A sideways look at Spanish football
RESULTS Fri 9 Nov Real Betis 1-2 Granada Sat 10 Nov Rayo Vallecano 3-2 Celta Vigo, Espanyol 0-3 Osasuna, Real Zaragoza 5-3 Deportivo, Malaga 1-2 Real Sociedad Sun 11 Nov Real Valladolid 1-1 Valencia, Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Sevilla, Mallorca 2-4 Barcelona, Atletico Madrid 2-0 Getafe, Levante 1-2 Real Madrid.
Leo MessiStill quite mad at back, but still functioning up front, with Leo Messi bagging a brace to take his tally to 15 goals in 11 games, the best performance in the Pichichi stakes by a player since the 1950-51 season. Barcelona have now equalled the best ever start to a league campaign by any side, despite Tito Vilanova lamenting the fact that “any small mistake costs us a goal.”
Cristiano RonaldoHe may not have actually been able to see through either eye at the time thanks to a horrendous elbow from the charmless David Navarro, but Cristiano still managed to give Madrid the lead against Levante before being unable to continue in the second half.
Alvaro MorataA late goal with his first touch of the game for the ‘cantera’ striker ensured happy headlines in the Madrid papers, and left the increasingly weary José Mourinho facing yet more questions on his attitude to the youth ranks.
José MourinhoSurprisingly little moaning from the Portuguese coach - probably because his side won - despite lots of ammunition including Levante’s rather brusque tactics (which actually lead to the two free-kicks from which Madrid scored) and the rainy conditions. In fact, Mourinho appeared to relish them. “This is what football is like as well. Football is winter. When you were a kid, it was a party to play in the rain.”
Atlético MadridLa Liga Loca didn’t quite get the fretting and fussing being made in some quarters about Atlético losing to Valencia and then to Academica in the Europa League. The Madrid side are not going to win every single match this season, despite having a sublime record prior to this double defeat, so no biggie. Normal, competent business was restored against Getafe in the Vicente Calderón on Sunday evening with a 2-0 win and a tremendously uneventful game.
Paco JémezThe Rayo boss has been grumbling all season that referees have it in for his team after a number of red cards and penalties given against the side. Well, chicken’s bedspreads, all that has been forgotten (until the next time) after Rayo were given a spot-kick at 2-2 against Celta after a clear hand-ball, a penalty which was duly converted to give the side a 3-2 win. The problem is that the guilty culprit in the offending action was a Rayo striker. Oh, they were also playing against ten men for about 50 minutes.
Helder PostigaZaragoza and Deportivo played their parts in a wonderfully mad Saturday night in la Liga, an evening which produced 19 goals in four games. Zaragoza were 2-0 down before a bit of a flimsy penalty for handball - converted by Apoño - and the sending off of Depor's Pizzi allowed the home team back into the game. And Zaragoza did it in some style, with Helder Postiga - who is actually quite good despite the iffy reputation - scoring a couple to give his club a 5-3 win.
Markel SusaetaPerhaps the only Athletic player having a fun time at the moment. Friday saw a call up to the Spanish national side for the attacking midfielder, then on Sunday he produced the winning goal for Bilbao in a tremendously much-needed 2-1 home victory against Sevilla.
Carlos Vela48 seconds! That’s all it took for the former Arsenal man to give Real Sociedad the lead at Málaga, a goal the home side never really recovered from.
GranadaOf course, as soon as LLL predicts that Granada will never find their way out of the bottom three after falling into it last weekend, the Andalusians go and win a regional derby at Betis 2-1. Good on them for sticking to 'The Man'! It certainly left Granada coach, Juan Antonio Anquela - think modern day Kurt Russell with 80s Kurt Russell hair - a happy chappy. “Three important points for a team that never stopped believing in themselves,” said the former Alcorcón boss.
OsasunaNow that was fun. Osasuna temporarily found their mojo, albeit against a flimsy Espanyol side who were defeated 3-0 in Cornella to show that the team really must stick with José Luis Mendilibar. The performance was mainly down to wonderfully tough tackling in midfield, where either the ball or a knee-cap was the prize. Fortunately on a couple of occasions it was the former.
BetisA home defeat to Granada is the sort of result which will have fans of Champions League-chasing Betis grinding their teeth, kicking themselves their until legs (one at least) fall off and yelling ‘noooo!’ to the heavens. “We aren’t going to let our heads drop because of this defeat,” promised Pepe Mel. Incidentally: Friday night football. Enough. Seriously. If the game can’t be played on a Monday due to international action, and no match in la Primera may overlap with another then stick it on at 14.00 on a Saturday afternoon. A perfectly good time for a game of football.
MálagaWith all due to respect to Real Sociedad, a dreadful shame for Málaga, whose league form has collapsed somewhat over the past couple of rounds with two home defeats to teams they really should be beating. The first loss was a 2-1 defeat to Rayo last weekend. The most recent was another set-back, again by 2-1, but against Real Sociedad who can usually be relied upon to roll over away from home. “We have a lot of spirit, but not many ideas,” complained Manuel Pellegrini whose team are now five points behind Real Madrid in third.
ValenciaA perfect storm for Valencia on Sunday. Before the clash at Valladolid, Valencia had only picked up a single point from five away matches in la Liga this season. What’s more, the Mestalla men had only picked up one point playing at midday in four games. Naturally, the two curses combined to give Valencia a 1-1 draw and leave the Champions League chasers four points off the top four.
SevillaMíchel the Manager really isn’t of a good humour at the moment, with just the single victory in six league matches. The latest setback was a 2-1 defeat to Athletic Bilbao when his players only performed sporadically. “In the second half, not a single tactical instruction nor change was performed as we were hoping,” complained the coach who doubted some of the footballers commitment to the cause.
MallorcaA rotten run continues for the Balearic side with the 4-2 home defeat by Barcelona being the team’s sixth league defeat in a row to leave Mallorca just a point from the relegation zone.
Celta VigoA two goal lead lost, a man sent off and Rayo’s winning goal awarded after a horrendously wrong referee decision than ended in a penalty. The only bright moment for the Galician side was a very tasty brace from Iago Aspas in the 3-2 defeat.
DeportivoRather like their Galicia neighbours, Celta Vigo, Deportivo had a 2-0 lead but struggled to hang on to it with a man down. To be fair though, Celta made a better job of it by only losing 3-2 after an iffy penalty rather than a 5-3 shellacking.
EspanyolTerribly sad sights in Cornella with normally positive, loyal fans leaving the stadium some 20 minutes early with Osasuna’s third, which left Espanyol bottom-of-the-table after a very sorry defeat “We were never in the game,” admitted Mauricio Pochettino, who can almost certainly put the defeat down to some horrendously dithering defending from his players. “People are tired. There’s an atmosphere that surrounds the whole club that generates fatigue.”
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