Madrid, Mar 11: FC Barcelona maintained their seven point lead at the top of the Liga Santander at the end of the 27th round of matches in Spain, while Atletico Madrid also won and Real Madrid took three points at the end of a difficult week.
Barca coach Ernesto Valverde made several changes to his usual starting 11 for the 3-1 win at home to Rayo Vallecano, although Barca had to fight back after going behind to an excellent goal from Rayo's top scorer Raul de Tomas. Gerard Pique headed in the equalizer shortly before halftime and a Leo Messi penalty five minutes into the second half put Barca ahead before Luis Suarez rounded off the scoring in the 82nd minute.
The bad news for Barca was another disappointing display from Philippe Coutinho, while Ousmane Dembele, who came on as a half time substitute, ended the game with a muscle problem and is a doubt for the midweek Champions League tie against Olympique Lyon.
Atletico Madrid remain second after a typically efficient defensive display helping them to a 1-0 win at home to Leganes. Saul Niguez netted the only goal of the game in the 49th minute, following up to score after his original penalty, which had been given for a foul on Angel Correa, had been saved by Leganes keeper Andriy Lunin. Atletico have now kept five consecutive clean sheets in all competitions, a good sign ahead of this week's visit to face Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real Madrid won 4-1 away to Valladolid to perhaps give coach Santiago Solari a stay of execution after a traumatic week which saw them knocked out of the Champions League. Aunar Mohamed opened the scoring for Valladolid just before the half hour, but Rafael Varene equalized five minutes later and two goals from Karim Benzema (the first from the penalty spot) tilted the game in Madrid's favor in the second half before Luka Modric rounded off the win five minutes from time.
The bad news on the night for Madrid was Casemiro's sending off late in the game for two yellow cards. Jaime Mata scored two more goals to take his season's tally to 13 as Getafe strengthened their claim for a top-four finish with a hard-fought win at home to bottom of the table Huesca.
Enrich Gallego had put a brave Huesca ahead 10 minutes before halftime, before Mata's two goals (the second from the penalty spot with 13 minutes left to play) resolved the game. Alaves' 1-1 draw at home to Eibar allowed Getafe to tighten their grip on fourth. Takashi Inui, opened the scoring for Alaves against his former club, but Marc Cardona assured a share of the points.
Sevilla went into Sunday's home game against Real Sociedad with coach Pablo Machin under pressure, but after a 5-2 win Machin will be breathing easier. Wissam Ben Yedder scored a hat-trick for Sevilla after Pablo Sarabia had opened the scoring for the home side. Mikel Oyarzabal scored both goals for the visitors, but also scored a own goal in a defeat which damages his side's hopes of qualifying for the Europa League.
Fran Escriba's debut as Celta Vigo coach ended in disappointment as they suffered another home defeat, this time going down 1-0 to Betis, who took all three points thanks to an 80th minute goal from a rejuvenated Jese Rodriguez. That defeat took Celta into the bottom three after Villarreal scored two injury time goals to give them a 2-0 win away to Levante.
Ferran Torres also scored an injury time goal to give 10-man Valencia a 3-2 win in Girona at the end of a fascinating game, which saw Goncalo Guedes and Dani Parejo score for the visitors while Jomas Ramalho and Cristhian Stuani netted for Girona. (UNI-XINHUA)