La Liga Round 18 Results: Atletico lose ground at the top, while Paciencia celebrates first win as Deportivo boss
Diego Simeone's men were stunned by a late leveler by Kevin Garcia for Mallorca, meanwhile, there was narrow wins for Valencia, Sevilla, and Celta
By Martin Macdonald
Goals either side of the break from Ruben Castro and Jorge Molina gave Betis their first win of 2013 in a 2-1 victory over Real Zaragoza on Friday evening.
Zaragoza had a fantastic opportunity to take the lead in the first half when Helder Postiga rounded goalkeeper Adrian, only to see his attempt at goal cleared by Mario.
Betis took full advantage and went ahead just before the break when Castro latched on to a through pass from Benat to place the ball under Zaragoza goalkeeper, Roberto Gago.
Molina made it 2-0 two minutes before the hour mark when he latched on to the ball from the edge of the area and placed the ball home. Francisco Montanes halved the deficit 12 minutes from time for the hosts with a strike from 20 yards, but Betis held on for a vital win.LEVANTE 3-1 ATHLETIC
Levante came from behind to earn a 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao at the Ciutat de Valencia on Saturday afternoon.
The Basque side did get off to a great start and found themselves ahead after just six minutes when Andoni Iraola’s cross was headed in by Aritz Aduriz for his 15th goal of the season.
The game swung in the favour of the hosts in the first half when Christian Lell powered home and Aymeric Laporte was given his marching orders for Athletic for a professional foul on Roger. Vicente Iborra gave Levante the lead with a header just before the break.
The game was put beyond Athletic 20 minutes from time when Nabil El Zhar chested down from a corner kick and blasted home to earn his first goal since the first day of the Liga campaign.GRANADA 1-2 VALENCIA
Valencia bounced back from going a goal down and came out 2-1 winners over Granada at Estadio Los Carmenes on Saturday evening.
The hosts suffered a setback in the first half when Mikel Rico was given a second yellow card after he was judged to have handled the ball. However, they took the lead five minutes after the restart when substitute Brayan Angulo terrifically volleyed over Valencia goalkeeper, Diego Alves.
The Granada goal was a catalyst for Valencia’s resurgence, and Ernesto Valverde’s men equalised nine minutes later when Jonas showed excellent determination to head in from Pablo Piatti’s cross.
Los Che stole the points eight minutes from time when Piatti slotted home from Roberto Soldado’s cross along the box.DEPORTIVO 1-0 MALAGA
Deportivo earned their first league win since the start of November with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Malaga at the Riazor on Saturday evening.
Pizzi looked the player most likely to make something happen in the match, and almost broke the deadlock in the first half when he whipped a terrific free-kick towards goal, only to see his attempt crash off the post.
Riki passed up an excellent opportunity to give the hosts the lead after the break when he fired wide from a few yards, but his striking partner, Pizzi, did eventually net 12 minutes into the second half.
The on-loan Braga man latched on to a slack pass from Jesus Gamez and effortlessly ran past Martin Demichelis before smashing a superb strike in off the post to give Domingos Paciencia a win in his first game as Deportivo boss.
SEVILLA 1-0 OSASUNA
A goal in the closing stages from Emir Spahic ensured Sevilla started 2013 with a narrow 1-0 victory over Osasuna at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Osasuna had fleeting chances through a Mate Oier Sanjurjo header and a strike from Emiliano Armenteros from the edge of the box, but it was Sevilla who created the vast majority of chances throughout the match.
Geoffrey Kondogbia spurned two great chances either side of the break by putting the ball wide but the deadlock was eventually broken seven minutes from time.
Spahic latched on to a knockdown from Jose Antonio Reyes and powered home to ensure a winning start to the year for Sevilla.
CELTA 3-1 VALLADOLID
Celta Vigo secured only their second win in 11 games on Sunday morning as an Iago Aspas double contributed to a 3-1 win over Valladolid.
The hosts got off to a fantastic start and found themselves ahead after just nine minutes when Aspas latched on to Michael Krohn-Dehli’s through-ball to coolly slot home.
However, Valladolid equalised three minutes later when Javi Guerra was brought down inside the area and Alberto Bueno dispatched the resulting penalty.
The match was end-to-end and Celta retook the lead on the half-hour mark when Aspas was fouled inside the area. He dusted himself off to slot home the penalty, despite having to retake the spot-kick for a second time.
Alex Lopez ensured the win shortly after the break when he fired a fantastic strike into the top corner from 25 yards.
MALLORCA 1-1 ATLETICO
Atletico Madrid lost ground in their pursuit of Barcelona at the top of La Liga as a last-gasp strike from Kevin Garcia earned a 1-1 draw for Mallorca on Sunday evening.
Diego Simeone’s men held the majority of the possession in the match, and looked like the only side likely to score as the match progressed. The opening goal eventually came 18 minutes from time when Dudu Aouate could only palm Diego Costa’s powerful strike from the left straight to the feet of Raul Garcia, who slid home.
The narrow victory looked to be in the bag for Los Colchoneros, but Mallorca snatched a share of the points in the closing minutes when Kevin latched on to a loose ball inside the Atletico box to lash a shot past Thibaut Courtois at the near post.
The Islanders could even have earned an unlikely victory in the last minute when Giovani dos Santos whipped a superb free-kick towards goal, only for the set-piece to bounce off the inside of the post. The draw leaves Atletico Madrid 11 points adrift of the Catalan side at the top of the table.
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