Messi Inspires Valentine’s Day Massacre, La Liga Week 24 round-up

La Liga

Lionel Messi inspired a big win for Barca as the top 3 all won, with the race for the title showing no signs of ending soon.  Messi is now joint 3rd top scorer in La Liga history, leapfrogging Alfredo di Stefano, and is now level on goals with Real legend Raul.

Barca, looking fresh from celebrating reaching the Copa del Ray final in midweek, started the game brilliantly, and got their reward after just two minutes when Adriano drilled home from the edge of the box.  Barca cut the Rayo defence open at will, with Messi and Pedro both hitting the post before that man Messi doubled their lead with a superb chip, after Cesc Fabregas had intercepted an Anaitz Arbilla pass.  Messi then turned provider to set up Alexis for Barca’s third goal soon after half-time and it was 4-0 two minutes later when Pedro slotted home following a clinical move involving two of his Spain team-mates, Andres Iniesta and Fabregas.  Rayo did have their moments when Joaquin Larrivey forced Victor Valdes into a fingertip save, however by this point it was too little, too late.  It wasn’t long before Messi grabbed his second of the game, and 228th in La Liga after a pin point finish.  This moved Messi level with Raul, with 228 goals in 263 games, by comparison Raul taking 550 games to reach the same figure: Prolific.  Garardo Martino subbed Messi for Tello soon after, giving the little Argentinian a break before Barca’s next game away at Man City.  The rout did not stop there.  Neymar, a second half substitute after recovering from an ankle injury, raced clear from the half way line before unleashing an unstoppable shot from 25 yards out.  This sent a clear message to Barca’s rivals and midweek opponents Man City that Barca are on fire at the moment with the timely return to form of Messi and Neymar returning from injury, this will be a very interesting end to the season.  By contrast Rayo find themselves in deep trouble at the wrong end of the table, 4 points away from safety.

Earlier on Saturday Atletico hosted Valladolid knowing only a win would keep them up with the traditional big two, after 3 defeats on the bounce.  As with Barcelona, Atletico started brightly and it wasn’t long before the home crowd was rewarded with a goal, Gabi stood over a freekick in a promising place, but instead of shooting squared it to Raul Garcia who saw his first time shot fly past Diego Martino after just three minutes.  Valladolid pressed for an instant response but were caught on the break within 60 seconds of the first, Garcia playing a long ball over their defence playing in Diego Costa who lifted it over Martino.  Atletico were two up within four minutes and were content to play out the rest of the first half with Vallladolid unable to break them down.  Valladolid’s best effort fell to Javi Guerra in the second half who was unable to find the target.  Atletico came close to adding to their lead when Mario Saurez’s header hit the bar, before the hosts did add another goal when, in the 74th minute, Godin appeared at the back post to head in a corner from Diego Ribas.  Atletico kept the pressure on Barca and Real at the top, while Valladolid remain in trouble 3 points from safety.

With their main rivals winning Real had to win to keep up pace in a stadium they failed to win at last season.  Within the first 5 minutes academy product Jese, broke down the left before cutting inside and curling it into the top corner, his fifth goal in as many starts.  This settled any nerves Real had and played their usual brand of attacking football.  Getafe had a rare attack forward when Adrian Colunga ran through the middle of the pitch alone, but did not accelerate fast enough and Pepe caught up with him in time to make the decisive tackle.  Getafe were punished moments later when Angel di Maria passed to Karim Benzema who took one touch before firing past Miguel Angel Moya.  Gareth Bale should have added to the score line, but his shot hit the side netting, this typified the Welshman’s night.  Madrid missed a host of chances before Luka Modric’s low shot from the edge of the area found its way into the bottom corner.  Real are predictably keeping up with the leaders, having not lost a game in 2014 whilst Getafe were booed from the pitch having not won a game since November.

Elche and Osasuna played out a rather boring goalless draw on Friday evening, with both teams sitting just below the half way mark in the table, 5 points above relegation.

In Saturday’s other games, a wonderful strike by David Barral was all that Levante needed to defeat Almeria.  Villareal were beaten at home by Celta Vigo with Late goals from Fabian Orellana and Nolito, the game however was marred when a smoke bomb was thrown onto the pitch with 4 minutes remaining, and the referee taking the players to the dressing room.  The game was restarted after 30 minutes and the final 4 minutes played.

Granada beat Betis 1 – 0 on Sunday to leave Betis all but down, Piti with the goal.  Dani Benitez was shown a straight red for the hosts after 79 minutes and Antonio Amaya was shown a second yellow in the dying minutes for Betis.  Espanyol secured a historic win at the San Memes stadium, becoming the first team to beat Athletic Bilbao at their new home. Sergio Garcia and Diego Colotto with their goals and Carlos Gurpegi for Bilbao who also had Aritz Aduriz sent off late in the game.  Sevilla and Valencia played out a goalless draw; Valencia captain Ricardo Costa was sent off at the start of the second half and Denis Cheryshev sent off late in the game for two bookings, the latter for diving.

RESULTS

Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Espanyol

Atletico Madrid 3-0 Valladolid

Barcelona 6-0 Rayo Vallecano

Elche 0-0 Osasuna

Getafe 0-3 Real Madrid

Granada 1-0 Betis

Levante 1-0 Almeria

Malaga 0-1Sociedad

Sevilla 0-0 Valencia

Villareal 0-2 Celta Vigo

STANDINGS

140218- La Liga

Table courtesy of Fifa.com

AndrewPowell

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