This weekend La Liga has started to shape up the title race, with Real Madrid getting an early advantage after FC Barcelona surprisingly tied 2-2 against Real Sociedad, despite being 2-0 up at half-time. Real Madrid beat Getafe 4-2 at home, in a match filled with controversy and they now lead the table along with Valencia and Betis, who have also won their first two matches.
Benzema has finally started to prove his worth at Madrid.
On Saturday, Villarreal and Sevilla played a very entertaining match at El Madrigal. Sevilla got an early goal by Negredo, from the penalty spot, and with Villarreal’s goalkeeper sent off, it looked like Sevilla could run away with the match. But the Yellow Submarines fought valiantly and actually managed to turn the match on its head with Giuseppe Rossi and Marco Ruben scoring. However, in the dying minutes, Alexis managed to salvage a point for Sevilla. It was an unfortunate result for Villarreal, who dominated the match despite being down to 10 men for most of it.
At the same time in San Sebastian an upset happened; just like last season, Barcelona couldn’t win their match after the first international break. Last season, the defending champions had shockingly lost 2-0 at Camp Nou to newly promoted Hercules. This time, Barcelona were unable to hold on to a 2-0 lead and ended up drawing 2-2 at Anoeta against Real Sociedad. With the international break and next Tuesday’s game against Milan in mind, Pep Guardiola decided to rest several starters, including the two best players in the world (at least according to last year’s Ballon d’Or vote) Lionel Messi and Andrés Iniesta. Still, the Catalans were superb in the first half, completely dominating the game and scoring two goals in two minutes by Xavi Hernandez and Francesc Fabregas. They created several other chances but were unable to convert. At half-time, Barcelona seemed to have the game won, no one could guess what was about to happen. Barcelona went from superb to average and then poor and Real Sociedad managed to score two goals in two minutes by Agirretxe and Griezmann. Only then did Pep unleash Messi and Iniesta, but it was too little too late; Barcelona couldn’t find the winning goal and could even have conceded. It seems like this match was the 2011 edition of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona early season slip-ups in La Liga (Hercules in 2010, Numancia in 2008…).
Later in the day, Real Madrid made the most of Barcelona’s slip, beating Getafe 4-2 at home. It wasn’t as easy a win as the scoreline indicates though. Despite Real Madrid’s expected dominance, the scoreline remained 1-1 (with Benzema and Miku on target) until a huge referee blunder pretty much decided the match. In the 58th minute, Cristiano Ronaldo dived outside the box; instead of showing Ronaldo his second yellow card, thus leaving Real Madrid down to 10 men, the referee awarded a penalty against Getafe, which was frankly a disastrous decision: even if there had been a foul, it would have been outside the box. Ronaldo scored from the spot and ten minutes later Benzema scored the third. Miku got one back for Getafe but Gonzalo Higuain sealed the score. Getafe played a very good match and they can definitely feel hard done by that decision which cost them a fighting chance in this match. Real Madrid weren’t very convincing, but what’s important is that they got the three points and now hold a two point lead over Barcelona in the title race.
On Sunday, Zaragoza’s goalkeeper Roberto pulled an extraordinary performance to earn his team a point at Rayo Vallecano; he even saved a penalty. Rayo were clearly the better team during the 90 minutes, but Roberto was just too inspired. That said, just like last week, Rayo showed they have what it takes to stay in La Liga. Elsewhere, Osasuna beat Sporting Gijon 2-1 at home in a very entertaining match between two sides, fighting to avoid relegation. Racing Santander and Levante tied 0-0 as both teams failed to convert the chances they created during the 90 minutes. Athletic Bilbao disappointed again in their second game under Marcelo Bielsa – a 2-1 defeat at Espanyol, with Sergio Garcia scoring both goals. Espanyol’s goalkeeper Alvarez also had an extremely inspired night. Finally, Valencia and Betis managed to win their second straight matches, with 1-0 home wins over Atlético Madrid and Mallorca respectively. Roberto Soldado kept his fantastic goalscoring form, netting Valencia’s only goal.
Like last week (bar the Barcelona and Real Madrid matches), the games were all very tight, a sign of how balanced Spain’s first division is (outside the big two).
Goal of the Week
This wasn’t really a week of the great goals. The award will go to Roberto Soldado’s excellent header against Atlético, after a great build-up by Valencia.
Assist of the Week
This one can only go to Cristiano Ronaldo’s spectacular assist to Karim Benzema for Real Madrid’s third goal. The Portuguese winger isn’t exactly known for his vision and passing, but this time he did manage a perfect assist.
Controversy of the Week
While Cristiano Ronaldo’s assist was magnificent, he should not have been on the pitch by then. He should have seen the second yellow card for simulation. Instead, Real Madrid got a penalty, in a wrong decision that pretty much decided the outcome of the match; the dive wasn’t even in the box. In Valencia, referee González González had a true shocker; he wrongly disallowed a Piatti goal and missed two penalties, one in each area. Overall, not a good week as far as refereeing is concerned in La Liga, with outrageous decisions affecting the results of matches.
Player of the Week
This award must to Roberto, Zaragoza’s goalkeeper, who had an absolutely unbelievable performance. He pretty much gave his team a point with his heroics, including saving a penalty. He’s the Player of the Week in La Liga, closely followed by the in-form Karim Benzema.
Team of the Week
Roberto; Juanfran, Rami, Victor Ruiz, Alexis; Medel, Ruben Castro, Mezut Ozil; Sergio Garcia, Agirretxe and Karim Benzema
Villarreal 2-2 Sevilla
Real Sociedad 2-2 FC Barcelona
Real Madrid 4-2 Getafe
Valencia 1-0 Atlético Madrid
Betis 1-0 Mallorca
Racing Santander 0-0 Levante
Osasuna 2-1 Sporting Gijon
Rayo Vallecano 0-0 Saragoza
Espanyol 2-1 Athletic Bilbao