Week 6 of La Liga saw leaders FC Barcelona rally from 2-0 down to secure a late yet absolutely crucial 3-2 win at the Sanchez Pijuan, with none other than David Villa saving the day with the winning goal. The game was marred by controversy, with Medel’s sending off and a potential handball infraction leading to Barcelona’s equalizer among other little incidents. There was a match before Medel’s sending off and a completely different one after that. While they had 11 men, Sevilla applied the same successful formula that had led them to victory against Real Madrid to great effect against Barcelona: very aggressive and disciplined defense, and quick yet effective counterattacks, with Jesus Navas in particular threatening with his pace and trickery. This strategy worked to perfection, with Sevilla nullifying Barcelona’s attack for the most part and going 2-0 up with goals from Trochowski and Negredo from perfectly executed counterattacks.
Cesc Fabregas got one back for Barcelona with a fabulous strike minutes later, but the Catalans never looked close to equalizing, let alone winning, the match. Until Medel headbutted Fabregas and got sent off (perhaps too harshly) that is. Against 10 men, Barcelona enjoyed more space on the ball and piled on the pressure on Sevilla; in the 89th minutes, a Lionel Messi through ball found Fabregas, who only had to slot it in to equalize the match. Four minutes later, deep into extra time, another Messi through ball found David Villa, who scored yet another goal from the bench, this time the winning one. It was too harsh a punishment for a Sevilla side that played a great match while with 11 men, but in the end Barcelona’s relentless persistence was rewarded with the three points. The Catalans have kept their perfect La Liga record, with 18 points from 6 matches now.
Real Madrid knew they needed to beat Deportivo at the Bernabeu if they didn’t want to get too far behind in the table already, and they did exactly that. Depor scored first through Riki but after that it was all Real Madrid. The first goal came from an extremely controversial (to put it mildly) penalty converted by Ronaldo, but after that it was a walk in the park for the capital giants. Ronaldo went on to score a hat trick (with yet another penalty in the last minutes) and Real went on to win 5-1, but it could have frankly been far more. Real Madrid seem to have finally picked up some form, right in time for their visit to Camp Nou.
Barcelona’s most direct pursuer at the moment, though, are the sensational Atlético Madrid and Malaga, who both continued their dream starts to the season. Even without La Liga’s current top scorer (with 7 goals) Falcao, Atlético eked out a 1-0 win at Espanyol through a Raul Garcia header, in a match that was very tight overall during the whole 90 minutes. In Andalucia, Malaga trashed Betis 4-0; the result was heavily influenced by Betis having their keeper sent off after 10 minutes, but Malaga have still continued to show great improvements from last year, which might very well see them secure a Champions League spot yet again. Javier Saviola remains on fire and scored yet another goal for his new club. Valencia, also contending for Champions League spots, got a calm and comfortable 2-0 win over Zaragoza.
Elsewhere, Valladolid and Osasuna had very inspired and prolific weekends. Valladolid went down 0-1 at home against Rayo Vallecano after only 5 minutes, but ended up getting a clear 6-1 trashing at the hands of newly promoted Valladolid. Dukic was expectedly full of praise for his team and their work after the match. Rayo looked like a team who will struggle a lot to avoid relagation this season. In Pamplona, Osasuna gave Levante, last season’s surprise package, similar treatment with a heavy 4-0 beatdown, entirely justified but also built in the second half, with three of the goals in the final 10 minutes. Although they’re still in relegation zone, Osasuna have finally got their first win of the season and might finally be getting back on the right track.
In San Sebastian, Athletic’s crisis of results was further increased as they lost the Basquer derby 2-0 to Real Sociedad. Griezmann and Carlos Vela were the scorers in the second half, with Athletic mostly harmless as far as their attack was concerned during the vast majority of the match. Marcelo Bielsa desperately needs to do something, or else Athletic’s European hopes will soon vanish completely.
In the week’s ‘low profile’ matches, Granada beat Celta at home 2-1 and Getafe beat Mallorca 1-0 at home too.
La Liga – Matchday 6 Takeaways
- The standard of refereeing remains abysmal, and often in favor of the Big 2. Both Barcelona and Real Madrid got very favorable calls in their favor in key moments this weekend.
- Atlético Madrid are the real deal this season; not only do they have 16 points from 18 possible and the best scorer in the league in Falcao, Los Colchoneros have also shown to be able to grind out wins when needed, a skill they hadn’t shown in years past.
- Sevilla are a force to be reckoned with in the race for Champions League spots. They might have lost to Barcelona, but they played an extraordinary match while with 11 men, just like they did against Real Madrid. It’s a brilliantly organized team with very skilled wingers and strikers that can dismantle any defense in a heartbeat.
- David Villa is a player Tito Vilanova can count happen to wreak havoc this season. We already knew how brilliant Messi was and how Fabregas was likely to start playing great again soon. Villa was a big question mark due to his injury, but he has confirmed once and for all he needs to be counted on, even more so when he’s ready to play 90 minutes again.