Sevilla moved up to fourth in La Liga after limping to an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Celta Vigo, who were forced to play most of the game with 10 men.
Carles Planas was shown a straight red card with just 20 minutes on the clock at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium and shortly afterwards Nico Pareja gave Sevilla the lead from a free-kick. But the fact the hosts were unable to build on their lead despite their numerical advantage should be of concern to Unai Emery’s side as they prepare to battle Valencia, Villarreal and Malaga for the final Champions League spot in the coming months.
Celta gave a good showing of themselves given the circumstances but were unable to avoid a fifth straight defeat and have taken just one point from their last seven matches. Celta coach Eduardo Berrizo was without his two top scorers Joaquin Larrivey and Nolito through suspension but his side made a strong start to the game, creating no fewer than four chances in the opening 16 minutes.
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However, it was not long before they shot themselves in the foot.
Sevilla’s Denis Suarez carried the ball towards the halfway line after defending a Celta free-kick and was sent flying by a reckless challenge from Planas, who was shown a straight red card. The defender – a former teammate of Suarez with Barcelona B last season – was dumbstruck by the decision and took several minutes to leave the pitch.
Sevilla needed just over 10 minutes to take advantage – with Pareja sending a 25-yard free-kick into the far corner and just beyond the outstretched hand of Sergio Alvarez. The defender celebrated by running to the home dugout and holding aloft a t-shirt in support of team-mate Sebastian Cristoforo, who has been ruled out of action for the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery.
Celta made it to the break without receiving further wounds and came into the second period strongly. They came agonizingly close to getting an equalizer in the 52nd minute when Krohn Dehli cut the ball back to Santi Mina from the left hand side and the striker sent the ball crashing off the crossbar.
Pablo Hernandez later succeeded in curling a free-kick around the wall but Sevilla goalkeeper Beto managed to tip the ball around the post, and then Hugo Mallo cut in from the right hand side to shoot on goal but could not keep the ball under the bar.
Sevilla had been dormant in the second half but then almost put the game to bed. Reyes waltzed into the area and played a one-two with Kevin Gameiro before striking the bar. Celta kept pushing down the other end, but the equalizer they craved remained elusive.
Ivan Cavaleiro scored for the first time since August as Deportivo La Coruna fended off Athletic Bilbao to climb clear of the Primera Division relegation zone.
The Portuguese attacker broke through Athletic lines to collect a lofted pass and slide a low finish past Gorka Iraizoz in the 24th minute.
His strike gave Deportivo a 1-0 victory at the Riazor, as the home side resisted second-half pressure from an Athletic Bilbao side who in the opening 45 minutes had offered barely any threat.
Cavaleiro is on loan from Benfica and Deportivo may have expected him to make more of a goalscoring impact by now. His second goal for the club indicated he has ample ability and composure. Teammates Jose Rodriguez and Jose Toche had already threatened the Athletic goal before the breakthrough came.
It was a goal of great simplicity, with Alex Bergantinos lobbing the ball into the danger zone after a free-kick was part-cleared. The visiting defence dawdled, perhaps hoping for an offside flag which would have been an injustice, and Cavaleiro took down the ball with his left instep before taking a further touch and then cracking in a low shot from eight yards.
Juan Dominguez shot over the bar as Victor Fernandez’s dominant home side sought a second goal before the break. There was a different flow to the second half, with Athletic’s Unai Lopez and Borja Viguera both seeing attempts saved inside the opening 10 minutes.
Toche sent a shot wide for Deportivo, before Viguera missed at the other end. Dominguez had a chance to kill the game but could not get his shot right, and headers from Inaki Williams and Mikel Balenziaga late on could have punished Deportivo, but the former sent his effort over the bar and the latter had his saved by Fabricio.
Helder Postiga looked to fire a second goal for Deportivo in stoppage time, but Iraizoz was his equal.
Tomer Hemed’s brace made it three consecutive wins for new Almeria boss Juan Ignacio Martinez as they beat high-flying Malaga 2-1 at La Rosaleda Stadium.
Hemed opened the scoring five minutes before half time with an opportunist strike and he made sure of the win from the penalty spot in the second half, minutes after Samuel Garcia struck back for Malaga.
Martinez’s tenure began with a heavy defeat to Real Madrid in December, but since then they have beaten Real Betis in the Copa Del Rey, squeezed past Celta Vigo 1-0 and now impressively ended Malaga’s four-game winning run. The victory takes them three points clear of the drop zone, while the hosts remain seventh having missed the chance to leapfrog Villarreal and Valencia.