A second-half goal from Luis “Pizzi” Afonso earned RCD Espanyol a 2-1 victory at Malaga in La Liga on Tuesday, while Elche held fourth-placed Athletic Bilbao to a 0-0 draw.
Cristian Stuani laid the ball off for Sergio Garcia to smash home an angled shot as Espanyol took the lead in the 32nd minute.
Malaga leveled two minutes later, despite Pablo Perez being offside when he collected the ball before lifting a shot over goalkeeper Francisco Casilla.
Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero made a number of key saves, but could not reach Pizzi’s winner in the 75th minute.
Malaga’s rally was stalled when Perez was red-carded moments later.
“An important win for ensuring we stay up in the first division,” Garcia said after Espanyol reached 40 points to go provisionally eighth.
Athletic, who hold the final UEFA Champions League qualifying spot, provisionally stretched their advantage over fifth-placed Sevilla to nine points. Sevilla were due to host Real Madrid, who were looking to rebound from their weekend defeat to Barcelona, yesterday.
Neither team dominated at the Elche’s Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero, with Bilbao coming close in the 16th minutes when goalkeeper Manuel Herrera palmed Ander Herrera’s curling free-kick over the bar.
The host’s best chance came in the 72nd minute when Christian Herrera cut a shot back across the box, but it ran wide of the far post.
Elche moved three points clear of 18th-placed Getafe and the drop zone.
“The weather didn’t help, the pitch didn’t help, neither team played great,” Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera said. “I think we could have put in a better performance.”
Atletico Madrid lead the standings with 70 points, the same as Real Madrid, but they have the better head-to-head record.
Atletico were due to play Granada yesterday, while Barcelona faced RC Celta de Vigo.
Defending champions Barcelona trailed the two Madrid clubs by a single point going into the 30th round of matches.