La Liga Weekend Round-Up

Madrid DerbyTo say it was a weekend lacking in shocks in Spain would be an understatement. Whilst the hoped-for shock of a slip up for one of the top two is a rarity at any time, you can usually rely on one of the bigger teams in Spain putting in a terrible performance and dropping points against a team that you would really tip them to beat. Not this weekend, but almost.

The closest to a shock was at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan were third placed Sevilla grinded out a hard-fought win against a struggling Villarreal side who deserved at least a point. Sevilla’s usual attacking edge had been replaced by what looked like fatigue and Villarreal were on hand to dominate proceedings with their better energy and enthusiasm. Despite the performances that were to come, Sevilla struck first in this clash as Luis Fabiano gave them an early 9th minute lead but Robert Pires levelled on the half hour mark and then Villarreal took a shock lead through David Fuster an hour into the game. The lead didn’t last long as Sevilla woke up long enough to fight back, headers from Fabiano and Freddie Kanoute giving them two goals in five minutes and, despite furious Villarreal pressure, Sevilla held on for a priceless, yet undeserved, win. Sevilla remain third with the result whilst Villarreal sit just two points above the relegation zone in 16th.

The most-anticipated game of the weekend meanwhile was the Madrid derby at the Vicente Calderon with many wondering if Atletico could get past their bad form to get a result against the mighty Real. The hype overshadows the reality of how predictable the winner of this game will be – Atletico haven’t beaten Real in ten years now and their performances in the derby always seem to be below par. This game was no exception as the visitors flew into a three-goal lead courtesy of strikes from Kaka, Marcelo and Gonzalo Higuain. Atletico only managed to look a real threat afterwards once Sergio Ramos had been sent off and then goals by Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero set up a grandstand last ten minutes which saw Iker Casillas make a fine save to deny Aguero a late equaliser. Real are 2nd whilst Atletico sit all the way down in 18th.

Equally predictable was the game at the Camp Nou where Barcelona eased their way to victory over Mallorca. Pep Guardiola opted to start the game with Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Leo Messi all on the bench and his decisions seemed warranted as Messi’s deputy Pedro proved the star of the game, scoring twice to help Barca to a 4 – 2 victory alongside a rare headed goal from Thierry Henry – his first goal of the season – and a late penalty from substitute Messi. Mallorca’s consolations came from Jose Nunes and Alhassane Keita but the Balearic Islanders never looked capable of dealing with the champions attacking prowess. Barca remain top by one point whilst Mallorca drop to sixth.

Fourth placed Valencia eased to victory also, making the most of terrible defending to overcome recently promoted Zaragoza 3 – 1 at the Mestalla. Highly rated Juan Mata gave Valencia the lead and they didn’t look back with the deadly David Villa and energetic Pablo Hernandez increasing their lead before the break. Abel Aguilar scored for Zaragoza in the 65th minute who slip to 13th in the league.

High-flying Deportivo continued their impressive season, remaining just two points behind 4th placed Valencia with a 2 – 0 win at Getafe, despite being reduced to 9 men by the end. Mista’s header gave the visitors the lead but Riki was given his marching orders in the 25th minute for a second yellow card which put Depor’s position in question. They managed to hold off the Getafe attempts though and doubled their lead just before the hour through former Barca-target Filipe Luis. Not too long after Sergio was given a second yellow card which reduced Depor to 9 men but Getafe couldn’t find a way through and suffer defeat to a team with 10 men or less for the second time in a week following their defeat to Real Madrid last week. Getafe are 12th in the league.

Malaga remain bottom of the table following a 2 – 2 draw at Tenerife in a game which saw terrible defending from both sides, a weakness that is perhaps to blame for the poor positions the two clubs are currently holding. Tenerife raced into a two goal lead through strikes from on-loan duo Roman Martinez and Alejandro Alfaro but Malaga showed good fighting spirit to get back on level terms, Edinho pulling one back and youngster Javi Lopez equalising with just 13 minutes left to go. Tenerife are 15th, three points above the drop zone but both clubs will need to improve defensively if they are to stay in the division.

Xerez occupy the other position in the relegation zone, their weekend proving uneventful as they played out a dour goalless draw at 14th placed Valladolid. The home team were devoid of ideas and the visitors didn’t look good enough and thus they were both cancelled out in a borefest.

Meanwhile there was a clash between two high-flyers at El Molinon as Sporting Gijon hosted Espanyol. A third minute goal by Mate Bilic gave the hosts the lead and they held on despite a number of chances in the first half for Espanyol with the visitors’ Jose Callejon missing two fantastic chances. Sporting then showed their ability in the second half by controlling the flow of play and didn’t look like relinquishing their lead. Sporting sit surprisingly high up in the table in 7th whilst Espanyol are three points and two places below in 9th.

Sandwiched between those two sides are Athletic Bilbao who visited El Sardinero to take on struggling Racing Santander. Calls for the head of Racing coach Juan Carlos Mandia were heard as the hosts fell to Carlos Gurpegi’s header and Andoni Iraola’s penalty. Racing, a side who usually occupy a comfortable mid-table position, are in a bad patch and, sitting in 17th, are level on points with Atletico Madrid who occupy a relegation spot. Things need to improve immediately or Mandia will undoubtedly get the sack.

In the weekend’s other game Almeria and Osasuna, two distinctly mid-table teams, saw their result decided by an early goal and a late goal. Osasuna’s Josetxo turned the ball into his own net under 2 minutes into the game and striker Kalu Uche netted a late second against a side who looked lacking in ideas and all over the place. It was Osasuna’s worst performance of the season so far but they remain in 10th with Almeria now jut behind them in 11th.

Full weekend results:

Almeria: 2 Osasuna: 0

Atletico Madrid: 2 Real Madrid: 3

Barcelona: 4 Mallorca: 2

Getafe: 0 Deportivo: 2

Racing: 0 Athletic: 2

Sevilla: 3 Villarreal: 2

Sporting: 1 Espanyol: 0

Tenerife: 2 Malaga: 2

Valencia: 3 Zaragoza: 1

Valladolid: 0 Xerez: 0