A sideways look at Spanish football
RESULTS Sat 29 Sep Malaga 4-0 Real Betis, Real Sociedad 2-0 Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla 2-3 Barcelona, Valencia 2-0 Real Zaragoza Sun 30 Sep Espanyol 0-1 Atletico Madrid, Granada 2-1 Celta Vigo, Osasuna 4-0 Levante, Real Madrid 5-1 Deportivo, Real Valladolid 6-1 Rayo Vallecano.
BarcelonaRight. First off, to deal with the moaning in Madrid about the referee. Gary ‘the Pit-bull’ Medel didn’t get his nickname without good reason, as seen with his head-shove of Cesc Fabregas which the referee rightfully punished regardless of whether Cesc’s nose was trash-compacted in the process or if the midfielder took a tumble. However, there was a mistake in regards to the hand-ball from Thiago in the build up to Barca's second, but Sevilla still had time to clear the danger so it was sort of indirectly involved in the goal - enough for it to be ruled out in Marca’s ‘Alternative League’ though, LLL would imagine. Apart from that, Barcelona are looking entertainingly vulnerable at the back without Gerard Piqué and Carles Puyol, but still haven’t been punished for their slackness, with Tito Vilanova’s side having won six from six in la Liga.
Raul GarcíaWhenever the returning from loan midfielder-forward type thing starts for the Rojiblancos, he scores. Well, three times this season, anyway. Sunday’s clash at Espanyol was a huge test for Atlético. Could they win without the injured Falcao and could they hang onto a lead without too many problems against desperate, desperate opponents? The answer was ‘yes’ on both counts, with Atlético making it seven consecutive victories in all competitions.
Málaga It was an impressive 4-0 win against Betis, even though technically the team only scored one proper goal - for the record the others were a penalty, should-have-been-offside and an own goal - but what a strike it was from the brilliantly bearded Isco.
Ivan RakiticThere have been far too many disappointing false dawns for Sevilla over the past few seasons for those hoping that there could be a revival from the team, but the committed and competent performances against Real Madrid and now Barcelona lead by the rampaging Ivan Rakitic in midfield must give some optimism for a better future. Until they lose at home to Zaragoza or something dumb like that.
Real MadridThere was a little bit of a swagger returning to Real Madrid’s strut in the 5-1 win against Deportivo and a Galician defence that were more than a little ponderous. However, rather than next weekend’s Clásico being between the two biggest super-powers in world football at the moment, the geek in LLL feels it’s a contest between a bashed-up Iron Man and Thor without his hammer.
ManuchoSome three years later and Valladolid are still waiting for the forty goals in a season the former Manchester United man had promised them, but the Pucela striker got a chance to start his first match of the season for Valladolid and banged in a couple of strikes in the process. For the record, the Angolan’s tally is now ten in la Liga for the club, but to be fair to the forward a lot of the intervening time was spent on loan in Turkey.
Antoine GriezmannLLL wasted 90 minutes watching what was a bit of a boring Basque derby so is only going to spend 90 seconds writing about it. Antoine Griezmann was by far the best of a bad bunch in la Real’s 2-0 win over their local rivals (though Athletic goalkeeper Gorka also merits a mention).
ValenciaA 2-0 win against Zaragoza that keeps manager Mauricio Pellegrino in a job for at least another week, or until the Valencia fans opt for blasting him into space either through boredom or just for the fun of it. However, even with a two goal advantage against what were plucky opposition in the shape of Zaragoza, there’s such a tension and nervousness about Valencia that you feel a lead of any size could be flushed down the footballing U-bend in seconds.
Sofiane FeghouliArguably Valencia’s best player last season contributed another great display and goal on Saturday, despite the eventual sending off for two yellows (blocking a free-kick and a clumsy whack). Almost certainly the next footballer pencilled in by the accountants at the club to be sold to help pay for the stalled New Mestalla stadium unless ‘Challenge Anneka’ can be revived and be given the project as the show’s first task.
ToñoThe Granada keeper played yet another blinder to give his team a 2-1 win over Celta that the side probably didn’t deserve.
OsasunaA first win of the season for Osasuna with a late-in-the-day 4-0 thrashing of Levante.
BetisTwo sendings off on Wednesday against Atlético - both wrong - and another on Saturday with goalkeeper Casto taking a walk and giving away a penalty in the process, correctly said a refreshingly honest Pepe Mel. “It’s a big punishment but the rules are clear,” said the Betis boss who then watched Málaga’s second goal being given despite an offside and the third coming from an own goal.
Rayo VallecanoLLL senses that the slide starts here with the weekend's 6-1 thrashing by Valladolid the team’s third defeat in a row, during which time 16 goals have been shipped. “The players were only doing what I was telling them,” confessed Rayo coach, Paco Jémez. “They have no responsibility. I was seriously wrong. I’m sorry for them because they are hard-working people and don’t deserve a result like this.”
ZaragozaCoach Manolo Jiménez revealed after the Valencia defeat that he had received messages from friends saying his team had played well. If the Zaragoza coach hadn't blocked an over-emotional LLL’s number, the blog would have sent one too. However, the problem with the side is always going to be up front. Helder Postiga is actually a decent striker on his day, but far from prolific. Aside from the occasional piece of poaching from the Portuguese, there don’t appear to be other viable options in the goal-getting department.
DeportivoWhen José Mourinho sends out his second-in-command to do the post match press conference, you know the opposition have had a bad day. Deportivo were well and truly Karanka-ed on Sunday at the Bernabeu.
Marcelo BielsaJust looking very, very, very sad these days. Especially with Fernando Llorente sitting on the bench from the start. And each week Marcelo Bielsa is all Dobby the House Elf as he beats himself around the head with sticks and leaves and takes the blame for tactical mistakes.
Mauricio PochettinoThe home defeat to Atlético sees Espanyol at the bottom of the table with just the single point and their manager with an unfortunate record to his name. “I’m responsible for the worst start in Espanyol’s history. I’m not happy about this,” fumed the Argentinean.
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