Match day 16 saw the normal order being restored as all the top clubs won their respective fixtures comfortably and avoided last week’s repeat of upsets. The top two just never seem to lose, particularly Real Madrid, who despite not having Barca’s panache, are starting to display the ‘Iron-man’ mindset that is so characterstic of Mourinho’s teams.
Villareal consolidated their 3rd place standing and Valencia also moved into 4th place after Espanyol took a severe bashing and dropped down to 5th. The mid-table fight got even more scrappier with only 8 points separating the 4th and 11th placed teams. The relegations strugglers’ positions remained unchanged with Zaragoza picking up a point after a long time. This is what happened in round 16 of La Liga.
Deportivo La Coruna- 1-1 Sporting Gijon
Levante1-2 Athletic Bilbao
Villareal 3-1 Mallorca
Espanyol 1-5 Barcelona
Real Sociedad 1-2 Valencia
Real Madrid 1-0 Sevilla
Almeria 2-3 Getafe
Malaga 0-3 Atletico Madrid
Osasuna 0-0 Real Zaragoza
Hercules – Racing Santader (TBP)
How much is too much?
This weekend saw Barcelona travel to the home of their ‘poorer’ cousins Espanyol, who had been flying high in La Liga and were in 4th place prior to the kickoff. Despite being a ‘Catalan’ outfit Espanyol are not exactly Barca’s favourite opponents, with the most legendary result being the 2-2 draw which gave Real Madrid the title in one of the previous seasons.
With the ‘other’ team from Catalonia in good form, hopes were high for a good match. But as far as Barcelona is concerned, this is a season like no other. Espanyol took the first shot on Valdes’ goal and from then onwards, it was all Barcelona. With Pedro and Villa bagging a brace and a Xavi goal sandwiched in between, the lone Espanyol goal served only as a minor annoyance as the reigning champions never looked out of control during the match. Messi, despite not scoring a goal after an eternity, had a hattrick of assists.
One more masterclass from Pep’s men and halfway through the season this word is already becoming synonymous with the current Barca squad.
A Nail Biter
After the 5-0 hammering last weekend ‘La Real’ could be forgiven for not being in the greatest of moods. After the customary stumble, Valencia needed 3 points desperately to keep up the chase for the 4th spot. However, things did not seem to be going Valencia’s way after their defensive frailties came to the fore once more and they conceded a penalty to go down 1-0, midway through the first half. However a stunning Tino Costa freekick at the stroke of halftime gave something to the Valencia fans to cheer about.
After the break ironically, it was Valenica who were on the back foot, yet they somehow manged to weather the storm and eventually their quality made all the difference. Aritz Aduriz made the most of a hashed clearance by the opposition goalkeeper and made a 30 yard dash to give Valencia priceless and scarcely deserved 3 points.
Yellow submarine back to usual business
An 11th minute goal by Carzola settled a lot of Villarreal nerves. Even though Guzman equalised in the 28th minute, Villarreal were not willing to share the spoils and they turned in a truly professional performance to consolidate their 3rd position. Soon after conceding the lead Villarreal retook the lead through a Rossi penalty. An early second half goal finished the game and Villarreal shut out Mallorca for a largely uneventful second half to secure 3 points.
Basque in glory
Flying under the radar, Bilbao are churning out some decent performances and are within a shouting distance of a UEFA spot. In a way this match was a typical see-saw La Liga match, swinging this way and that way, before the side with superior quality sneaked through. Levante, despite being relegation strugglers, produced a performance worthy enough of decent midtable side. A 1-2 defeat at the hands of a unit as cohesive as the Basque outfit is nothing to be ashamed off and if Levante try harder they have a decent chance of surviving the drop.
‘Super’ depor’s woes continued as they could only manage a draw with bottom feeders Sporting Gijon, as they were shorn of possession at their own home. Conceding only 1 goal did not serve to hide the problems that Deportivo are facing all over the pitch. One can only hope that this once glorious team is not consigned to the second divison once more.
In one of the other matches, the game between Osasuna and Zaragoza petered out to a drab and uneventful 0-0 draw.
Another midtable encounter saw Almeria welcome the modest capital side Getafe. Almeria went 2-0 up midway through the first hal, but “El Geta” came back strongly to win 3-2 and move up to the 7th place.
The ‘mattress makers’ floor Malaga
If the ‘other’ team from ‘Catalonia’ had a forgettable outing, it was totally different for the other team from Madrid. Even though Pellegrini took over Malaga a few weeks back, he has failed to re-ignite Malaga’s campaign – they remained mired in the relegation zone. Although it is too early to pass a judgement on Pellegrini and also taking into account that his side was facing Atletico who were the proverbial wounded lions after their Europa league campaign came to an abrupt and tragic halt, it must be said that the performance of Malaga left a lot be desired.
It is difficult to say which was truer: did Atletico play well and pressurize Malaga into making the mistakes or was Malaga’s defending truly as pathetic as it seemed? It was more a case of both with the balance tilted towards the latter. Eventually a brace by Tiago and a goal by Soto sealed a victory for Atletico. The scoreline may have flattered the visitors a little, but it can be said that the Atletico were good value for their victory.
Los Blancos overcome tough odds
The match between Real Madrid and Sevilla have always been extremely entertaining affairs and this one was expected to be no different. There was certainly a lot of entertainment off the pitch, but the same cannot be said of the game on it. An extremely tense atmosphere resulted in a fight between the staff members of 2 teams at the end of the first half. The hostility seemed to be carried over to the players with the second half truly being a battle of sorts. The referee seemed to have an agenda against Real Madrid players and wasted no opportunity to wave a card at them. A clearly denied penalty, 12 yellows and 2 reds, of which 9 yellows and 1 red were shown to the capital side were the highlight of an extremely hostile encounter.
Negredo should have really put Andalucians forward when he was one on one with casillas and blated over. Benzema wasted a glorious chance and was anonymous throughout. The only bright spark seemed to be Di Maria, who is slowly beginning to be the unheralded hero of ‘the whites’, and judging on current form, he can be regarded as one of the most exciting players to play this game. A twist, turn and cool finish under pressure in the 77th minute secured the vital points for the home side.
– Prakhar Deep Gupta