Week 19 of the La Liga season was billed as the battle of the top with Barcelona taking on Atletico Madrid at the Vincente Calderon. One of the best games of the La Liga season finished in a 0 – 0 draw allowing Real Madrid to capitalise on the dropped points.
In a game which flowed end to end, Atletico were the superior team pushing Barcelona to their limits, only lacking the final cutting edge which would have provided a memorable win. Stars Neymar and Messi started the game on the bench following injury, and it was Atleti who started the better side, forcing a corner on 5 minutes and Diego Costa forcing Valdes into a save. Barcelona, as ever, took control of the ball and passed it well, without creating many clear cut chances. Pedro having two poor efforts and a tame shot by Pique, but it was Atletico who went closest with Diego Costa inches away from connecting from a header by Miranda. Messi replaced the subdued Andes Iniesta in the 2nd half, but it was Atletico who pushed, and a fantastic chance fell to Diego Costa, who miscued the chance. Neymar was introduced with 25 minutes remaining but it was Atletico who pushed in search of a winner, and a host of good chances fell their way with the final touch consistently letting them down. Barcelona nearly nicked it in the end with Messi skipping into the box and forcing a smart save from Thibaut Courtois. Atletico were the better side on the night, but couldn’t break down a good Barcelona side.
With both Barcelona and Atletico dropping points, bitter rivals Real Madrid were in action to close the gap on the top 2. Centre half Pepe scored with a good header at the start of the 2nd half, however the scoreline could, and should have been a lot more. Balon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo missed a host of good chances, and should have had a hat-trick himself, with Gareth Bale coming back from injury failing to find the target too, Madrid left it to Pepe to win the game. It was a rare night off for Ronaldo, who must hope to continue his sensational form in the next round of fixtures.
The biggest win of the weekend came at Athletic Bilbao, where they thrashed Almeria 6 goals to 1. Mikel Rico opened the scoring after passing it to Artiz Arduiz on the left hand side, with the striker hitting the byline and pulling it back for the first. A poor defensive mistake by Sebastian Dubarbier, being dispossessed in his own box and the ball working its way to Ander Herrara to make it 2. The third came courtesy of a header from Aymeric Laporte as Bilbao continued to dominate. Almeria pulled one back with Helder Barbosa rising above the defence to head home. After the break Bilbao continued to dominate added to their lead with Artiz Arduiz firing home from a smart cross. Winger Ibai assisting the fourth scored the fifth ran the ball into the area, smashing the ball home, and he also scored the sixth with a neat penalty.
The weekends first game was on Friday evening, which saw a 4 – 0 win for Granada over Valladolid. Goals from Murillo, Recio (2) and El Arabi completed the win, and stopped Grenada’s slide down the table.
Saturday’s fixtures saw two goals from Brazilian Charles earned Celta Vigo a valuable 2 – 1 win over Valencia to ease their relegation battle, Parejo with the goal for Valencia. Rounding up Saturday’s fixture was Elche drawing 1 – 1 with Sevilla, a late Herrara goal looking to give Elche a much needed win with a late goal, however Carrico equalised in the last minute to dash the home sides hopes.
Rayo Vallecano picked up a much needed win at neighbors Getafe in Sunday’s fixtures, Bueno with the only goal in a game with very few chances. Bottom club Real Betis were beaten once again against Osasuna, Torres and an OG by Jordi the scorers for Osasuna, before a consolation from Molina for Betis, both sides finishing with 10 men after reds for Nono for Betis and Andres for Osasuna. Levante claimed a hard fought 1 – 0 win over Malaga with Barral scoring the only goal of the game.
The final game of the weekend came on Monday evening with Villareal thrashing Real Sociedad 5 – 1. Goals from Dos Santos (2) Uche (2) and gomez for Villareal and Agirretxe for Sociedad means Villareal leapfrog Sociedad into 5th.
Atletico Madrid 0-0 Barcelona
Athletic Bilbao 6-1 Almeria
Celta Vigo 2-1 Valencia
Elche 1-1 Sevilla
Espanyol 0-1 Real Madrid
Getafe 0-1 Rayo Vallecano
Granada 4-0 Valladolid
Levante 1-0 Malaga
Real Betis 1-2 Osasuna
Villareal 5-1 Real Sociedad
Table courtesy of Fifa.com
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