Unbeaten in eleven league games, Barcelona remain at the top of the charts after a comfortable win over Celta Vigo as the teams from Madrid continue to chase their Catalan counterpart.
Having won only two league games out of ten, Celta Vigo were definitely not the favorites while hosting Barcelona at the Balaidos stadium. Though the visitors struggled to get their momentum going, it only took Alexis Sanchez nine minutes to put his name on the score-sheet for the second consecutive league fixture.
Coming after a big victory against Malaga in their previous game, Celta Vigo managed to provide the league leaders with stiff competition as Victor Valdes was called upon to make quite a few saves during the match. Though they managed to hold Barcelona off at 1-0 at half-time, an unfortunate own goal by Yoel early in the second half managed to subdue the home side. A fine attempt by Cesc Fabregas saw the ball ricochet off the bar post only to hit Yoel in the back of the head and go back inside the net. Six minutes later, Lionel Messi found Fabregas after a brilliant run who slotted the ball into the net to ensure Barcelona a comfortable victory over Celta Vigo.
Meanwhile Santiago Bernabeu witnessed a goal-fest as Real Madrid thumped Sevilla 7-3 with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring his fourth hattrick against Sevilla in his four seasons at Madrid. After a disappointing performance against Barcelona at Camp Nou, Real Madrid was eager to reassert their supremacy in Spain as they hosted Sevilla at Bernabeu.
After an injury-prone introduction at Real Madrid, Gareth Bale silenced his critics with an outstanding performance as he scored twice in fourteen minutes to put Real Madrid in a comfortable position. Playing dangerously on the right flank, Bale constantly sped past defenders as he provided two crucial assists along with his goals to mark his arrival in Spain.
But proving his worth once again in front of the Bernabeu faithful, it was Cristiano Ronaldo who stole the show. Playing for the first time since Blatter’s controversial comment, Ronaldo played to the galleries as he scored yet another hattrick against Sevilla. Though Sevilla did pose a serious threat towards the end of the first half, Real Madrid sealed the game in the 53rd minute as Benzema finally found the back of the net after a brilliant assist from Bale. A total of three penalties were awarded in the game while Sevilla had a player sent off for receiving two yellow cards on the trot. But despite a comfortable win, Real Madrid remain 6 points behind Barcelona and 5 behind city rivals Atletico Madrid.
Atletico Madrid on the other hand maintained their pressure on Barcelona as Diego Simeone’s men beat Granada two goals to one on an important away fixture. Granada proved to be tough competitors at home as they took the game to Atletico Madrid after a few good attacking chances. With both teams sparring evenly, it was Atletico Madrid who drew first blood after Diego Mainz brought David Villa down in the box.
Diego Costa stepped up to take the spot-kick and scored his 12th league goal as he now leads the highest goal-scorer charts in Spain. With both teams making good chances, it was surprising to see the first half end with only a single goal to show for it. While Atletico Madrid continued to press forward in the second half, it was only through another penalty that they could double their lead. Jeison Murillo fouled David Villa inside the penalty box and the former-Barcelona man converted the spot kick with barely fifteen minutes left on the clock. The game turned dramatically towards the end as Granada scored a late goal after Filipe Luis was sent off for handling the ball but Atletico Madrid managed to hold firm and finish the game with just one point behind league leaders Barcelona.
Having won six of their last ten league games, Villarreal hosted Getafe as they looked to maintain their fourth position in the Spanish League. But things quickly turned against them as Getafe started the match on a positive note and scored within the first five minutes to subdue the home side. Ciprian Marica’s early goal proved to be Villarreal’s undoing despite their best attempts to equalize as Miguel Moya pulled off a string of decent saves in the first half to keep the hosts at bay. A goal down, Villarreal’s Pablo Iniguez was then sent off in the 39th minute as the hosts looked helplessly vulnerable in front of an organised Getafe attack. The hosts reorganised themselves and came out in the second half looking for the crucial equalizer but Getafe stood strong to maintain their one goal lead. Marica’s early goal separated the two teams for the better part of the match while Pablo Sarabia added a second in extra time to secure Getafe much-needed three points. The fixture left Villareal sitting at the 4th spot while Getafe looked promising on the 6th.
Meanwhile Athletic Bilbao managed to hold on to their fifth position in the La Liga after making a spectacular comeback in the second half to draw level with tenth placed Elche. After having won six of their last ten games, Athletic Bilbao started the match as the favourites but the home team found itdelf trailing by two goals after Elche’s brilliant first half performance. Lomban put the visitors ahead in the ninth minute while Aaron doubled the lead three minutes into the second half as the home team stood rooted to their spots. But a classic comeback was on the cards after Bilbao’s Susaeta put one past Elche in the 55th minute. Striving for the equalizer, Athletic Bilbao finally drew level after Aduriz found the back of the net. But despite an inspired second half, a victory was not on the cards as both teams finished level and shared the spoils. Atheltic Bilbao continue to sit fifth in the league table while Elche linger in the upper half of the table.
After an extremely poor start to the La Liga which saw them win only 2 out of the last ten matches, Malaga visited Espanyol in search of 3 points. Having lost their last La Liga encounter to Celta Vigo by five goals, it was not surprising to see Malaga struggle to keep pace with the game. Though the two sides kept trading blows, neither side could find the decisive shot to beat the goal keeper. Malaga came very close in the first half and struck the bar twice but could not beat the goal keeper. Espanyol’s Kiko Casilla kept the hosts alive after making two important saves in the second half to deny Malaga three points. The match ended as a goalless draw as Espanyol found themselves in the 8th spot while Malaga sat low on the 15th spot.
Placed in the lower rungs of the Spanish League table, Real Betis hosted Levante in a match that ended in a goalless draw. Though both teams started the game looking for an important win, neither side could capitalize on their chances to put themselves ahead. Desperate to move out of the relegation zone, Real Betis suffered a huge blow after Francisco Chica was given the marching orders after picking up his second yellow card within the first half an hour. Smelling blood, Levante strikers pounced upon the defence looking to score the first goal but goalkeeper Stephan Andersen did well to keep them at bay. The home side organised themselves at break and played with discipline in the second half which saw them being rewarded with a penalty kick after Levante goal-keeper Navas fouled Betis striker Molina. Gifted with the opportunity to open the scoring with just ten men on the field, Molina saw his spot kick saved as the game remained goalless. Both teams got the opportunity to score a late goal but their goal-keepers stepped up to keep a clean sheet apiece. The fixture left Real Betis on the 18th spot while Levante on the 7th as the game ended in a frustrating draw.
Yet another draw in the La Liga, Valladolid made a spectacular comeback towards the end of the game to draw level with an Antoine Griezmann inspired Real Sociedad. Griezmann put the visitors ahead in the 16th minute of the match and then doubled the lead early in the second half as Real Sociedad looked set to go back home with three crucial points. But Valladolid showed great determination as they refused to buckle down and played for win which saw their efforts rewarded as Larsson scored for the hosts in the 76th minute of the match. An inspired Valladolid side capitalized on their momentum to score again as Javi Guerra equalised three minutes later, setting the game up for a brilliant finish. Though Sociedad were denied the winning goal by Diego Marino towards the dying minutes of the match, Valladolid were awarded an injury-time penalty kick after Martinez handled the ball in the penalty box. With the game set in Valladolid’s favour, Ebert missed the golden opportunity as the game ended in a 2-2 draw. The fixture ended with Valladolid on the 13th spot and Real Sociedad on the 9th.
On the other hand, bottom placed Almeria beat Valencia two goals to one after pulling off a spectacular comeback. Having not won a single game so far in the La Liga, Almeria were clearly the underdogs as they visited Valencia looking for their first win the league. Jonas put the home side in front from the penalty spot after Pellarano handled the ball in the penalty box. But despite a one goal cushion, Valencia did not look threatening enough and could not add to their lead as Almeria goalkeeper Esteban Suarez kept their chances alive. The game changed completely after Torsiglieri scored a brilliant header to equalize in the 62nd minute of the match. With everything to play for, both teams looked for the winner but it was Almeria who came up on top as Vidal scored from 12 yards to put the visitors ahead. Though Valencia tried desperately for an equaliser, they were unable to gather any points from the fixture.
Meanwhile Osasuna beat Rayo Valllecano three goals to one at home to keep them off the relegation zone. Scoring in the very first minute of the game, Oier Sanjurjo headed in a corner to put the home side in front. Though Vallecano threatened to draw even, Osasuna put one more past the visitors on the 13th minute to establish a comfortable lead over the visitors. Rayo Vallecano made an earnest effort to claw their way back into the game in the second half but they could find the clinical finishing that was needed to beat goalkeeper. The home side scored their third goal in the 58th minute to put the game past the visitors but had their player sent off ten minutes later giving Vallecano hope for a late comeback. Though Galvez scored in the 71th minute, it was not enough as Osasuna earned three crucial points while Vallecano found themselves on the 19th spot on the league table.
With the next round matches starting shortly, it will be interesting to see how the teams fare in the upcoming fixtures.