Good Day, Bad Day: Malaga’s big moment, Messi’s magic & Levante’s longevity

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RESULTS Sat 17 Mar Granada 2-1 Sporting Gijón; Real Zaragoza 1-1 Osasuna; Getafe 1-0 Real Sociedad; Sevilla 0-2 Barcelona; Rayo Vallecano 3-0 Real Betis Sun 18 Mar Levante 1-0 Villarreal; Mallorca 2-1 Atlético Madrid; Athletic Club 0-3 Valencia; Real Madrid 1-1 Málaga

Leo Messi
It may be a bit late for the Catalan club, but Barcelona appear to have recovered from their away-day ditherings with an easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy victory at Sevilla following wins at Atlético Madrid and Racing Santander. Barça’s second goal was another exceptional effort from Leo Messi, who at the age of 24 years and 270 days becomes the youngest footballer to reach 150 la Liga goals. One to watch, thinks the eagle-eyed, talent-spotting LLL.

Roberto Soldado
A much-needed win for Valencia, Unai Emery and especially Roberto Soldado. The men from Mestalla had only won two of the previous 10 league games, with Spain’s latest striking sensation only scoring one goal in that spell. A hat-trick against Athletic will certainly do all three parties good in their respective hunt for third-place security, respite from hostile supporters and a place in Spain’s Euro 2012 squad.

They just don’t give up, do they? An incredibly late winner from Xavi Torres against Villarreal moves Levante back into fourth spot on 41 points – and just a couple away from survival, which is the repeated mantra about the club’s overriding goal this season. A good result in the midweek round of matches could see Levante’s summer holidays starting very early indeed – if the club doesn’t fancy the extra effort of European football next season.

The visitors to the Santiago Bernabeu weren’t much of an attacking threat in the second half of Sunday night’s 1-1 draw with Real Madrid, but that didn’t really matter. Manuel Pellegrini’s men hung on in there, watched the home team miss their chances and pounced when given their own opportunity thanks to a majestic free-kick from Santi Cazorla. Málaga had been waiting all season for a ‘big’ result in la Liga. They’ve just got it.

Rayo Vallecano
Magnificent stuff once again from Rayo, who bounced back from a 5-1 stuffing against Espanyol last Monday with a 3-0 win over Betis, another side who had come up from la Segunda over the summer.  Reaching 37 points gives Rayo hope for survival (already, with 11 matches left) and even Europe; of course, José Ramón Sandoval doesn’t want to hear of such talk, although LLL doesn’t believe a word of it from a very ambitious man. “The fans can get excited with everything all they want, but we aren’t going crazy about Europe, because if we do and any game is lost, we don’t want to go overboard about defeats,” claimed the Rayo boss.

Back-to-back victories for Luis García’s side - the second of those against Real Sociedad on Sunday – puts Getafe onto 35 points and a quiet, uneventful end to the campaign to match what has been a fairly quiet, uneventful year in the sleepy capital suburb of Getafe.

Andrés Palop
The Sevilla keeper prevented what could have been a five- or six-goal rout by Barcelona in the Sánchez Pizjuán.

Bobbling along nicely under Joaquín Caparrós. Not always a team you’d pay good money to watch – or any kind of money, come to think of it – but that’s not the concern of the Mallorca boss, whose job it is to keep the Balearic team in la Primera. And that’s what he’s doing with Mallorca, in midtable on 33 points after a 2-1 Sunday afternoon win against Atlético Madrid.

LLL is perhaps going to have to change its mindset, which won’t be easy at all for the stick-in-the-mud blog. It has always put Granada in the "could still go down quite easily, if it doesn’t watch where it's going" column, but a very competent victory over Sporting on Saturday has given the Andalusians a plump comfortable cushion above the relegation zone: although 18th-placed Racing play tonight, Granada are seven points clear of the relegation zone and only two behind 12th-placed Sevilla. Although, in truth, that latter fact might not say much for Míchel’s men this season.

Real Madrid
Look at that! Real Madrid in the Bad Day section. That hasn’t happened since the last time the side lost league points, way back in December against Barcelona. Sunday’s result was what can sometimes happen in la Liga: Real Madrid don’t always win.

Indeed, José Mourinho was correct in saying that “perhaps the question is how we score so much and so often,” rather than why Madrid didn’t get a second goal against Málaga to kill the game off and maintain a 10-point table-top gap. AS have declared that the title race is back on – as have the Barcelona-based papers, of course – but LLL is far from certain.

Atlético Madrid, Athletic Bilbao
From what LLL saw, the Rojiblancos were a tad unlucky in the 2-1 defeat to Mallorca with a own goal and a missed penalty not helping the Atlético cause. However the result does show, as in Athletic’s 3-0 defeat of Valencia, that the Europa League may well take its toll on both teams in terms of league form, with less cup-tied teams like Málaga taking advantage in the not so fierce fight for fourth.

Iñigo Martínez
La Real were little bit unlucky against Getafe in a 1-0 Coliseum defeat thanks to an unavoidable own goal from the defender, with the ball bouncing first off the keeper and then immediately striking the centre-back.

That’s really going to hurt the morning after. It was a giant kick to the footballing goolies that has cost the job of José Molina, a manager only appointed in December. A goalless draw at Levante was already bad enough for Villarreal and Molina with the game going into injury time, but a last-gasp goal conceded really cooked the former goalkeeper’s goose with the side now five games without a win and expecting the visit of Real Madrid on Wednesday night.

Before Saturday’s defeat to Granada, Sporting’s Sebastián Eguren talked about the game being a seven-pointer due to its importance. Expect the Uruguayan to say "there’s 11 finals left" any moment now.

Rather like Villarreal, Zaragoza suffered massive sporting trauma to the nether regions late on Saturday. The bottom-dwellers led 1-0 against Euro-chasing Osasuna after Helder Postiga's 86th-minute goal, but then the Pamplona posse pulled off their speciality act with a header from a corner two minutes later – an “infantile” mistake, according to Zaragoza coach Manolo Jiménez. As much as they will talk of fighting to the very end, Zaragoza still need seven or eight wins from the final 11 league games this season to survive. Unlikely.