Real Madrid and Barcelona provided a touch of master-class as the duo romped to comfortable home victories on match day 23 in La Liga while Atletico Madrid ceded ground to the Catalans in the title race by succumbing to local rivals Rayo Vallecano. Espanyol provided arguably the shock of the round as they defeated Athletic Bilbao 0-4 at San Mames as they further steered clear from the drop zone after what had been a horrendous start to the season. Deportivo slumped to yet another home defeat as they look set for the drop.
There were several last gasp goals, some inconsequential and some that could yet decide who stays up and who goes down.
Real Madrid 4-1 Sevilla: Sensational Ronaldo
Kaka made his first start in a La Liga fixture for Real Madrid after a long time but this one was all about Cristiano Ronaldo as the Portuguese scored three and assisted one in Real Madrid’s thrashing of Sevilla. Diego Lopez was lining up against his old club for the first time as well. The romp started with a goal from Benzema; the Frenchman turning in the ball from a squared off pass by Ronaldo on the left for probably the easiest goal he would ever score. Ronaldo’s left foot was in the headlines again as he scored a brilliant second goal. Finding himself in space in Sevilla’s half, he skipped past a defender to curl in a beauty from outside the box. And yet another hat-trick for Real Madrid’s star player was complete when he ran nearly the entire length of the pitch in a typical Madrid counter-attacking display and teamed up with Higuain on the right who then laid-off the ball in the middle, allowing the Portuguese to tap in the goal and complete the rout before being substituted to a thunderous applause from the Bernabeu.
Higuain saw red for a second bookable offence and was soon followed by Sevilla’s Maduro for a clumsy challenge on Michael Essien. Manu Del Moral pulled one back for the Andalusians in the 87th minute but apart from a missed clean sheet for Lopez, it would have hardly mattered for Real Madrid. The nature of the victory and especially Ronaldo’s performance could prove to be a big, and perhaps necessary, boost for Los Blancos as they head into the all-important clash against Manchester United.
Barcelona 6-1 Getafe: Iniesta Master Class
In the earliest of kick-offs, Barcelona continued their unstoppable march to La Liga glory as they achieved a resounding 6-1 victory over mid-table Getafe. Prior to the game, Getafe manager Luis Garcia had said that he and his team did not care much about who would feature in the starting line-up. The nature of Barcelona’s goals reflected a kind of reply to that terse statement with six different goal-scorers thrilling the crowd on a glorious day at Camp Nou. However, the architect of this victory was Andres Iniesta as he assisted twice and scored one himself.
The game began comfortably for Barcelona as they scored twice inside 13 minutes; Alexis Sanchez scoring his first la Liga goal this season and Lionel Messi his 46th of the season, set-up by Iniesta with a couple of brilliant defence splitting passes. It was always going to be catch up from there for Getafe, and they went on to concede four more. Villa and Messi then missed chances before the former provided a slick finish in the 58th minute to put the game to bed. Tello provided another brilliant finish in the 79th minute while Getafe too managed to pull one back through substitute Alvaro but it did not dampen Barcelona’s advances as Iniesta and Pique both scored in the dying minutes of the game; the former capping off yet another mesmerizing performance with style.
Rayo Vallecano 2-1 Atletico Madrid: Atleti Cede Ground
In a clash of two clubs separated by only a couple of miles, the less fancied side ran out winners as Rayo put in a strong performance to defeat rivals Atletico Madrid. Rayo were in the driving seat after just 3 minutes as confusion inside Atletico’s box allowed Bangoura to fire home the opener. Los Vallecanos doubled their advantage on the half hour mark when Leo Baptisao scored from Bangoura’s cross at the front post.
There was the customary goal from Falcao towards the end but it proved to be too little too late for Atleti as they ceded further ground to the seemingly unstoppable Catalans.
Valencia secured an important victory on the road as they defeated Celta Vigo 1-0 thanks to a last gasp headed goal from substitute Nelson Valdez. The victory ensured that Los Che would be in a good frame of mind before they face PSG in the Champions League, with the victory coming on the back of an impressive draw against Barcelona. Celta on the other hand are now dangerously lurking in the relegation zone.
Malaga too secured an important away win over Levante with a brace from the talented 20 year-old Isco who has been linked with various big clubs over the last few months. Granada, on a high after defeating Real Madrid, heaped further misery on bottom placed Deportivo La Coruna as they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners and it will be very difficult for Deportivo to avoid the drop from here. The result led to sacking of the manager Domingos Paciencia, with Fernando Vasquez lined up to take charge of the Galician outfit for the remainder of the season.
Espanyol provided the surprise of the round with a resounding 4-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao at San Mames. Espanyol claimed three extremely vital points as they steered further clear of the relegation zone after what had been a horrendous first half of the season while Bilbao’s season continues to be a mystery, especially after last year’s highs. In the clash of bottom dwellers, Mallorca and Osasuna shared points. Osasuna were close to three vital points, but a last gasp strike from Pedro Geromel secured a point that could yet help out Los Bermellones in avoiding the drop.
Real Madrid 4-1 Sevilla
Barcelona 6-1 Getafe
Rayo Vallecano 2-1 Atletico Madrid
Osasuna 1-1 Mallorca
Levante 1-2 Malaga
Deportivo La Coruna 0-3 Granada
Real Zaragoza 1-2 Real Sociedad
Athletic Bilbao 0-4 Espanyol
Real Betis and Real Valladolid are yet to play
- Lionel Messi has now scored in 13 consecutive La Liga fixtures. This was his 46th goal of the season.
- Benzema scored his 50th goal for Real Madrid in La Liga while it was Ronaldo’s 20th hat-trick for Real Madrid
- Paciencia resigned from his post as Deportivo manager after just 6 weeks in charge.