for this season’s top scorer pichichi award. Arango got Mallorca’s other goal while Baiano scored a late consolation for Murcia.
Copa del Rey winners Valencia celebrated their cup victory in the worst possible way, losing 5-1 at Athletic Bilbao. Javi Martinez, Llorente twice, Iraola and Aduriz scored Athletic’s goals while David Villa got Valencia’s consolation. Athletic now look safe from relegation and still have an outside chance of a Uefa Cup place, while Valencia sit precariously just above the relegation zone.
Deportivo who spent most of the season fighting relegation, continued their excellent run with a 0-1 win at Osasuna. Sergio scored the game’s only goal in the second half from the penalty spot. Depor move into 8th place and if they continue their good form they could snatch a Uefa Cup place.
Finally, Levante put off relegation for another week by beating Getafe 3-1. Juanma and Berson scored before half time to give Levante a 2-0 lead, and then Pedro Leon added a third in the 54th minute. De La Red scored Getafe’s goal from the penalty spot.
Top Six: Real Madrid 72, Villarreal 62, Barcelona 61, Atletico Madrid 54, Racing Santander 53, Sevilla 51.
Bottom Six: Valencia 39, Valladolid 39, Zaragoza 37, Recreativo 37, Murcia 29, Levante 25.
Top Scorers: Luis Fabiano (Sevilla) 23, Güiza (Mallorca) 21, Raul (Real Madrid)17, Agüero (Atletico Madrid) 15, Nihat (Villarreal) 15.