Real strolled to victory at home to Elche as both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid lost, leaving them top of the league. Next weekend’s Madrid derby takes on extra significance as a win for Real would most likely see Atletico fall out of the title race.
Real were not in top gear during this match, and failed to control the game without the suspended Luka Modric. In the opening half hour chances were few and far between with a blocked effort from Gareth Bale and a wayward shot from Angel Di Maria the only chances of note. With the Madrid forwards being off cue, it was left up to Asier Illaramendi, the man who replaced Modric, to open the scoring. Illaramendi controlled the ball with his chest from a corner before firing the ball into the corner – his first goal for Madrid with his first shot for the club. The goal seemed to have settled Madrid down, and they went close again just before the break through Karim Benzema, but his shot was well saved by Manu Herrera. Elche showed little throughout the game and almost found themselves two down after the break when Herrera rounded Benzema before a loose ball was picked up by Jese who was fouled by Herrera, the ‘keeper only receiving a yellow. It wasn’t long before Madrid doubled their lead, and what a goal it was. Bale, who up until this point had struggled to fill the large boots of the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo, picked the ball up from 35 yards out, and blasted the ball into the roof of the net, showing the kind of touch Real made him the most expensive player in the world. This was the Welshman’s 10th goal for Los Blancos. Isco came on for Jese and almost set the 3rd up, only for Dani Carvajal to miss the ball. It wasn’t long before the little Spaniard scored however; controlling a good ball by Benzema, before racing past 2 defenders and knocking the ball in at the near post for his first goal of 2014. The Bernabeu appreciated this and Isco’s contributing, with the whole stadium ending the match chanting his name. On this performance it is hard to look past Real for the title, they won comfortably in 2nd gear as they have most of the season, and if they could play like that and win, it bodes well for the team.
In a weekend full of surprises, a strong Barca side was expected to push aside a good Sociedad team and maintain their title charge. How wrong they were. Barcelona entered the game buoyed off a 2 – 0 win away to Manchester City in the Champions League, but found Sociedad tougher to break down and control, with Pedro firing wide after 19 minutes after a slick one-two with Andres Iniesta. Carlos Vela almost capitalised when presented with an early chance for the hosts. The opening goal arrived in the 32nd minute, though, when the champions were caught out by a short corner. Sergio Canales produced a fine first-time cross towards Elustondo, who nodded home via a deflection off Song. The lead only lasted 4 minutes when Messi played some neat interchange play with Sergio Busquets before firing home a low shot – tellingly it was Barca’s only shot on target of the first half. Sociedad had a great chance of regaiing the lead just before the break, but Vela fired over following some sloppy defending by Gerard Pique. 10 minutes after half time, Sociedad did take the lead. A long punt downfield by goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was met by the head of Barcelona defender Marc Bartra, but he only managed to flick the ball on to Vela, whose early square ball for Antoinne Griezmann caught Barcelona cold. The Frenchman still had work to do but, on the slide, he made the perfect connection to lash high past Victor Valdes. Before Gererdo Martinez’s side knew what hit them they were 2 goals down. Griezmann again involved producing a perfect cross for David Zurutuza, who had breezed into the Barcelona box unnoticed and got his left foot to the ball to poke home ahead of the out-rushing Valdes. Sociedad had a chance to add to their lead, however Vela hit the post following more poor defending from Pique, to end a poor night for the Sociedad front man. On this display Barca were poor, and have been too inconsistent all season, they have however been picking up the points while inconsistent. They need to put this behind them, and fast, as El Classico is just around the corner and a final game of the season against Atletico could be a winner takes all match.
Osasuna produced one of the shocks of the season so far when they stuffed title chasing Atletico Madrid. Atleti, who made 5 changes from the team that beat Milan in midweek, started poor and things only got worse. A training ground set piece was enough to fool the Atletico defence when Alvaro Cejudo ghosted round the back of the defence when the Atleti defenders followed dummy runners, leaving him with too much space to which he volleyed home from. Atletico may have still been expected to recover, but were 2-0 down on 21 minutes thanks to a cracking Emiliano Armenteros 25-yard drive that flew in off the post. There was nothing ‘keeper Thaibuat Courtois could do about it however the Atleti defense were once again at fault failing to clear the ball as it fell straight to Armenteros. Osasuna’s third came from more poor defending. Abela Damia crossed the ball, as the static defenders stood and watched Roberto Torres get on the end before heading in. This was school boy defending at its worst. Atletico’s second half onslaught did not materialise and aside from 2 half chances, the Osasuna defence was relatively untested. Atleti Coach Diego Simeone will have a lot of work on his hands this week to lift the spirits of his players to get them ready for the Madrid derby, one they must not lose to stay in the title race, however the form book indicates that Real will be firm favourites, even more so following this weekend.
Friday say Valladolid miss the chance to put the pressure on their relegation rivals, drawing 1 -1 with Levante. Javi Guerra cancelled out Victor Casadesus’ opener for the home side.
Getafe remain in trouble 1 point above relegation after drawing 1 – 1 away at Celta Vigo, with Angel Lafita scoring for Getafe who then saw Lisandro Lopez sent off; Rafinha equalised shortly after. Elsewhere Almeria drew 0 – 0 with Malaga in a poor game, which left both sides unmoved just above the relegation zone.
On Sunday Sevilla beat Rayo to put Rayo in deep trouble at the wrong end of the table, Coke with the only goal of the game for Sevilla who also saw Vicente Iborra sent off for a second yellow. Athletic Bilbao maintained their push for the final Champions League place with a 2 – 0 win away at bottom club Real Betis, Iker Muniain and Guillermo Fernandez with the goals as Betis had Damien Perquis and Lolo Reyes sent off. A late Ruben Vezo goal secured all 3 points for Valencia after Paco Alcacer had equalised for the hosts – Piti the scorer early in the 2nd half for Grenada.
In the weekends final game, Villareal won 2 – 1 away to Espanyol. Goals from Jeremy Perbet and Bardonado Gomez for the visitors with Jhon Cordoba for the hosts kept Villareal pushing Athletic Bilbao for the final Champions League place.
Almeria 0 – 0 Malaga
Celta Vigo 1 – 1 Getafe
Espanyol 1 – 2 Villareal
Osasuna 3 – 0 Atletico Madrid
Rayo Vallecano 0 – 1 Sevilla
Real Betis 0 – 2 Athletic Bilbao
Real Madrid 3 – 0 Elche
Sociedad 3 – 1 Barcelona
Valencia 2 – 1 Granada
Valladolid 1 – 1 Levante
Table courtesy of Fifa.com
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