Leaders all win as the title race rumbles on, La Liga Week 21 round-up

La Liga

In another weekend packed full of goals, the three leaders of La Liga all won as the title race rumbles on.  This is fast becoming one of the greatest title races in living memory from all of the big footballing nations.

Real Madrid started the weekend in third place, a point behind leaders Atletico and Barcelona, but with a mid-afternoon kick off on Saturday had the chance to go top for 24 hours.  Before the kick-off Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo showed the prize in front of the Bernabeu, and had the chance to give Madrid the lead within the first minutes as he broke down the left, but his shot going well wide.  Ronaldo then had an acrobatic shot with an overhead kick, but Granada ‘keeper Roberto fisted the ball away.  Madrid were hassled by their opponents and didn’t enjoy the best of afternoons in front of goal, with the away side restricting Madrid’s counter attacking style.  The second half was slightly different, with Karim Benzema striking the bar early on giving a warning to Grenada.  It was not long before that man Ronaldo scored Real’s first of the afternoon going past 2 defenders in the box before rifling home; Granada however were incensed that Luca Modric had not put the ball out of play when a Grenada player lay stricken on the floor, the goal stood.  Ronaldo had several chances to extend the lead but was unable to find the goal however he got the important flick on from Marcelo’s cross, which allowed Benzema to side foot the second goal home.

Atletico leap frogged Real away at relegation threatened Rayo Vallecano, giving a clear indication that they are not intimidated by their big spending rivals.  Atletico opened the scoring as Diego Costa pounced on a mistake by Raul Baena, squaring it for David Villa to score in an open net.  Rayo were gifted a way back into the match after Alberto Bueno was tripped by Javier Manquillo in the area, Jonathan Viera’s penalty was saved, and not for the first time this season.  It was only a matter of time before Rayo’s high defensive line was punished and in the 30th minute with Costa holding the ball up, squaring to Sosa who in turn squared to Turan for the easiest of finishes.  Rayo pulled a goal back 5 minutes before half time through a deflected Viera shot after good play down the wing.  Atletico regained their 2 goal cushion before half time when Gabi swung a free kick into the box which was nodded on by a Rayo defender and Turan was able to slide his 2nd and Atletico’s 3rd into the net.  The 2nd half was a lot less frantic, with Atletico dominating the game, and with 15 minutes remaining good play down the left from Filipe Luis passed it to Costa for him to score a well-earned goal.  The scoring was finished when Joaquin Larrivey flicked a Viera cross into the corner of the net.

With their main rivals winning at the weekend, nothing less than a victory would satisfy Barcelona at home to Malaga after a turbulent week that saw President Sandro Rosell resign.  Barca were at their best, controlling the game start to finish however a string of fine saves from Willy Cabaellro restricted the hosts to 3 goals.  Barcelona missed a string of good chances in the first half before defender Gerard Pique found himself at the back post with time to control the ball and volley past Willy in the Malaga goal.  It was only a matter of time after half time before Barca doubled their lead, and when Pedro found himself in the box, he had no problem creating some space and curling the ball into the bottom corner.  Barca made sure of the victory after Messi threaded a fine ball through to Pedro who in turn squared it to Alexis to make sure of the points.  The perfect end to a troubling week for the home side.

Celta Vigo started the weekend with a comprehensive win over bottom club Real Betis on Friday evening.  Ruben Castro opened the scoring for the visitors and they looked positive with new manager Gabriel Calderon watching on, but two goals Fabian Orellana and one from Charles turned the game on its head before half time. Substitute Nolito added a fourth goal for the hosts 17 minutes from time and, although Ruben’s second of the game made the scoreline more respectable, it was too little, too late.  Things got worse for Betis after Mabwati was sent off in added time.

In Saturday’s games lowly Valladolid shocked Champions League hopefuls Villareal winning by 1 goal to nil with Jesus Rueda’s first half goal separating the 2 sides.  Valencia drew at the Mestalla against Espanyol, after a frantic start.  Jhon Cordoba opened the scoring for the visitors after just 3 minutes, however Paco Alcacer levelled only 4 minutes later.  A neat header by Jonas then put Valencia ahead on 32 minutes before Sergio Garcia levelling from the spot on the stroke of half time.  In Saturday’s final game, Levante stunned Sevilla with both teams finishing with 10 men.  Coke opened the scoring midway through the first half for Unai Emery’s side but David Barral levelled a few minutes later from the penalty spot.  Sevilla launched an attack after attack but were constantly thwarted by the brilliance of Keylor Navas in the Levante goal until Ivan Rakitic restored the lead on 68 minutes. But Loukas Vyntra pulled the visitors level, before Simao grabbed the winner with 15 minutes remaining.  There was still time for more drama as Nikos Karabelas was sent off for a late challenge on Jairo, who was then sent off less than a minute later for a shove on Barral.

Almeria eased their relegation worries after a good 1 nil win over Getafe after Jonathan’s second half goal.  Athletic Bilbao posted the weekends biggest win with a 5 – 1 victory away at Osasuna.  Markel Susaeta opened the scoring before Emiliano Armenteros levelled.  Aritz Aduriz score ttwicew to take the game away from the hosts.  Osasuna were dealt another setback by the 76th-minute sending-off of Alejandro Arribas before substitutes Ibai and Enrique Sola struck late on.

In the final game of the weekend Sociedad ran out comfortable winners at home to Elche.  An Antoine Greizmann hat trick put the game beyond doubt, and Carlos Vela scored the fourth as Sociedad stopped the rot in an attempt to rejuvenate their Champions League challenge.

RESULTS

Almeria 1-0 Getafe

Barcelona 3-0 Malaga

Celta Vigo 4-2 Real Betis

Osasuna 1-5 Athletic Bilbao

Real Madrid 2-0 Granada

Rayo Vallecano 2-4 Atletico Madrid

Sevilla 2-3 Levante

Sociedad 4-0 Elche

Valladolid 1-0 Villareal

Valencia 2-2 Espanyol

STANDINGS

140127 - La Liga

Table courtesy of Fifa.com

AndrewPowell

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