Villarreal overcame Celta Vigo to win 4-1 and record an eighth straight home win in the Primera Division.
Giovani dos Santos opened the scoring in the 40th minute and Mateo Musacchio tightened the hosts’ grip on the game just before the break.
Augusto Fernandez got Celta back into the game shortly after the re-start but Luciano Vietto and Gerard Moreno both scored in the closing stages to put the game out of the Galicians’ reach and bring their five-game unbeaten run to an end.
With his side having played eight games in the last month – and the first leg of a Europa League tie with Sevilla to come on Thursday – Marcelino predictably rotated his squad after the 3-1 Copa del Rey semi-final defeat to Barcelona on Wednesday, again starting without Denis Cheryshev and Vietto and handing starts to Moreno and Giovani.
His opposite number Eduardo Berrizo made just one change from the team that drew 1-1 with Elche last week, replacing the injured Michael Krohn Dehli with Sergi Gomez and playing an open 3-4-3 formation.
The opening stages of the game witnessed few clear chances. Villarreal’s first effort was a shot from Moreno following a cutback from Jaume Costa, but Sergio Alvarez was able to save with his legs.
Celta’s first foray forward came about when a lapse in concentration by Tomas Pina allowed Nolito into the area but the striker’s shot was caught by Sergio Asenjo.
Villarreal found the opening goal five minutes before the break, when Giovani beat Gustavo Cabral on the halfway line and raced clear towards goal, arrowing into the far corner to score his first goal of the season.
The Mexican’s joy was short-lived, however, as he was forced off before half-time with a muscle problem. The setback of losing the forward was quickly forgotten though as Musacchio grabbed the second goal in injury time of the first half, leaping above Cabral to head in Moi Gomez’s corner.
Pina could and should have extended Villarreal’s lead at the start of the second half on the break but blazed over the bar, and a few minutes later Fernandez reduced Celta’s deficit to a single goal, appearing at the far post unmarked to head in Nolito’s curled free-kick.
Berrizo’s side then put Celta under sustained pressure for a 20-minute spell, without creating many clear shooting opportunities. And their wings were soon clipped by a splendid strike from Vietto, who had replaced Giovani.
Pina picked the forward out with a chipped pass into the area and the 21-year-old brought the ball under control with one touch before knocking it between Alvarez’s legs and into the net, scoring his 12th league goal in his maiden season for Villarreal.
Vietto and Pina combined again for the fourth goal, which was finished off by Moreno with six minutes remaining.
Real Sociedad 1, Espanyol 0
A mistake by Espanyol goalkeeper Kiko Casilla proved to be costly as it set up Sergio Canales for the only goal of the game which saw Real Sociedad win 1-0 at Anoeta on Sunday.
Casilla’s clearance in the 38th minute fell directly into the path of Canales, who gratefully accepted the gift and put David Moyes’s side ahead.
It proved to be the decisive goal as despite an entertaining game, neither side was able to find the target again.
The result lifted La Real to 11th place in the overall Primera Division standings.
The match had a lively start and Espanyol striker Sergio Garcia almost unlocked Sociedad’s defense when he burst into the box in the 11th minute and played in Felipe Caicedo, who sadly for the visitors blasted over the bar.
Gonzalo Castro had a punt at the other end shortly after, and while it did not trouble Espanyol keeper Casilla, it showed the visitors’ defense was sluggish in closing the midfielder down.
Sociedad missed the chance to take the lead in the 36th minute when neither Xabi Prieto nor Canales was able to get a foot on the ball when it was flashed in front of the face of goal.
However, the home side did take the lead moments later when Casilla kicked straight into the path of Canales, who controlled the ball with one touch and slotted it home from the edge of the box.
Garcia had another shot late in the half from the edge of the area but his strike flew straight into the hands of Sociedad keeper Geronimo Rulli.
Canales went close to doubling his tally and Sociedad’s lead in the first minute of the second half but Ruben Duarte made a good recovery tackle to clear the threat.
Casilla denied Imanol Agirretxe in the 61st minute with a smothering save as appeals from Sociedad for a penalty were waved away before Esteban Granero almost set up Prieto, but his diving header was straight at the Espanyol keeper.
Caicedo went close to finding a late leveler from a free-kick but Rulli saved his header to ensure he kept a clean sheet.