Spanish La Liga Roundup, Apr. 24

Alvaro Negredo scored one goal and set up another as Sevilla beat Villarreal 3-2 on Sunday to hold on to sixth place in the Spanish league.

Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic put Sevilla ahead in the ninth minute at Sanchez Pizjuan stadium when he curled his free kick around the wall.

Negredo then muscled past his marker to chip over goalkeeper Diego Lopez, who was caught watching the ball land in his net for the second time in five minutes. It was the ex-Almeria striker’s 13th goal of the season.

Carlos Marchena pulled one back for Villarreal in the 56th, but Negredo flicked on for Koffi Romaric to fire under Lopez in the 62nd minute.

Second-half substitute Giuseppe Rossi placed a beautiful left footer just inside the post for his 17th goal of the season in the 73rd, and hit the woodwork in the 78th as Villarreal came close to salvaging a draw.

Marchena was sent off after being shown a second yellow card in the 85th.

"The game had a little bit of everything," Sevilla coach Gregorio Manzano said. "We took the ball away from them in the first half, but they got it back in the second."

Sevilla stayed ahead of seventh-place Atletico Madrid on their head-to-head record.

Fourth-place Villarreal, which plays Portuguese champions Porto in the Europa League semifinals on Thursday, was six points ahead of fifth-place Athletic Bilbao with five rounds to play.

Elsewhere, Sergio Aguero scored twice in the second half as Atletico ended Levante’s eight-game unbeaten run with a 4-1 victory.

Elias curled a free kick over the defensive wall and in off the underside of the crossbar for the 19th-minute opener, before Levante equalized through Felipe Caicedo’s penalty in the 38th.

Aguero restored Atletico’s lead at the Vicente Calderon Stadium by latching on to his own blocked shot to blast beyond goalkeeper Gustavo Munua at the near post five minutes after the restart. The Argentina striker then converted a penalty in the 70th minute after Ivan Ballesteros had tripped Diego Costa.

The 22-year-old Aguero is on the best scoring run of his career with eight goals in the last six games.

Atletico’s fourth was an own goal by Munua, with the Levante goalie allowing the ball to bounce off his chest and into the net from a corner in the 84th minute.

"The team began the season well … and now it is finishing it well, and we are pleased with that," said coach Quique Sanchez Flores, whose Atletico has only lost once in its last nine games.

Earlier, Mallorca beat Getafe 2-0 to distance itself from the relegation zone, while Malaga and Hercules both won to improve their hopes of staying up.

Jose Carlos Nunes and Akihiro Ienaga took advantage of poor defending to head home corners either side of the interval as Mallorca moved nine points clear of the drop while Getafe stayed four above the drop.

"We didn’t know how to take advantage of the chances we had even when playing for the stakes (of facing relegation)," Getafe coach Michel Gonzalez said. "Allowing two goals from headers in our area has no justification."

Nacho Novo’s 71st-minute goal gave Sporting Gijon a 1-0 win over Espanyol to remain one point behind Mallorca.

Also, Julio Baptista scored a 32nd-minute opener then created Sebastian Fernandez’s goal moments later as Malaga held on for a 2-1 win over Racing Santander despite Markus Rosenberg’s second-half goal.

Malaga’s fourth win in six moved it three points clear of Hercules, which is in the drop zone with Zaragoza despite a 1-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna.

Tiago Gomes scored in the 59th for Hercules after a cross from Kiko intended for David Trezeguet at the Jose Rico Perez Stadium, where the hosts won for the first time in more than two months.

On Monday, Zaragoza plays last-place Almeria, which is now nine points from safety.

Lionel Messi became the first Spanish league player to score 50 goals in a season on Saturday when the Argentina forward helped Barcelona to a 2-0 win over Osasuna. Two-time defending champion Barcelona maintained its eight-point advantage over Real Madrid after its closest rival routed Valencia 6-3. The pair meet on Wednesday for the first-leg of their Champions League semifinal match.

Athletic Bilbao beat Real Sociedad 2-1 on Saturday.