In Spain and indeed other parts of the world as well, CulAi??s are screaming ai???HAY LIGAai??? in reference to Spainai??i??s league title being open to BarAi??a again. In reality, fans of the Catalan club realise that Barcelona are still behind Real Madrid by 4 points after Valencia drew against the Capital side in the Bernabeu. Having said that, Real Madrid have dropped 6 points in their last 5 matches and have yet to face Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona (arguably the toughest fixtures left for Madrid).
The match in question, proved to be the match of round 32 in Spain. Both Valencia and Real Madrid needed all three points (obviously for different reasons) and came out with all cylinders firing. It is not often when a fan can say that a match that ended 0-0 could be so exciting! The players that performed really well during the 90 minutes would be Valenciaai??i??s Topal and Vincente Guaita (the goal keeper had a brilliant match by denying Benzema,Ai?? Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria). Casillas was not left bored as was expected but did extremely well to make sure Valencia, who had some great chances, did not score.
Both teams hit the post (5 times in total) in addition to quite a few shots that were just wide of the goal. Specifically, certain chances seemed sure to go in but somehow didn’t. Guaita made a quick double save from a shot by Benzema that would have got Madrid the three points. Valencia, managed to head the ball onto the post when the goal was wide open (Casillas had saved the first shot). With the introduction of Di Maria, Madrid gained more control and were always on the verge of getting a goal, the Argentine however was a bit selfish on a number of occasions when he took a shot instead of passing. However, Valencia and especially Unai Emery had their tactics spot-on. The visitors chose to defend right outside the box and allowed Madrid control of the midfield (in that they did not press high) but were organized and did not allow Madrid any space for quick one-twos by the likes of Ronaldo and Benzema. Despite the chances, both teams shared points and the final score was 0-0.
Barcelona Do Well To Beat Zaragoza
The Catalans beat relegation threatened Zaragoza 1-4 via goals from Lionel Messi, Puyol and Pedro. Considering that Madrid drew right after Barcelonaai??i??s game, they are now forced to take this league seriously and not drop anymore points. In fact, they simply cannot afford to lose or draw any of their matches.
Zaragozaai??i??s Aranda opened the scoring (despite missing a penalty for a foul by Valdes in the box) through a good counter attacking move (30′) and gave their fans some glimmer of hope before Puyol equalized (36′) because of a mistake by the goal keeper (both goals came within 6′ minutes of each other). Lionel Messi added two more (39′ and 86′) to take his tally to 60 goals in the season. The diminutive Argentine is now the first player in almost 40 years, since Bayern Munichai??i??s Gerd Muller to break the 60 goal barrier in Europe (the German scored 67). Messi now has 38 goals in the league and leads the Pichichi list, although Ronaldo and Messi keep exchanging their spots every week.
Pedro Rodriguez, who has been having a dry run in the final third for a while was set up by Messi to score Barcelonaai??i??s 4th goal of the game in a brilliant move (92′) that saw the two forwards make some innovative passes between each other.
Barcelona are now 4 points behind Real Madrid while Zaragoza are 18th with 28 points after 31 matches.
Levante Shoot Down Atletico Madrid
Levante! Simply amazing. The minnows from Valencia continued to shock and surprise teams in Spainai??i??s premier division. They have an old team, get paid less than most others and yet, here they are 4th in Spainai??i??s premier division with 48 points after 31 games. In fact they were even with Valencia (till the Madrid game) and one can only say, ai???the sky is the limitai???. A Champions League spot for this team in blue and red wouldnai??i??t even have been a dream for most of their players before the season started.
With 7 games to go, the surprise team of the season have confirmed their spots in the first division for another year (and most fans are really happy) and can actually aim to finish the season in a European spot. The higher they finish, the more money they make and their players will hopefully be remunerated accordingly.
Levanteai??i??s Valdo and Arouna Kone found the back of the net in the 1st and 9th minute respectively and did so via purposeful attacking moves. Atletico Madrid, however, will rue their failure to score in the second-half, despite controlling the match. Atletico went down to 10 men after losing defender Miranda (2 yellow cards, with less than half an hour to go) and were forced to introduce Falcao (who was being rested presumably for the Madrid derby. The Columbian had scored 8 goals in his last 8 matches) from the bench to influence the game. The Columbian, although lively could not do enough to save his team. Los Rojiblancosai??i?? Diego Simeone has further headaches in that he has lost key players for the Madrid derby due to accumulated cards.
The ai???otherai??? Valencianai??i??s are not known to play fair and indeed use every trick in the book to get points but who can blame them, right?
Villarrealai??i??s woes are back after a short break when they lost to Real Betis 3-1, although they remain in 17th because of Zaragozaai??i??s loss. Athletic Bilbao got rid of their lethargy and beat Sevilla at home 1-0, via a header from Llorente (who is becoming a serious problem for defenders across the league). Bilbao are only 2 points away from 6th and will be looking to get into the European spots for next season as well. Newcomers, Rayo Vallecano showed the country that a club can be broke (and on strike) and still continue to play great football and get results. So comprehensive was their victory over Pamplona based Osasuna side (6-0), that the Madrid-based side might be one to keep an eye out for next season. They are currently 12th in the table with 40 points from 31 games.