Malaga were held 1-1 by battling 10-man Real Sociedad on Sunday,
which prevented them from taking advantage of Champions League
qualification rivals Valencia's 4-0 thrashing at Espanyol earlier
in the day.
It looked to be going Malaga's way when Isco put them ahead after
19 minutes with a fine shot from 25 yards that flew into the top
corner and Real Sociedad's Mikel Gonzalez was then dismissed
before the break after receiving a second yellow card.
However, Xabi Prieto brought Real Sociedad level after 48 minutes
with an excellent volley from the edge of the area and although
Malaga pressed forward for the winner, they could not put the
ball in the back of the net.
The Andalucian club's Qatari owner, Abdullah Al-Thani, has
invested heavily, bringing in players like Santi Cazorla and
Martin Demichelis in the search for Champions League football,
but they have lacked consistency this season and are now a point
behind Valencia in fourth.
A disappointing Valencia crashed at Espanyol, who kept their own
European hopes alive with their first win in almost a month.
Valencia had been in good form recently, having picked up a point
at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid and qualified for the
semi-finals of the Europa League, but they caused little danger
against Espanyol, who took their chances well.
Following a slow start with little danger at either end, Espanyol
took the lead after 25 minutes, with Cristian Gomez slotting the
ball home inside the area after good work from Sergio Garcia on
the right wing.
Valencia had little time to respond as just four minutes later
they fell further behind, with Joan Verdu firing a delightful
left-foot shot into the top corner from 25 yards.
An error from Valencia goalkeeper Vicente Guaita led to
substitute Alvaro Vazquez adding another for Espanyol in the
second half and then Kalu Uche finished clinically with eleven
At the bottom of the table, Real Zaragoza beat Granada 1-0 and
Villarreal drew 1-1 with Racing Santander, while Real Betis put a
dent in Osasuna's European ambitions with 1-0 win.
On Saturday, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both hit their
41st league goals of the season as Real Madrid and Barcelona beat
Sporting Gijon and Levante respectively.
It means Real keep their four-point lead at the top of the table
ahead of the Clasico showdown next weekend at Camp Nou.