Week 12 has been, undoubtedly, one of the most high-scoring weeks in the 2010-11 La Liga season. A staggering 36 goals have been scored in the 9 Liga games. While Getafe and Zaragoza failed to add to their tally of goals, Barcelona leads the way with eight goals against Almeria followed by Real Madrid with five and Atletico Madrid with four. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo bagged hattricks for their respective clubs and ensured that both the clubs are in the best of forms as they approach the most awaited El Gran Clasico. Ronaldo and Messi also lead the Pichichi race with the former on 14 and the latter on 13 goals. Fernando Llorente is a distant third with 9 goals to his name.
The Catalan giants travelled to the beautiful harbour city of Almeria in south-eastern Spain, near the Mediterranean Sea, only to dishearten the hosts. An absolute brutal display of attacking football fetched the visitors not only three points but also a healthy goal difference. Another virtuoso performance by Lionel Messi earned him his sixth hattrick of the year. Besides scoring, the diminutive Argentine provided 2 assists. Andreu Fontàs Prat made his La Liga debut at the heart of the Catalan defence with Carles Puyol and put in a solid performance. The young defender has all it takes to cement a position in the senior team. Very similar to Gerard Pique, Fontàs provided a fabulous assist to Pedro, who notched up his only goal of the match. Despite a good start to his senior career, the young Spaniard is yet to be tested against sterner oppositions. Gerard Pique was rested and Xavi, Iniesta and Pedro too were substituted early so as to keep them fresh for the imminent El Gran Clasico. Bojan has had a wretched season so far, but he made amends by scoring a brace. This is by far the Catalan team’s best away performance in 51 years. Last time Barcelona scored eight goals, away from home, was under Helenio Herrera, in 1959, against Las Palmas, when Herrera’s men went on to win their second consecutive league title in 1959-60. Whether Guardiola’s team can win the league for the third time in succession or not, only time can tell.
Ruthless Real Madrid
If Barcelona can score goals galore why can’t Real Madrid? Jose Mourinho watched from the stands as Real went past visitors Athletic Bilbao with ease. The Los Blancos drew first blood as Argentine hitman, Gonzalo Higuain showed great strength while controlling a fabulous assist from compatriot Di Maria to shrug off his man and slot home in the 19th minute. After a few goalless weeks, high-profile signing Cristiano Ronaldo has again entered the scoring charts with élan. Three goals from the Portuguese affirmed his position at the top of the Pichichi charts, one goal ahead of Lionel Messi. Ronaldo scored his first goal in the 30th minute after Mesut Ozil set him up from outside the box. The former Manchester United man side-footed the ball at the bottom corner giving the goalkeeper absolutely no chance whatsoever. Fernando Llorente netted his ninth and his team’s only goal of the match after a lapse in the Madrid defence around the 40th minute mark.
At interval, Athletic Bilbao looked to stand a chance, but the Blancos had other ideas. Ten minutes into the second half, Angel Di Maria perilously dribbled past Mikel San José and Markel Susaeta only to be fouled inside the penalty box by the latter. Real Madrid saw an atypical spot-kick taker in Sergio Ramos. The full back responded to the team’s cause and scored his first of the season and the third of the night for Blancos. Just after the hour mark, Ronaldo did what he does best. He scored from a fabulous free-kick from 30-yards out. With yet another penalty in the dying moments of the match, the Portuguese notched up his second hattrick of the season. With this win Real Madrid go atop the Spanish La Liga table and will travel to the hallowed Camp Nou next week with poise to secure all three points, a feat which evaded them for more than two years now.
Villarreal Halted At Home
Villarreal’s winning streak at home ended when they shared points with Valencia. The Los Che travelled to El Madrigal with the hope to resurrect their league campaign and looked well poised to snatch all three points had it not been for Rossi. Despite starting as the more defensive of the two sides, Valencia got the lead, thanks to a 20th minute goal from Spanish striker Aritz Aduriz. A long ball from the heart of the Valencia midfield was controlled well by Joaquin on the right wing, who sent in a regular cross, which was flicked in brilliantly by the young Spaniard, giving the Villarreal keeper no chance at all. The hosts came close to equalizing in the 34th minute, but the chance was wasted by the Villarreal captain. Joan Capdevilla, too, came close just two minutes later with a thunderous shot but Miguel Moya, the Valencia custodian, was well up to the task.
Soon Pablo Hernandez blasted over as Valencia started brightly after the break, but Villarreal gradually began to take control and after Nilmar had come close with 20 minutes left, Rossi equalized. It all started from the left flank. Bruno Soriano’s cross was well controlled by the Italian striker to put it past Lopez to earn his team a crucial point. It looked as if Juan Carlos Garrido’s side would then go on to claim all three points, especially after Valencia defender Marius Stankevicius was sent off with 10 minutes left, but the visitors defended in numbers and the derby ended in a stalemate which leaves both sides off the pace in the title race.
After Real Madrid, it was Atletico Madrid, who came out unscathed from yet another 6-goal encounter. The Rojiblancos travelled to Anoeta to take on Real Sociedad. Thanks to Diego Forlan, Simao and a brace from Sergio Aguero, the visitors notched up all three crucial points. The hosts looked all set to take home a prized victory thanks to an early 12th minute goal from Joseba Llorente. In the final quarter of the match Atletico Madrid came to the party and smashed 3 goals in quick succession. The Uruguayan talisman levelled the scoreline in the 71st minute, followed by a brace by the Argentine Aguero in the 79th and the 82nd minute. Diego Rivas pulled one back but Atletico made sure of the points in injury-time, when Simao Sabrosa netted from the penalty spot after Jose Reyes had been fouled.
The Other Affairs
Sevilla succumbed to a surprise loss at the hands of Real Mallorca at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Mallorca took a surprise lead in the 36th minute, via Michael Pereira. When the visitors looked all set to pick up full three points, in the 88th minute, Brazilian hitman Luis Fabiano, seemed to have salvaged a point for the hosts by cancelling out Pareira’s first half goal. Mallorca have proved a tough opponent for La Liga‘s big guns this season and having drawn with Barcelona and Real Madrid and winning against Valencia at the Mestalla, the Els Barralets yet again proved to be an insurmountable hurdle for Sevilla. Pierre Webo justified that by scoring for Mallorca in the 90th minute – thus securing all three points for the visitors.
Elsewhere, at Estadio Riazor, Deportivo la Coruna handed Malaga their first defeat under former Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini. Adrian, Diego Colotto and Pablo Alvarez were on the score sheet as Depor notched up a clinical home victory.
Espanyol preserved their perfect home record this season with a win over 10-man Hercules to move back into the top four. FC Barcelona’s cross city rivals scored thrice against the recently promoted Hercules outfit. Verdu, Osvaldo and Garcia were instrumental in securing a valiant win at home. Hercules lost their reliable custodian Calatayud after he committed a foul on Osvaldo. A penalty added insult to injury and things went from bad to worse for the visitors when they gave away yet another penalty in the dying moments. Luis Garcia rounded it off for the Barcelona-based side.