Villarreal's UEFA Champions League hopes suffered another setback as they drew 0-0 with ten-man Valladolid. Italian striker Giuseppe Rossi missed a penalty just after the hour mark, with Inaki Bea sent off for conceding the spot-kick, and it proved costly for Villarreal who have collected four points from the last 15. They are level on points with joint fourth-placed Atletico Madrid and Valencia, but the latter have a game in hand.
Without injured skipper Marcos Senna and creative winger Santi Cazorla, who is out for the season, Villarreal lacked a cutting edge and Rossi will hope he does not rue the penalty miss at the end of the season. Manuel Pellegrini's side have a tough run-in to get into the UEFA Champions League with four out of their last five matches against Sevilla, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia.
Elsewhere, Espanyol did their survival chances a world of good with a 1-0 home win over Racing Santander. Ivan Alonso scored the decisive goal on 56 minutes and Espanyol climbed off bottom at the expense of Numancia, but are still four points from safety. Espanyol have been in the top flight since 1995 and were UEFA Cup finalists as recently as 2007.
Hugo Sanchez's Almeria also took a giant stride towards safety with a late 2-1 win over Osasuna. Real Madrid youth product Alvaro Negredo scored both goals, including an 89th-minute winner, and Almeria are now seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Barcelona defeated Getafe 1-0 on 18 April to maintain their six-point lead over champions Real Madrid who beat Recreativo Huelva by the same scoreline. Real have been dogged in their pursuit of Barcelona, dropping just two points in 2009 and French midfielder Lass Diarra paid tribute to coach Juande Ramos for his sterling work.
"He is very disciplined and thanks to him Real are fighting for the league title. These victories [Real have won 15 out of 17 league matches under Ramos] are due to his work."