Sevilla breathed new life into their UEFA Champions League ambitions with a 2-1 victory over fellow European hopefuls Valencia on Sunday with Alvaro Negredo grabbing both goals.
It was a key game for Sevilla who had suffered a worrying slump since Christmas, losing three of their last four games, but they rose to the occasion against third-placed Valencia. From a 22nd-minute corner Sevilla went ahead as Julien Escude flicked on the ball for Negredo to slot home.
Midway through the second half Negredo finished off a well-worked move for Sevilla's second, and his seventh of the season. Valencia battled gamely in the later stages with top-scorer David Villa conjuring up a couple of chances before David Navarro scored a consolation goal in injury time.
The result moved Sevilla up to fourth place on 36 points, three behind Valencia in third. Barcelona still lead the table with 52 points, five ahead of rivals Real Madrid.
"This was a good performance and we could have won the game by a bigger margin against a good Valencia side," said Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez.
Valencia coach Unai Emery felt his team deserved more from the game. "I think the result was not right because Sevilla did only a little and have won a lot. We were not effective enough in attack and we need to be more ruthless," he said.
Villarreal sacked coach Ernesto Valverde following the club's 2-0 defeat at home to Osasuna. Valverde is the sixth La Liga coach to lose his job this season. Juanfran Torres scored both Osasuna's goals. "This was the worst since I have been here. We lost and played really badly," said Valverde after Sunday's loss.
Atletico Madrid coach Quique Sanchez is another man under pressure after his side crashed 2-0 at home against relegation-threatened Malaga. Malaga took an early lead with an unmarked Sergio Duda firing home after just three minutes.
On the counter-attack after the break Malaga grabbed a second through Javi Lopez as the visitors moved three points off the relegation zone. "We now have to lift our heads and keep working," said Atletico coach Sanchez.
"We have to accept what happened, the team had a terrible performance and I am sorry. I apologise to the fans because they do not deserve these emotional ups and downs."
On Saturday, Karim Benzema scored a brace as Real Madrid beat Deportivo La Coruna 3-1, their first win at the Riazor in almost 20 years. Following Barcelona's 1-0 win over Sporting Gijon earlier in the evening, Real were desperate not to allow their rivals to escape at the top.
Esteban Granero headed Real in front after 13 minutes. Raul Gonzalez had the chance to add to the lead with a close-range volley before a moment of real quality from Jose Maria Guti. Through on goal, instead of shooting on his weaker right foot, he back-heeled the ball into the path of Benzema to slot home.
In a late rally Ivan Riki scored from the penalty spot for Deportivo but Benzema had the last word with a goal in injury-time. Barcelona saw Pedro Rodriguez score the only goal at home to Sporting Gijon when he latched on to a through ball by Andres Iniesta.