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The race for Europe hots up: La Liga Round-Up and Highlights
- Updated: 23 April, 2012
Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Athletic Club all secured vital wins on Sunday as La Liga’s race for European football moved into overdrive with just three games remaining.
Valencia jumped four points clear of fourth-placed Malaga after romping to an impressive 4-0 victory over nine-men Real Betis at the Mestalla. The game was just six minutes old when Jonas put Unai Emery’s side ahead, before Jose Dorado was sent off for Betis. The hosts doubled their lead on the hour thanks to Sofiane Feghouli and wrapped up the points with strikes from Roberto Soldado and Pablos Piatti in the last five minutes before the Andalucians lost another man when Jorge Molina saw red at the death.
Atletico recorded an impressive 3-1 victory over Espanyol at the Vicente Calderon, as Turkish international Arda Thuran fired in two goals in the space of two second-half minutes. The hosts took an early lead when Diego Godin headed past Cristian Alvarez in the ninth minute – only for Didac Vila to level less than ten minutes later. Diego Simeone’s men dominated possession and finally broke the visitor’s resolve when Turan netted on the hour mark before sealing the victory moments with an effort that beat Alvarez at his near post.
Athletic secured a rather fortuitous 1-0 victory over Racing Santander at el Sardinero, as the home side moved closer to la segunda. Gaizka Toquera gave the Basques an early lead but the Cantabrians battled throughout the game and created the majority of the opportunities. A lack of prowess in front of goal left Racing unable to find a way through a determined Bilbao back line however, and Toquero’s strike proved the difference between the two teams.
Villarreal remain embroiled in the relegation mire after allowing Real Sociedad to grab a late equaliser in a game the visitors had dominated for long periods. Miguel Angel Lotina’s side began the encounter in determined fashion and took a deserved lead when Marcos Senna netted just before the break. The hosts regrouped in the second half and began to create chances but it was Villarreal who came closest to adding to their total, only for Claudio Bravo to keep la Real in the game.
With time running out, Carlos Vela struck a spectacular overhead kick to deny the visitors the points – leaving Villarreal still mathematically in danger of relegation despite sitting six points ahead of Zaragoza with just three games to play.
In the day’s other game, Franco Jarra gave Granada their first victory in four as they beat Getafe 1-0 at los Carmenes to move seven points clear of the drop zone. The visitors proved little threat to Abel Resino’s men and Carlos Martins’ first half strike proved enough to secure all three points.
GRANADA 1-0 GETAFE
REAL SOCIEDAD 1-1 VILLARREAL
RACING SANTANDER 0-1 ATHLETIC CLUB
ATLETICO MADRID 3-1 ESPANYOL
VALENCIA 4-0 REAL BETIS
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