A sideways look at Spanish football
LA LIGA Fri 22 Feb Athletic Bilbao 1-3 Real Sociedad Sat 23 Feb Mallorca 1-3 Getafe, Real Zaragoza 2-2 Valencia, Deportivo La Coruña 1-2 Real Madrid, Barcelona 2-1 Sevilla Sun 24 Feb Rayo Vallecano 1-2 Real Valladolid, Celta Vigo 2-1 Granada, Atlético Madrid 1-0 Espanyol, Real Betis 3-0 Málaga Mon 25 Feb Levante v Osasuna
David VillaBack in action after a very painful-sounding bout of renal colic, the Barcelona striker started the league clash against Sevilla. And Villa cancelled out Sevilla's first-half opener, Barça having been a little slow out of the blocks, before Leo Messi added a second for the Catalan club to make it 22 wins from 25 for in la Liga. “We’ve always said Villa’s an important player for us, he’s got goals in him,” claimed Jordi Roura.
Leo MessiThe Argentinian is just 13 goals from beating last season’s tally of 50, which the blog was suspecting could never be done. Ever. It could be completed by the end of March at this rate, to leave La Liga Loca eating humble pie. At least, it’s some kind of pie.
Diego CostaThe Atlético striker was in top rampaging pain-in-the bum form against Espanyol at the Vicente Calderón. Costa won the foul for Atlético’s winning penalty, converted by Falcao to win the game, and was a menace all evening. Atlético had to play much of the second half with 10 men, but that made no difference in a game where the Rojiblancos never looked in any danger.
“That’s our way of playing,” said Diego Costa after the match. “It doesn’t matter if there’s one player more or less, everyone gives their all, and this is what makes us a very strong team.” Atlético’s magnificent season continues with the team probably needing just a couple more wins from the remaining matches to ensure Champions League football next season.
KakáThree impressive displays against Sevilla, Rayo and now Deportivo have tipsters in the Spanish capital suggesting that the Brazilian may start Tuesday’s Copa del Rey Clásico. “If the boss needs me, I’m there,” said Kaká after a game which saw Real Madrid putting on typically lacklustre first-half away performance before bucking up their ideas in the second to win 2-1, with the Brazilian bagging the opener.
JonasThe Valencia striker was all with the not-waving-but-frowning after his brace against Zaragoza, possibly due to a bit of pressure from the fans for not contributing enough this season. Or maybe he just feels a little bit down. Who knows, but either way, it’s the perfect excuse for the blog to dust off its “Jonas Bothers” joke.
Real SociedadA remarkable campaign for la Real continues with Friday's 3-1 Basque derby win at Athletic Bilbao, which put the side just two points from the Champions League places. Indeed, if Málaga fail in their appeal against a UEFA ban from European competition next season, then there’s no reason at all why Real Sociedad can’t be with the big guns once again. They have now lost just one league match in 15, now including the pleasure of victory in the final derby at San Mamés.
Betis There’s been a lot of nervousness around the Betis squad, with the team winless in five matches and taking themselves off to Jerez to prepare for Sunday’s visit of Málaga. What was needed was an early goal to sooth the football juices, and that’s what was achieved with Molina's first-minute header from a corner. Indeed, the Osasuna-style move worked so well that they repeated it after 26 minutes with Beñat popping the ball onto Mario’s head for the second in what ended up being a 3-0 win.
Jordi Amat Having apparently got an inadvertent touch to the goal that put Valladolid in the lead with 19 minutes to go, the Rayo centre-back immediately made good at the right end with a 45-yard strike which took just 2.6 seconds to hit the back of the net. Unfortunately, a diddle from Ález Gálvez gifted Valladolid a winner with 10 minutes to go. “They beat us because we handed it to them,” fumed Rayo boss Paco Jémez.
Adrián ColungaHe may not have always seen eye to eye with manager Luis García, and has often been linked with moves away from the Coliseum, but the striker popped up with a brace to beat Mallorca to make it three wins from four for Getafe. Now four points from the European places, the Madrid club can either kick on for a top six spot or settle back into midtable comfort like last season. Sadly, the blog suspects the latter.
ValladolidThe win at Rayo ended a run of four winless matches for Valladolid, who frankly won't care how the victory came about, and nor should they.
Iago AspasHaving been heavily criticised by former boss Paco Herrera for being in cloud cuckoo land of late, the striker scored for new manager Abel Resino in a 2-1 win over Granada. “This result puts us back into the fight and gives us confidence,” said Resino of Celta’s first win in eight.
MálagaThe south-coast side are trying to balance league and Champions League commitments, and although they sent out a strong XI against the desperate Betis in Seville, it was the team with the greatest need who came out on top.
Marcelo BielsaThe Athletic boss looks immensely sackable now, which is quite remarkable when considering how much of a beloved eccentric genius the Argentinian was a year ago. The Bilbao side lost the final Basque derby at their century-old San Mamés home; it was their sixth home loss, the third defeat in a row, included their 50th conceded goal and left them just three points above the relegation zone. “Football has laws I can’t ignore,” admitted Bielsa after the game while staring into the top of his desk, as per the norm. “I don’t know how much longer the confidence can last.” Next week’s trip to Osasuna already looks brutal.
Zaragoza Ooh, that has to hurt. Drawing 2-2 against Valencia in injury time, relegation-threatened Zaragoza bundled the ball into the back of the net for what looked like a crucial winner. Unfortunately for them, the strike was ruled out with the impression that the referee suspected, rather than saw, some sort of infringement in the box. “The goalkeeper collided with his own teammates and the goal was legal,” fumed Zaragoza boss Manolo Jiménez, who had already seen his team throw away a two-goal lead.
MallorcaAny Mallorca fans seeking a "Yep, that’s us going down, then" moment got it this weekend, not just with the home loss to Getafe but with the manner of the defeat. They were 1-0 up and unlucky to concede a second-half penalty for one of those ball-to-arm (or chest) incidents that Spanish referees are obsessed with. Diego Castro's ‘Panenka’ spot-kick killed off Mallorquin spirits and the home side’s defence fell apart to concede two late goals.
Now seven points from safety, Mallorca need to string victories together but have only won once away since September 23 and their next five games include Sevilla, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
DeportivoMeh. LLL was all with the smugness at the draw prediction for the clash against Real Madrid. Everything was going to plan, with Deportivo defending doggedly and the opposition being in typically hopeless away form. Even when Riki scored an opener (fancy that) the blog was still confident in claiming that the ‘draw’ vibe held, despite a home win. But then Kaká and Higuaín had to go and score late goals. Deportivo are properly down now, having lost six league games in a row for the first time in the club’s history.
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