Real Madrid and Barcelona are back as the top two teams in the Spanish League, as other contenders slip behind the mighty two. Week 9 in La Liga had plenty of excitement, with Real Madrid earning a come from behind victory against giant killers Hercules and Barcelona thumping Sevilla at the Nou Camp, while Valencia, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid struggled to notch up wins. Here’s a review of all that happened in Spain this weekend.
Results of Round 9
Valencia 1-1 Real Zaragoza
Hercules 1-3 Real Madrid
Barcelona 5-0 Sevilla
Sporting Gijon 1-1 Villarreal
Atletico Madrid 1-1 Almeria
Malaga 1-2 Real Sociedad
Racing 4-1 Osasuna
Deportivo 3-0 Espanyol
Athletic Bilbao 3-0 Getafe
Mallorca vs. Levante (To be played tonight)
Valencia woes continue
For the third straight week running, Valencia struggled to clinch all the three points. It seems their run was stopped a fortnight ago by Barcelona at the Camp Nou, where they were beaten 2-1. A week later, Mallorca shocked Valencia at The Mestella by defeating Valencia 2-1. This week, Valencia surprisingly struggled against lowly placed Real Zaragoza , which was albeit a spirited side. Valencia went down as early as the second minute when Maurizio Lanzaro half-volleyed past Moya to send the home crowd into silence. It was not long before Valencia equalised. Juan Mata crossed one into the box which Lanzaro turned it into his own net. The game intensified as Valencia started to put pressure on the Blanquillos.
The first half ended with Zaragoza just holding on. The second half saw Zaragoza reduced to ten men, when substitute Ander was sent off for a trip on Mata. Zaragoza’s task of holding on became even more difficult but they threw everything there was to come away with a draw. Valencia has dropped down to fourth in the table behind Villarreal while Zaragoza is still stationed in the bottom of the table.
Galacticos escape Hercules scare
There was a lot of hype surrounding this game, as a lot of people were expecting Hercules to give headaches to Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho; and so they did! Hercules started off in the best possible fashion, when summer signing David Trezeguet gave them the lead in the third minute after heading home from a Cortes cross. For the first time this season, Real Madrid found themselves in unfamiliar territory – going behind in a game. Hercules was aggressive, sharp in defence and lightning quick on the counters. Higuain was presented with a golden opportunity to equalise in the 24th minute, Calatayud did well to deny the equaliser. A few minutes later, Iker Casillas had to be sharp to prevent the hosts from racing onto a two to nil lead. The first half ended 1-0 in favour of Hercules.
Real Madrid came all guns blazing in the second half and soon after the 51st minute equalised through Di Maria, who snatched a loose ball after it was spilled by Calatayud off a Ronaldo effort from long range. Los Blancos took the lead when Ronaldo turned scorer in the 82nd minute. Karim Benzema, who had come on for Pepe, smashed a shot towards Calatayud, who parried it away only for the ball to land at Ronaldo’s boots. The Portuguese made no mistake in dispatching it into the back of the net. Four minutes later, Real Madrid made it clear through Ronaldo, who scored again from a Benzema assist; they finished the week in pole position ahead of bitter rivals Barcelona.
Barcelona too hot for Sevilla
It was as though a relegation candidate visited Barcelona at the Nou Camp, as the hosts humiliated a weak Sevilla side. The visitors were not expected to do a Hercules, but were expected to at least put up a decent show against the current champions. However, it was not to be. The Blaugrana took the lead as early as the 4th minute when Ballon’d’or favourite Messi put Barcelona in the lead. Sevilla’s troubles increased as Barcelona doubled their lead through David Villa. Messi made some mazy runs before setting his teammate for a clinical finish.
The final nail into Sevilla’s coffin came when Konko was sent off for a second yellow card even before half time. Dani Alves scored one after the break to make it 3-0. David Villa and Messi both completed their braces in the second half as Barcelona steamrolled past los Nervionenses for the second time this season, the first being in the second leg of the Spanish super cup. Barcelona is now a point behind Real Madrid and in second place. Sevilla are in seventh, already 11 points behind the leader.
Villarreal and Atletico manage only draws
Villarreal travelled to Sporting Gijon looking to continue their unbeaten form in the league. But their hopes of continuing that run looked dull, when defender Gonzalo handled the ball inside the box. Sporting’s Diego Castro calmly converted the spot kick to give the hosts a shocking lead. Villarreal struggled but rallied on to find an equaliser. Their misery increased when Gonzalo was sent off. However, an injury time penalty from Italian Rossi earned the equaliser to snatch home a late point. Villarreal drop down to third, two points behind Barcelona.
In the other game at the Vicente Calderon, Ateltico Madrid was only able to gain a draw against Almeria. Sergio Aguero gave the hosts the lead in the 33rd minute after tapping in a loose ball from one metre out. On the stroke of half time, Pablo Piatte levelled the scores after volleying home a shot that saw the ball hit the post before rolling into the net. The game ended 1-1, and Atletico now lie in 6th position behind Espanyol and ahead of Sevilla.
In other games, Real Sociedad came away with a win against Malaga at La Rosaleda, beating the home team 2-1. Racing Santander walked past Osasuna by beating them 4-1 at El Sardinero. Espanyol remain in 5th despite getting thrashed by Deportivo La Coruna at the Riazor by three goals to nil. And finally, Atletico Bilbao steamrolled past Getafe 3-0 at San Mames.