A Lionel Messi double spured Barcelona on to put their defeat last week by Valencia behind them, as both Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletic Madrid moved level on points at the top of La Liga.
Messi moved to one goal behind the great Alfredo Di Stefano in the all-time top scorers list in La Liga after scoring two away at a strong Sevilla side in Barca’s 4 – 1 victory. With heavy rain and a water soaked pitch making passing near impossible, Barcelona won by a comfortable magin, but didn’t have it all their own way. Alberto Moreno opened the scoring for the home side when his deflected shot wrong footed Barcelona ‘keeper Victor Valdes. It was nearly two moments later as Ivan Rakitic’s cross was flicked on by Carlos Bacca, the post saving Barcelona. Then Barcelona got the luck they needed. Alexis Sanchez standing in an offside position, turned his back on a Messi cross, only for the ball to hit his shoulder and go in – the goal stood. Just before the break it was two, that man Messi finishing off a typical Barcelona counter attack, drilling a shot past Antonio Beto. A string of brilliant Valdes saves kept the score at 2 – 1. 10 minutes into the second half the little magician was at it again, after another swift counter attack receiving the ball from Andes Iniesta before firing in from 18 yards out. The goal deflated Sevilla’s confidence and it was evident on the pitch. Four minutes from time Cesc Fabregas ran onto a fine ball by Alexis before coolly chipping the ball over Beto in the Sevilla goal. Messi is in fifth place now after scoring 226 goals in 262 games, one of the best goals-games ratios ever in La Liga, and is only a matter of time before he catches the leader.
Name – Goals – Games – Goals/Games ratio
- Telmo Zarra – 251 – 277 – 0.91
- Hugo Sanchez – 234 – 347 – 0.67
- Raul Gonzalez – 228 – 551 – 0.41
- Alfredo Di Stefano – 227 – 329 – 0.69
- Lionel Messi – 226 – 262 – 0.86
- Cesar Rodriguez – 223 – 353 – 0.63
The evening before Atletico Madrid, who started the weekend in first place, had the chance to ramp the pressure up on both Barcelona and Real Madrid by what should have been a routine win away at Almeria. Atletico were hoping to bounce back after their 3 – 0 drubbing away at Real Madrid in the Copa del Ray, however were finding inspiration hard to come by and were limited, by a stubborn Almeria defence, to take long range shots. As Atletico’s frustrations became apparent, the hosts grew in confidence and it wasn’t long before they tested Daniel Aranzubia, starting in place of Thibaut Courtois. It wasn’t long before the moment of the match, in the 80th minute Jose Antonio Verza took a short corner, received the ball back and from the tightest of angles floated the ball over Aranzubia and into the top corner – surely meant as a cross, but Almeria didn’t care. If that was bad for Aranzubia, Almeria’s second was a comedy of errors. A routine back pass became a full-blown crisis when he took a poor first touch and then, as Zongo looked to pick his pocket, he tussled with the forward and both went to ground. Aranzubia seeing red, leaving Gabi to go in goal for the final 5 minutes, and Almeria a penalty which Verza duly converted. The game finishing 2 – 0.
Real Madrid were the first game of the weekend of the big three, knowing a win would pile the pressure on Atletico, however were playing a decent Villareal team, themselves pushing for a Champions League spot. Real, without their talisman Ronaldo who is suspended for 3 games following last week’s dismissal, started with Karim Benzema, Jese and Gareth Bale as a front three. This was to pay dividends 6 minutes into the game as defender Dorado was caught in two minds, and Bale nicking the ball off his toes before lifting the ball over the Villareal ‘keeper. Bale had a helping hand soon after in Real’s 2nd, breaking down the right before playing the ball across to Benzema to finish, helped by the slightest of deflections. At this point Real were cruising and took their foot off the gas, allowing Villareal to get back into it, to which they took the opportunity when Mario went past several players before cracking the ball into the back of the net from 18 yards out. The 2 goal cushion was restored on 63 minutes when Benzema laid off to Di Maria in midfield and the Argentinian’s immediate through-pass picked out Jese’s run, with the first-team newcomer providing an assured finish, a nonchalant flick of his right boot to roll the ball into the right corner beyond Asenjo. Villareal pulled another back 5 minutes after through a brilliant freekick from Giovanni Dos Santos. Benzema wrapped up the victory for Real when Jese laid the ball across the box and the Frenchman skilfully drilling a low shot past the Villareal keeper.
Friday evening saw Espanyol’s Hector Moreno score a late goal to beat Granada at home ending their winless run. The Catalan side had Victor Alvarez dismissed on the half hour mark for a reckless challenge on Youssef El Arabi.
Valencia continued their recent upturn in fortunes by thrashing basement boys Real Betis 5 – 0 at the Mestalla. Jeremy Mathieu, Paco Alcacer (2), Sofiane Feghouli and Eduardo Vargas scoring on his debut. Rayo Vallecano recorded a much needed win in order to survive the drop, with Tottenham loanee Iago Falque scoringthe pick of the goals with a superb effort for Rayo. Anaitz Arbilla, Joaquin Larrivey (pen) and Iago Falque (again) with the other goals for Rayo; Oleksandr Iakovenko with the consolation for Malaga who also had Sergio Sanchez sent off for the penalty decision for Rayo’s third.
Osasuna moved further away from the relegation zone beating Getafe by 2 goals to nil, with goals from Oriol Riera and Roberto Torres. Valladolid came back from 2 goals down to salvage a draw at home to fellow strugglers Elche. Ferran ‘Coro’ Corominas and Manu del Moral put Elche two up, but two goals from Humberto Osorio levelled the game where both sides needed a win. In the other game of the day Sociedad played out a goalless draw at home to Levante to hurt their Champions League aspirations.
On Monday evening Athletic Bilbao drew away at Celta Vigo 0 – 0, how have increased their lead in fourth place to four points following Villareal’s loss away at Real.
Almeria 2–0 Atletico Madrid
Celta Vigo 0–0 Athletic Bilbao
Espanyol 1–0 Grenada
Osasuna 2–0 Getafe
Rayo Vallecano 4–1 Malaga
Real Madrid 4–2 Villareal
Sevilla 1–4 Barcelona
Sociedad 0–0 Levante
Valladolid 2–2 Elche
Valencia 5–0 Betis
Table courtesy of Fifa.com
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