Malaga miss penalty, Numancia fear the drop
© AFP

UEFA Cup rivals Deportivo La Coruna and Malaga shared the points in a 1-1 draw, with Malaga left the more disappointed after missing an 88th-minute penalty. Deportivo goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia dived to his right to save Apono's late spot-kick.

Malaga, the surprise package of the season after being promoted, stay a point above Deportivo in sixth place and still have an outside shot at the UEFA Champions League with fourth-placed Valencia four points ahead. Veteran striker Albert Luque, 31, put Malaga in front against his old club, firing in a low free-kick on 32 minutes.

Luque made his name with Deportivo between 2002 and 2005 before a disastrous 14 million euro move to Newcastle United resulted in his career taking a turn for the worse. He is currently on loan at Malaga from Ajax.

Malaga hit the post seconds before half-time and rued that miss when Sergio Gonzalez equalised five minutes after the interval. Luque hit the crossbar late on and then won the late penalty, but Apono spurned the opportunity.

Elsewhere, time is running out for Numancia to save themselves from an immediate return to the second division as the Soria club lost 2-1 at Almeria to stay bottom, five points from safety. Numancia sensationally beat Barcelona 1-0 on the opening day of the season, but have struggled ever since.

Kalu Uche put Almeria ahead before Alvaro Negredo made the second goal. Negredo, 23, was discarded by Real Madrid, but the champions have a buy-back clause and may use it this summer to reclaim the striker who has scored 19 goals this season - more than any of Real's high-profile forwards.

Real travel to third-placed Sevilla on 26 April when all eyes will be on coach Juande Ramos for his first return to his old club, where he became a hero winning successive UEFA Cups in 2006 and 2007. Ramos and Real are still reeling from a ten-match ban handed out to Portuguese defender Pepe on 24 April for violent conduct in the 3-2 win over Getafe last week and the player will now sit out the remainder of the season.

"I think they [the disciplinary committee] may have exaggerated a bit, but I respect any decision," said Ramos.

Pepe was punished for pushing Francisco Casquero to the ground to concede a late penalty and then brutally stamping on the midfielder several times. He then palmed the angry Juan Albin in the face and insulted the referee before leaving the pitch.