Another twist in the title race as Barcelona suffered their fourth defeat of the season after a poor showing at lowly Valladolid. The defeat let Real pull four points clear of the Catalan side whilst Atletico leapfrogged them into second in La Liga.
An inspired performance by Valladolid goalkeeper Diego Marino ensured the unlikeliest of victories for the relegation threatened club at home against Barcelona. Barcelona’s defeat at the Nuevo Jose Zorilla Stadium could be more understandable if they had rested their key stars ahead of the game against Manchester City in midweek, however the only noticeable star not involved was Andres Iniesta, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Neymar all starting, Spanish daily newspaper Marca giving the latter a rating of 3 for his woeful performance. This was Barca’s 2nd successive away defeat in La Liga after Sociedad’s victory last time around. As early as the 5th minute Barcelona were given an indication of what was likely to happen when Javi Guerra was one-on-one with Victor Valdes, with Barca man saving the shot. Barcelona responded to this immediately and a great save by Martino denied Messi. Barcelona looked to be getting into their stride after Adriano fired a shot over, but it was Valladolid who struck first. In the 17th minute Guerra had a shot blocked inside the box, with the ball falling kindly to Fausto Rossi slide the ball home. After this it was all one way traffic in favour of Barcelona, as they sought to avoid defeat, but Marino denied Messi and then Cesc Febregas in quick succession just before the break. The keeper then produced a brilliant save to deny Messi at the start of the second have to keep his side in the lead. Neymar then shot over for the visitors but as the second half wore on Barca found chances increasingly hard to come by as Valladolid held firm for only their fifth league win of the season, and certainly their most unexpected. This defeat leaves Barcelona 4 points off the pace, and only a victory against Real in the upcoming El Classico would be sufficient to drag them back into the title race.
Real extended their lead at the top of La Liga to 3 points with a routine victory over mid-table Levante, making them favourites to regain the title ahead of rivals Barcelona and Atletico. From the off Real were head and shoulders above their counterparts and dominated proceedings, with Levante barely having a kick of the ball. Cristiano Ronaldo had already came close after he volleyed straight at keeper Keylor Navas, when in the 11th minute Angel Di Maria’s corner was floated in – the Levante defenders were favourite to win but Ronaldo’s fantastic leap allowed him to rise above them, heading the ball in. Gareth Bale started showing glimpses of why them made him the most expensive player in the world, had the Levante defence all over. Levante however tried to get in on the act and had a penalty appeal turned down when Diego Lopez came and flapped at a cross, before colliding with striker Pedro Lopez, it seemed as though it would have been a harsh penalty, but they have been given. Real continued to dominate, racking up almost 80% possession at half time. Just after the break they made it 2 – 0 when Marcelo cut in from the left before firing home. Levante were hindered when David Navarro was sent off after a very crude lunge on Ronaldo from behind, frustration getting the better of him. Karim Benzema then headed against the bar before being denied on three separate occasions by Navas, although Marcelo’s 81st-minute cross was inexplicably swept into his own goal by Nikos Karabelas, with no player around him at the back post. There was still time for Ronaldo to hit the bar again and Bale to go close, but the score remained at 3 – 0. The win leaves Real in pole position for the title, and on this performance look good to regain this without losing another game.
Atletico started the weekend in third place behind Real and Barca, knowing only a win away at Celta would keep the pressure on the two giants of Spanish football. The first half started poorly and got progressively worse. Chances were few and far between, with a Koke shot comfortably saved by Celta keeper Yoel, and an effort by Charles just before the break was stopped by Thibuat Courtois. Atletico started the second half much better, with their usual attacking flair beginning to shine through – attempting to avoid their 3rd straight away defeat. Yoel produced a good save to deny Filipe Luis 13 minutes after half time, and a sense of inevitability was around Atletico as to when they would score. Barely 5 miutes after this David Villa opened the scoring after a sloppy back pass was played Yoel’s way he latched onto this before sliding the ball under the keeper. Celta were reeling, Atletico were ecstatic. 90 seconds later Atletico made it 2 when Jose Sosa produced a perfect low cross for Villa to run onto before finishing. The damage was done and Celta never looked like getting back into it. They were lucky the score only remained at 3 when Christian Rodriguez found space in stoppage time, only to be denied by a smart save by Yoel. On the back of this Atletico are looking to improve on recent poor away showings, with the Barca result going their way they find themselves in 2nd, but in terms of momentum are still a long way behind city Neighbour’s Real.
Elsewhere on Saturday struggling club Betis produced the surprise of the weekend with a 2 – 0 win at home to Getafe, Leo Baptistao and Ruben Castro with the goals to help the relegation threatened side. A poor showing from Villarreal gave Granada a morale boosting 2 – 0 win at home, slightly easing their relegation fears with goals from Fran Rico and Youssef El Arabi.
Sunday’s fixtures saw Espanyol give their chances of qualifying for Europe a lift, beating an Elche side 3 – 1 who are now 3 points away from the bottom 3, with goals from David Lopez, Diego Colotto and Pizzi for Espanyol and Juan Rafael Fuentes for Elche. Sevilla produced a near perfect display away at Almeria, who now find themselves in the bottom 3, winning 3 – 1; Carlos Bacca, Daniel Carrico and Kevin Gameiro all scored for Sevilla with Aleix Vidal claiming a late consolation for the home side. Valencia stopped Athletic Bilbao winning, drawing 1 – 1 in the process, a result neither team wanted; Paco Alcacer with the goal for Valencia and Aritz Aduriz levelled from a debateable penalty for Athletic.
Monday night saw 2 games, the first saw Malaga gave their survival hopes a chance with a 2 – 0 win away at Osasuna with Samu being the pick of the players scoring and setting one up for Nordin Amrabet to finish, Jesus Gamez was also sent off for the away side in between the goals. Rayo Vallecano beat high flying Sociedad away, coming from behind twice in the game to secure a 2 – 3 victory. Inigo Martinez opened the scoring for Sociedad before Joaquin Larrivey levelled 2 minutes later, Pardo restored the lead on the stroke of half time before Alberto Bueno levelled within 2 minutes of the restart, Ruben Rochina finally giving the away side the lead from which Sociedad were unable to respond. This gave Rayo a huge win with some results not going their way.
Almeria 1 – 3 Sevilla
Celta Vigo 0 – 2 Atletico Madrid
Espanyol 3 – 1 Elche
Granada 2 – 0 Villareal
Osasuna 0 – 2 Malaga
Real Betis 2 – 0 Getafe
Real Madrid 3 – 0 Levante
Sociedad 2 – 3 Rayo Vallacano
Valencia 1 – 1 Athletic Bilbao
Valladolid 1 – 0 Barcelona
Table courtesy of Fifa.com
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