A sideways look at Spanish football
BarcelonaKnowing that Real Madrid had dropped yet more points, Barça could have spread out a picnic rug in the centre-circle, read poetry, knotted daisies into each other’s air and let Atlético do whatever they wanted for 90 minutes, knowing that their lead over their old chums from the capital would still be a monumental one. That probably would have resulted in a 2-0 advantage after 10 minutes, with Diego Godín left to his own special devises. But Barça managed to pull out yet another victory, despite going behind to a rampant Falcao effort in the first half, a lead that was only permitted to last five minutes. The tricky job of Tito Vilanova now is to keep on insisting that the title race isn’t over, despite Atlético Madrid being nine points behind and Real Madrid distracted by tussle for a Champions League spot with Málaga and Levante.
FalcaoNeeded a decent performance and a goal after disappearing against Real Madrid, and that’s what the Colombian delivered in the first half at the Camp Nou.
Manuel PellegriniThis is set up quite beautifully as a pre-Christmas finale. Three wins from four - the most recent being a 2-0 victory at Sevilla - sees Málaga back on track in la Liga, with just the final date next week against a side with iffy away form and led by a certain down-in-the-dumps Portuguese coach who once sniffed that he wouldn’t ever dream of lowering himself to managing a club such as Málaga.
Gustavo MunúaTime for a little bit of love for the grizzled Levante goalkeeper (37 years old) who kept a second clean sheet in a row for his side in la Liga, to give another victory to the mighty Valencia team after a 1-0 win at Zaragoza. Also helping out in defence were Sergio Ballesteros (37), Juanfran (36) and Dirty David Navarro (32).
GetafeWhat the Lords of Football doth take away in cruel hot pokers of misfortune, they then doth giveth back quite quickly sometimes. Last weekend at Real Sociedad, the mighty Geta were seconds away from a victory but conceded a goal in injury time to leave Luis García dreaming about what might have been. Against Osasuna on Saturday in a match where not a great deal happened until the final minutes, *** Sola’s odd effort looked like producing a home defeat for Getafe. But in injury time the linesman and referee popped up to award a spot-kick for a handball that never was from Puñal to leave the score 1-1.
Chori DomínguezValencia's supporters were on the hefty back of the Rayo forward from the off after a bit of a disappointing spell in Mestalla with the local fans yelling “drunk” at the Argentine. But it was Chori who put away a penalty seven minutes from the end to award Rayo a wonderfully surprising away win. “Chori responded as he had to, with a great game,” said Rayo boss, Paco Jémez, after the match.
Valencia fansAlways prepared. Supposedly easy home game against Rayo, a side who have never won in Mestalla in la Liga. A brand new coach to welcome. But the home support still bring their white hankies to wave in disgust at the end of the game, just in case.
Aritz Aduriz‘Booooom!’ popped LLL’s mind after seeing the immensely powerful header from Aduriz to give Athletic Bilbao a narrow 1-0 victory over one of his former clubs in the shape of Mallorca. With Fernando Llorente even more outcast than before, an awful lot of goal-scoring pressure has been piled onto the creaking striker’s shoulders this season. Nevertheless, Aduriz has popped in 9 from open play, just two less than Falcao and one less than Ronaldo.
GranadaSort of good day for Granada, in that the Andalusian side didn’t lose in what ended up being a goalless draw at home to Real Sociedad. The bad side to the result though is that it sees Granada going five league matches without a goal with €5m signing, Youssef El Arabi, starting the clash against the Basques on the bench, a whopping signing that hasn’t worked too well for Granada so far.
Kiko CasillaThe Espanyol goalkeeper may sound like a two year old trying to pronounce the name of his counterpart for Real Madrid on Sunday night, but the Perico had a sparkling performance to frustrate Real Madrid for those moments during the game when the home side were beginning to click.
Leo MessiSnore. Another brace for the Argentinean. How about a hat-trick some time, lazy Leo?
Real MadridThirteen points off Barcelona and with 15 dropped so far this season, Real Madrid have lost more points by the middle of December than in the entire 2011/12 campaign. AS point out with some dejection that the 100 points tally in la Primera is now impossible.
José MourinhoA lousy weekend all round really for the Real Madrid boss. It began on Saturday afternoon with the story of a Radio Marca journalist being taken off to a side room after the pre-Espanyol press conference to be grilled by the Madrid boss over a source in the dressing room for a story about the unpopularity of the club’s goalkeeping coach with the players. “In the world of football, I and my people are the “top” and in the world of journalism you are a sh*t,” was the alleged accusation to Antón Meana in a report by the journalist of the meeting in Sunday’s edition of Marca. Rather than continuing to grump after Sunday's 2-2 draw with Espanyol, the Portuguese boss was entirely dejected, admitting that winning the league was “practically impossible” despite it still being December. Bernd Schuster was practically fired for saying that winning a single game of football was more or less impossible. Such defeatism isn’t supposed to be the Real Madrid way. José Mourinho now looks like a figure who simply doesn’t know what to do with his team, both on and off the field.
ValenciaAt least the fans weren’t calling for the head of the manager in the side’s first game in Mestalla under Ernesto Valverde, which ended up being a rather surprising 1-0 defeat to Rayo Vallecano to give Valencia a second league defeat at their ground in a row. However, the supporters did once again call for the departure of club president, Manuel Llorente, who will soon be running out of minions to sack if this current form carries on. “I can’t talk much about the public,” admitted Valverde wisely, “I’m new here.”
SevillaA promising first half for Sevilla thrown into the bin in the second 45 minutes with a 2-0 home defeat to Málaga that really didn’t go down well with the Sánchez Pizjuán support who are witnessing a wretched league campaign which sees two wins in eleven games and just one point from the last 12. “You shouldn’t be worrying about my situation...but of the club,” said Michel the Manager to the press after the defeat.
FazioA second sending off for the defender who is more clumsy than clattering this season.
ZaragozaAs ever with Zaragoza, if Helder Postiga is not quite at the races then the Aragonese side struggles to perform.
OsasunaLLL can imagine the swearing from the Osasuna bench and José Luis Mendilibar in particular was something to behold with a bad call from the refereeing team, taking away two points from his Osasuna side in injury time against Getafe. “I don’t think they were too sure. They took a long time to blow for the penalty. This creates doubts,” complained the Pamplona-based coach on a decision that cost Osasuna just the side’s second away win of the league campaign.
MallorcaYes, the 1-0 defeat to visiting Athletic Bilbao sees Mallorca with just two points from 33, but at least the Balearic club didn’t lose 5-0 as they managed to do during the week in the cup to Sevilla. The defence was a little more solid, and there was a tad more action up front, too, although Mallorca really need someone scrappy to go off someone’s posterior to get the side going again. “The team had soul and gave everything,” said a typically pugnacious Joaquín Caparrós after the clash which saw Mallorca slip into the relegation zone.
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