Oh what it must be like to be a Barcelona fan this term. From the highs of victory against title rivals Real Madrid, to the lows of defeat against minnows Valladolid and a mediocre Valencia side. The weekends victory definitely ranks with one of the highs with a 7 – 0 demolition over Osasuna, keeping the pressure on both Madrid clubs who both won by a solitary goal to nil.
Lionel Messi became Barcelona’s highest ever goal scorer by scoring a hat trick in their 7 – 0 thrashing of Osasuna. The magic man from Argentina opened the scoring after 19 minutes to equal Paulino Alcantara’s record of 369 goals in all competitions – including friendlies – for Barcelona. It was not all plain sailing for Barca though they struggled for the opening 15 minutes to gain a foot hold on the game, with Osasuna having a goal chalked off for off side. Alexis, whose cross provided an easy opening for Messi’s first, did not have to wait long to add to the goals, tapping in from 6 yards out following a cross from Jordi Alba. Andres Iniesta had been pivotal in the build up to both Barca goals then got in on the act – driving the ball into the far corner from all of 30 yards out. Dani Alves wanted a piece of the action too and tried his luck from similar range, but saw his effort tipped over by Andres Fernandez. The goalkeeper then had to repel a volley from Xavi after a looping ball over the top from Iniesta. Pedro went close early in the second half before the inevitable happened, Messi finishing a fine goal following neat exchanges between Iniesta and himself, this goal made him the outright top scorer for Barca. Messi had another chance to add to his tally but lifted his shot over the crossbar. Tello added the 5th drilling the ball into the top corner from just outside the area. Messi then controlled a square pass from Alves and finished from close range to score his hat-trick, and then laid the ball on a plate for Pedro to complete the drubbing. This was Barcelona at their best, pass and move and simply untouchable for large parts of the game. If they play like this next week in El Classico then it is very hard to see past them, throwing another spanner in Real’s title challenge. It is gearing up to be a very good game next weekend.
Real piled the pressure on Barca and Atletico in the weekends first game of the big three with a narrow victory away at Malaga. The game started tight, with Real maybe shading the game but it was Malaga who threatened first when Roque Santa Cruz headed narrowly over on 13 minutes. Real began to exert more authority with Ronaldo going close twice, with Malaga keeper Will Caballero firstly pulling off a smart save, then Marcos Angeleri blocking an effort. Half way through the half Ronaldo received the ball from Gareth Bale on the left hand side of the box, twisting and turning, beating 3 Malaga defenders in the process before coolly curling the ball into the far corner. Malaga hit back and almost equalised after Nordin Amrabat forced a good save from Diego Lopez on the half hour mark, then 10 minutes later firing wide. The second half was more of a close affair with Isco and Marcelo going close for Real and Amrabat having a tame effort held by Lopez. This was not classic Real and they must up their game if they are to come out of next week’s El Classico with a victory.
Atletico went into the game knowing only a win would keep the pressure on Real after seeing their big city neighbours win earlier in the day. Atleti started well and had the lion share of the possession in the opening exchanges, however it was Espanyol who had the first real chance of note when Christian Stuani’s effort from just inside the box was well saved by Thibuat Courtois. After 13 minutes Francisco Casilla managed to holdout two close Atletico efforts. First keeping out David Villa’s header with a brilliant save as he tipped the ball around the post and then holding out Jose Sosa’s resulting corner as the home side pressed for an opener. Espanyol hit back with Sergio Garcia coming close, with Courtois producing another brilliant save, but little else happened in the rest of the half. Atletico began the second half well and they went ahead 10 minutes in after Diego Costa picked up Villa’s cross from the left and made no mistake as he curled it into the bottom of the net from 12 yards out for his 29th goal of the season. David Lopez came close to levelling for the away side with Courtois once again denying them. Despite a late onslaught by Espanyol, Atletico and that man Courtois, held firm for the victory. Atletico once again find themselves in a good position with next week’s El Classico, meaning either Real or Barca must drop points.
On Friday Getafe drew at home with Grenada in a goalfest, the final score being 3 – 3. Getafe were in the lead 3 times with Grenada levelling all 3 times. Getafe went ahead first through Ciprian Marica, then Lisandro Lopez and finally Angel Lafita, but Grenada levelled through Riki and Youssef El Arabi (2) in a result which does no team favours. There was even time for Manuel Iturra to be sent off for Grenada
Elsewhere on Saturday Celta Vigo took a big step to secure their La Liga survival, Nolito with the only goal of the game. Rayo Vallecano won again to pull away from the bottom 3 at home to fellow strugglers Almeria, Alberto Bueno and Joaquin Larrivey (2) with the goals, with a consolation from Fernando Soriano for Almeria.
Sunday started with a goal-less draw being played out between bottom club Betis and Elche, which edged Betis closer to the near impossible escape from relegation. Sevilla beat Valladolid 4 – 1 thanks to goals from Ivan Rakitic, Kevin Gameiro (2) and Diogo Figueiras for Sevilla and Javi Guerra for the sole consolation for the away side. In Saturday’s final game Sociedad beat Valencia by a single Imanol Agirretxe goal to nil to improve their chances of playing in the Champions League again.
In Monday’s game Champions League hopefuls Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao played out a 1-1 draw. Tomas Pina scoring for Villarreal in the first half before Aritz Aduriz levelled late, after missing a first half penalty. Villarreal must have felt somewhat disheartened as they played well up until Gabriel Paulista was red carded mid-way through the second half.
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