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  • Writer's pictureLa Liga Lowdown

Matchday 34: Sunday Recap

Written by Hasan Karim & Alan Feehely

Real Valladolid 1-1 Real Betis

Real Betis missed out on the chance to give real strength to their European push on Sunday afternoon in LaLiga, drawing 1-1 with Real Valladolid at the Estadio José Zorrilla.

Shon Weissman thought he’d given Valladolid the lead in the 10th minute, only for the goal to be ruled out. Aitor Ruibal, assisted by Juan Miranda, put Betis in front in the 49th, but Weissmann scored a legal goal 19 minutes later, assisted by Lucas Olaza, to earn a point for the relegation-battling hosts.

The result means that Betis have drawn five on the bounce, proving hard to beat but failing to capitalise on the opportunity to seize a Europa League spot for themselves. Villarreal beat Getafe later in the afternoon, leapfrogging Betis into sixth.

Los Verdiblancos are now a point behind them and two behind Real Sociedad, meaning they’re reliant on results other than their own to secure a European spot. It would be disappointing for Manuel Pellegrini’s men if their strong 2021 form was to be undone at the final stretch, as a Europa League place would make for an exciting platform and an enjoyable summer for their legion of long-suffering supporters.

Yet another draw for Valladolid (their 16th of the season) stretches their winless run to five, and the point means they lie one clear of Huesca who are third-bottom. They’re now level with Alavés in 16th, but have a tough-looking run-in, with Valencia, Villarreal, Real Sociedad and Atlético Madrid still to face.

Villarreal 1-0 Getafe

Villarreal secured a pivotal 1-0 win over Getafe at the Estadio de la Cerámica on Sunday afternoon. Yeremi Pino was the man to deliver the knockout blow 11 minutes from time to claim all three points for the hosts, in a game sandwiched between two crucial Europa League semi-final legs with Arsenal.

Villarreal had beaten the Gunners 2-1 at home in the first leg and will go to London for the return this coming Thursday. With that in mind, Unai Emery made the decision to rest key players including grizzled centre-back Raúl Albiol and red-hot marksman Gerard Moreno on Sunday evening, so will be delighted his charges took the win.

The result takes them a point and a place above Real Betis, who dropped points at Real Valladolid earlier in the day. The Yellow Submarine now sit sixth, just a point behind fifth-placed Real Sociedad heading into the final four games of the season – and those placings are crucial, as the seventh-placedteam will have to navigate Europa Conference League qualifiers next season instead of going straight into the Europa League group stage.

As for Getafe, defeat leaves them on 34 points. While they are four points clear of the relegation zone, with Alavés and Valladolid in between, things are tight at the foot of the table, and Jose Bordalás will rue what has to be considered an opportunity missed against an under-strength, if still talented, Villarreal side that were already thinking about Arsenal.

What the result showed from a Villarreal perspective is that their soft underbelly, labelled by many as their biggest weakness, might not be so soft after all. So often unfavourably compared to the more battle-hardened and ballsy Sevilla, they’ll hope they can carry that winning attitude into their biggest European game since losing at Arsenal in the last four of the Champions League in 2006.

Granada 0-1 Cádiz

With plenty of wind in their sails from their triumph against Barcelona, Granada came into this clash still with an outside shot of European football. With the fifth-best home record in the division, they had plenty to be confident about. However, Cádiz had been a handful on the road, picking up 20 points including wins at both Real Madrid and Athletic Club.

The early proceedings were unsettled, with both sides testing the keepers. Álvaro Negredo in particular posed plenty of problems for Granada, and just before half-time, the 35-year-old had a header saved by Aarón Escandell before setting upanother former Valencia man, Rubén Sobrino, for a tap-in and the opening goal.

After the break, Cádiz sat deep to protect their advantage. Despite their best efforts, Granada could not find the space to get shots off, limited to long-range efforts. Things would go from bad to worse for the home side, Roberto Soldado given two yellow cards in quick succession for protesting against a penalty not awarded to teammate Jorge Molina.

The three points took Cádiz’ tally to 40, virtually securing LaLiga football for another season. Granada meanwhile will be frustrated, failing to narrow the gap on Real Betis in seventh, and their erratic form continues – five wins and five defeats in the last 10 league games.

Valencia 2-3 Barcelona

The climax of the weekend came at Mestalla with Valencia hosting Barcelona, a fixture which rarely disappoints, and this was no exception. Los Che were winless in five league games, but showing real spirit to fight back for draws against Real Sociedad and Real Betis in particular, while Barcelona werealso in need of a victory, having lost at home to Granada in midweek. With no Ronald Koeman in the dugout, it was now or never for Barça.

From the off, the Blaugrana put heavy pressure on the home defence and came close to taking an early lead, an attempt from Pedri flashing narrowly wide. For Valencia, while bothJosé Gayà and Gonçalo Guedes cut through on the counter, neither was able to deliver a telling blow.

The second half kicked off in a different vein. Javi Gracia’sside restarted with intent, and Gabriel Paulista thumped a far-post header in from a corner to put them in front.

However, Valencia’s jubilation would be short-lived. Barça forced an error that won them a penalty, Toni Latohandballing inside the area. Leo Messi had his spot-kick saved by Jasper Cillessen, but in the ensuing scramble, the ball came back out to the Argentinian who made no mistake from even closer range.

That was the spark in a 12-minute turnaround, with Antoine Griezmann tapping in from barely a few yards out after Cillessen had parried Frenkie de Jong’s header, and then a Messi free-kick special beating the Dutchman all ends up to put Barça 3-1 up. A piledriver from Carlos Soler with seven minutes to go caused Messi and co. some nervy moments but they ultimately held out for a vital 3-2 victory which keeps their title hopes in their own hands. While Valencia should be clear of the relegation dogfight below them, Barcelona know they will need to be better next weekend, as leaders Atlético Madrid come to the Camp Nou.

If you'd like to see more up-to-date Spanish football news, match information or east to join the century-long debate about putting milk in your coffee, you can find us on Twitter @LaLigaLowdown

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