After the exciting Champions League clash against Manchester United ended in a draw, Jose Mourinho was quick to point that Danny Welbeck’s goal was because of an individual error and not of the team’s defensive organization. Sergio Ramos took it a bit further accepting the blame and ensured that the focus was on him post the United draw. He ensured that the focus remained on him even at the weekend.
Against Rayo Vallecano, Jose Mourinho had to make quite a few changes to his defense as Arbeloa, Alonso, Higuain and Modric were suspended. Sergio Ramos, the captain for the night, started on the right, his previous position in recent years, with Pepe and Varane in the centre. Upfront, Alvaro Morata started for the first time in La Liga, ahead of Benzema who has been in terrible form lately adding to Real Madrid’s forwards woes this season.
Morata did not have to wait for long as he scored a neatly taken goal courtesy an Ozil assist to make it 1-0 in the 3rd minute. Then Sergio Ramos demonstrated his aerial ability thumping a header off an Ozil free-kick to make it 2-0. Real Madrid were threatening to run riot.
Just when it seemed that Ramos redeemed himself, he was booked harshly for a foul and then in less than a minute found himself walking down the tunnel for a second booking thanks to a hand-ball. Morata was the victim as he was subbed for Raul Albiol, a logical substitution to give the team more balance. Real Madrid held onto the lead and after a dull second half, walked away with all three points.
While the victory was expected, the Ramos yellow cards came under the scanner. Ramos called them ‘unfair’ and he was probably right. While the first yellow was highly debatable, the second one was a bit obvious. According to Sid Lowe, he becomes the 15th player this season sent off for a handball (that handball being the second yellow).
While English referees appear to act judiciously in such cases, Spanish referees do not. Even when the hand-ball has been unintentional, the referees have been graciously dishing out cards causing confusion among the fans and clubs. Aitor Karanka did not mince words post-match when he said, “It’s difficult to understand the criteria applied when handing out yellow cards because each match there are decisions that confuse everyone”. While Ramos was harshly sent off, Piti escaped a booking for diving in the box and Real were further incensed when Rayo forward Alhassane Bangoura escaped a second booking for handling the ball while controlling a pass.
Barcelona, on the other hand, came from behind, securing a victory courtesy a brace from Lionel Messi. The Argentinian’s brace also brought him his 300th and 301st goal for the Catalan club. Granada took the lead in the 26th minute after Barcelona had failed to take their chances. Jordi Roura had Xavi and David Villa unavailable due to injuries while Iniesta was on the bench.
Granada went into half-time with the lead but could not sustain it for long in the second half as Messi scored in the 50th minute. Barcelona were in control throughout but could not find the goal as Roura sent on Iniesta to find a break through. A minute later Thiago was fouled and Messi curled in his free-kick to score his 37th goal this season in La Liga.
Atletico Madrid ended their losing streak by winning 3-0 away from home at Real Valladolid. Falcao opened the scoring in the 11th minute and Diego Costa made in 2-0 in the 53th minute. Cristian Rodriguez closed out the match scoring the third goal in the 90th minute. It was Falcao’s 23rd goal of the season and Atletico are now 12 points behind Barcelona and four points ahead of Real Madrid.
Malaga stayed close to Real Madrid as they won 1-0 in an entertaining clash at La Rosaleda. Lucas Piazon, on-loan from Chelsea for the season, assisted Javier Saviola for the only goal of the match. Athletic Bilbao retaliated but could not beat Malaga’s goal keeper, Willy Caballero, who was simply outstanding.
Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini has been in the news having been linked to Chelsea and Manchester City. Malaga’s next match in the Champions League against Porto will be keenly watched by the Premiership clubs if they are serious about taking away the Chilean to England.
At the Mestalla, Valencia grabbed a 2-0 win against Real Mallorca after being reduced to 10 men thanks to a Tino Costa red card in the 28th minute. The first half ended goal less but in the second half, Ricardo Costa’s header gave Valencia the lead. Roberto Soldado ensured that the game was beyond doubt when he scored in the 81st minute taking his goal tally to 11 for the season. Valencia are now just 2 points behind Malaga and are in serious contention for a Champions League spot. Ernesto Valverde’s tactics seem to working better than expected.
Deportivo la Coruna‘s new coach Fernando Vazquez did not have a happy start as his team lost 3-1 to Sevilla with Ivan Rakitic scoring one and Gary Medel netting a brace. In other matches, Espanyol won 1-0 against Betis and Getafe won 3-1 against Celta.
Sevilla 3 – 1 Deportivo
Getafe 3 – 1 Celta
Malaga 1 – 0 Athletic Bilbao
Granada 1 – 2 Barcelona
Osasuna 1 – 0 Real Zaragoza
Real Sociedad 1 -1 Levante
Valencia 2 – 0 Mallorca
Valladolid 0 – 3 Atletico Madrid
Espanyol 1 – 0 Real Betis
Real Madrid 2 – 0 Rayo Vallecano