A sideways look at Spanish football
RESULTS Sat 17 Nov Osasuna 0-0 Malaga, Valencia 2-1 Espanyol, Barcelona 3-1 Real Zaragoza, Real Madrid 5-1 Athletic Bilbao Sun 18 Nov Deportivo 0-2 Levante, Celta Vigo 1-1 Mallorca, Getafe 2-1 Real Valladolid, Granada 0-1 Atletico Madrid, Sevilla 5-1 Real Betis.
BarcelonaThe 3-1 victory over Zaragoza saw Barça move on to 34 points from a possible 36 in la Liga, and also once again be in possession of an orthodox defence (relatively speaking) with the Starbuck and Apollo of Spanish football - Gerard Piqué and the indestructible Carles Puyol - back alongside each other for the first time since mid-September.
Leo MessiThe opinion piece simply titled ‘Leo Messi’ by Mundo Deportivo’s Santi Nolla on Sunday was a bit of a brief one - “there are no words left,” was all that was written. La Liga Loca can only imagine that the footballer and new father has a sound-proofed nursery and a massive team of minions on hand to enable the Argentinean to slog to and from South America for matches, as well as around the grounds of la Primera and the Camp Nou and keep on delivering again and again and again. Saturday’s victory over Zaragoza saw two goals and an assist from little Leo to make it 17 in la Primera so far this season, with Tito Vilanova still insisting that “he doesn’t win the game alone.” Zaragoza counterpart, Manolo Jiménez, disagreed and countered that “we would have won this game if we had Messi.”
Atlético MadridTo be honest, the clash at Granada was a bit of a grinding slog to get through, but the Rojiblancos won’t care as it was a fourth Primera away win of the season and gave them enough points to ensure that when they walk out for the Madrid derby in a fortnight's time they will be ahead of their rivals in the table for the first time since 1998/99. Doesn’t mean they have any chance of winning the game, mind.
Karim BenzemaIt’s still not entirely clear whether the Frenchman scored one or two in the 5-1 drubbing of Athletic Bilbao from Saturday night, but it’s enough for the general feeling in the Madridista world that it was Benzema’s best game for Real Madrid. Well, it certainly was for AS and Marca who join in the praise and swoon over the “grand recital of Benzema”.
Levante Far less tunnel-tussling drama against Deportivo than in last week’s Real Madrid clash. An immensely typical long ball, counter-attacking away win for Levante who had their usual 33% possession and scored two goals with it to move the team into the Champions League places due to the collapses of Málaga and Betis.
SevillaLLL, like everyone else, really didn’t see the 5-1 over an awful Betis coming. Especially not a goal after 12 seconds from the sprightly José Antonio Reyes on one of his four-yearly good days. Sevilla showed the kind of strength, determination and ambition that has been distinctly absent from the side all season, enough to make Míchel the Manager both happy and upset at the same time, imagines LLL. “It was the best first half I’ve experienced, even as a player,” announced the former Real Madrid man.
Mauricio PellegrinoManagers are always entertaining. When they are on the wrong end of decisions from referees they go nuts. When it goes their way as with a bad penalty call in the 2-1 win over Espanyol, they shrug and claim it’s only fair. The Valencia boss, of course, did the latter this week, saying that “I don’t know if it was lucky but against Betis and Levante we lost having more chances.” Although to be fair to the Argentinean, Pellegrino did admit that “we didn’t deserve the victory.”
Angel LafitaA 2-1 win over Valladolid that was soooooooo Getafe, through and through. Whenever the Coliseum club need to get a result - back to back defeats being the last two outings - Getafe always seem to manage it. Sunday’s victory was down a lovely bit of play from Queen Lafita with one of the goals of the round. Luis García still has the concern though that out of the 14 goals scored in la Liga this season just one has been converted by an actual striker.
MallorcaThe Balearic side only picked up a point away at Celta, but it wasn’t league defeat number seven in a row for Mallorca. “At least we broke a run of not picking up any points,” said Joaquín Caparrós who noted that neither side would be overly happy with the result.
La Liga This is a tired drum LLL is beating here, but the two matches for Barcelona and Real Madrid really were a waste of everyone’s time. Before-hand, the blog predicted the two sides would score nine between them. The only shock of the night was that it was a mere eight, with Barça letting the side down. Over in England and two big guns in the form of Manchester United and Chelsea lost over the weekend. The superiority of the Premier League at the moment comes from the fact that neither result could really be described as a shock, just the sign of a healthy, competitive league where the collective is considered more important than a couple of individuals.
Osasuna & Málaga It is an admittedly curious decision for LLL to throw two sides who fought out a goalless draw into the bad day brig, but it’s down to the fact that Osasuna had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside in the goalless draw and Málaga have now picked up just two points in the team’s last four league games.
BetisHorrendous all over the pitch. From a mad performance from Adrián in goal whose giveaway allowed José Antonio Reyes allowed Sevilla to take the lead after 12 seconds, to a dithering defence and a completely toothless, dawdling midfield, it was a horror show from Betis in the 5-1 defeat.
Marcelo BielsaAS were somewhat mean about Athletic Bilbao and their oddball manager, but you sense that it was for a reason - because the side last season was just so life-affirming and luscious and this one now feels like having gone through “a twenty year long boring marriage,” with Bielsa who has gone from being a “druid in a tracksuit” to an “old man in pajamas going for a walk on the touchline.” Athletic Bilbao had shipped 14 goals in the previous three visits to the Santiago Bernabeu, but this was by far the worst version of the team by a long way.
DeportivoDearie me. Everything that could go wrong, pretty much did go wrong for Deportivo, beaten at home 2-0 by Levante on Sunday. Both centre-backs were off injured within 14 minutes, goalkeeper, Dani Aranzubia, was sent off to be replaced by a midfielder after all the substitutes were used and Riki missed a penalty.
EspanyolThe poor Pericos just can’t get a break at the moment. Just two minutes from full time, and Espanyol were about to grab the most handy of points in Mestalla. Instead, the referee saw a handball from Héctor Moreno after a cross from Antonio Barragán when it had actually hit the defender’s chest. Cue penalty and sending off for the fuming aforementioned stopper. “I understand the reaction of the Espanyol players,” said a sympathetic Roberto Soldado who took the spot kick to give Valencia the 2-1 win. “Unfair, undeserved and with a fairly bad treatment from the referees,” seethed Espanyol boss, Mauricio Pochettino afterwards.
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