In the last couple of weeks, Barcelona and Real Madrid have lost their European hegemony, and were made aware of the innumerable deficiencies that they have in their team and squad. On the home-front too, the other Spanish teams rose up to the challenge and these two teams were made to toil to achieve all three points. Valencia won against Osasuna to keep their Champions League hopes alive and Malaga lost to Granada to clutch onto a Europa League berth. The race for the fourth position is quite exciting with only 5 points separating Sociedad, Valencia and Malaga, with 6 matches to go for Sociedad and 5 for the other two. Advantage Sociedad!
FC Barcelona v Real Betis
The Catalans started with Lionel Messi on the bench, yet again. Alexis, Tello and Villa started upfront and Song started in the midfield alongside Xavi and Iniesta. The absence of Messi reflected in the display of the team; Betis drew first blood courtesy a terrible defensive error, courtesy Song, and shoulders drooped. Dorlan Pabon scored from a difficult angle with a cool finish, less than 2 minutes into the game. Minutes later, Iniesta’s intelligent cross found Alexis and the Chilean headed home to restore parity at the Camp Nou. Betis got back their lead just before halftime from a glorious strike by Ruben Perez and Leo Messi looked distraught on the bench. The two teams entered the second half with Betis leading, but not for long – David Villa equalised 10 minutes into the half, assisted by Dani Alves with a cross.
Villa’s goal not only brought Barcelona back into the game but from then onwards, the game itself changed. Vilanova introduced Lionel Messi replacing Villa. The Argentine dished out a splendid display and scored a brace – comprising a special goal from a freekick. He and Iniesta combined well to put Betis out of the game. In the dying moments of the match, Leo just missed his hat-trick. With 46 goals this season in La Liga, Leo is 4 goals short of the most number of goals scored in a single season, incidentally set by himself, a year back. With 5 more matches to go and 2 more points to snatch the La Liga title back from the clutches of Real Madrid, fans can expect him to set a new record.
Despite the stunning freekick, it’d be unfair if Ruben Perez’s strike isn’t deemed the best goal of the match.
Real Madrid v Valladolid
Valladolid, who are just 8 points clear of the relegation zone, on 13th, gave Real Madrid a run for their money. Disappointment at missing out on yet another Champions League title and Mourinho’s personal ambition of the 3rd Champions League, Madrid perhaps were a little complacent coming into this match against a team in the bottom half of the table. Kaka started for Madrid and Modric occupied a holding position alongside Khedira. Carvalho got a rare game, but his error led to a goal – perhaps the former Chelsea man has played his last match in a Madrid shirt, unless there are any injuries to be covered for. Valladolid were ahead, just 8 minutes into the game but Angel Di Maria brought the hosts back around the 25th minute mark, with a strong left-footed shot after cutting in from the right. A little deflection off Marc Valiente helped him there.
Real Madrid got their second from Ronaldo who headed home from a Di Maria cross. The header was so deft that the keeper couldn’t have saved that under any circumstances. Luka Modric had a great outing and perhaps he can cover for Xabi Alonso next season, should the Spaniard choose to leave in summer. Valladolid pulled back one via Javi Guerra; again the defense could have prevented this. Mourinho’s teams usually have a compact defense, however, this Madrid looks to be beleaguered and are just dragging themselves towards the finish line. Kaka looked in good form and scored a goal. Ronaldo scored another and Lluis Sastre brought the game closer by scoring the 3rd goal for the visitors around the 90th minute.
Elsewhere Atletico drew with Deportivo and a healthy lead off the 4th placed team helped them to secure their Champions League spot. Thibaut Courtois wasn’t troubled much as Deportivo hardly attacked Atletico. Neither could Atletico get past the defensive barrier of Deportivo, who are now 1 point behind Zaragoza into the relegation zone.
Valencia cruised past Osasuna. Roberto Soldado and Ricardo Costa got the 2 goals before the break. As if that wasn’t enough, Alejandro Arribas was given a red and Ever Banega converted from the resulting free-kick. David Timor later saw yet another red and Jonas converted from the spot to complete the rout.
Elsewhere Sevilla won 3-0 against Espanyol and Malaga lost to Granada. Negredo, Andujar and an own goal by Capdevila did the trick for Sevilla. An Odion Igalho goal denied Malaga anything from the match against Granada.
- Celta Vigo 1-1 Athletic Bilbao
- Valencia 4-0 Osasuna
- Granada 1-0 Malaga
- Real Madrid 4-3 Valladolid
- Deportivo 0-0 Atletico Madrid
- Mallorca 1-1 Levante
- Zaragoza 3-0 Rayo Vallecano
- Sevilla 3-0 Espanyol
- FC Barcelona 4-2 Real Betis
- Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona) – 46 goals
- Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) – 33 goals
- Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid) – 26 goals
- Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla) – 20 goals
- Roberto Soldado (Valencia) – 19 goals