The Hard Tackle analyzes the action from gameweek 17 in the La Liga. Another week which saw Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid register a win.
The last game of 2013 has been played in the La Liga and all the teams will now be enjoying the mid-season break. It was not a surprise that Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid registered a win to end the year on a positive note. However, the top three teams had to work hard for their victories and the three games were not exactly one-sided. In an exciting gameweek, we saw both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona come from behind to seal their victories against Levante and Getafe respectively. Both the clubs end the year level on points at the top, with Barcelona grabbing the first place thanks to a marginally superior goal difference. Real Madrid had to endure a tough game at the Mestalla against Valencia who equalised twice in the game and looked threatening at times. However, it was Real Madrid who found the winning goal via Jese Rodriguez, which helped them grab the three points and remain third in the league, 5 points behind Barca and Atletico. Athletic Bilbao’s win against Rayo Vallecano keeps them in the final Champions League berth, while Real Sociedad and Villareal occupy the two Europa League slots.
Diego Costa shines as Atletico win again
Atletico Madrid are looking like serious title contenders with the passing of each gameweek. Gameweek 17 was no different as Atletico sealed a win against Levante to end the year level on points with Barcelona and only behind on goal difference. In a league dominated by Real Madrid and Barcelona for a long period now, it is refreshing to see the other team in Madrid posing a challenge for the title.
Levante posed a big threat for Atletico who were playing at home and expecting a victory. However, the Vicente Calderon was silenced in less than two minutes when Levante grabbed the lead, courtesy an Ivanschitz goal, which came off his left-foot after he made a wonderfully-timed run into the area and then took a through-ball in his stride. Atletico Madrid looked vulnerable in the early periods of the first half when Levante came close to doubling their lead 11 minutes into the game until Courtois pulled off a brilliant save to deny David Barral. Atletico did manage to equalise on the half hour mark when centre-half Godin rose at the near post to head home a floated cross from Juanfran. Diego Costa helped Atletico to grab the lead just over a minute after restart after the forward score off a left-footed volley from Gabi’s deep freekick. While that goal was a sigh of relief for the Atletico fans, things came back to level pegging as Levante equalised in the 56th minute when Rios pounced on Koke’s mistake and drove an unstoppable 20-yard shot past Courtois. However, the thrilling encounter did see a decisive goal being scored by Diego Costa off a penalty earned by Juanfran.
This important win will certainly boost Atletico’s morale and give them the satisfaction of finishing the year only behind league leaders Barcelona on goal difference.
Barcelona remain on the top
Messi is still recovering from his injury and Neymar missed the game serving suspension. It seemed like a difficult game for Barcelona at the start as Gerardo Martino had to fend an unusually weak side. The Catalans endured a tough start when they went 2 goals behind in less than 15 minutes from the start of the game. However, Barcelona regained composure and went on to win 5-2 as Pedro delivered a master-class display.
The home fans at Coliseum Alfonso Pérez were delighted as Getafe stunned Barcelona after taking a surprise lead 10 minutes into the game when Sergio Escudero beat Jose Pinto at close quarters following good work by Angel Lafita to create the chance. Things seemed to worsen for the defending champions when Lisandro Lopez headed home unmarked from a corner four minutes later to give Getafe a 2-0 lead in less than 15 minutes. However, Pedro took it upon himself and made sure Barca came back in the game as he scored the club’s fastest league hat-trick since Dani’s in September 1999 to move to 10 league goals for the season. The winger was at his brilliant best and delivered a mesmerizing performance in the absence of Messi, Neymar and Xavi and made sure that Barcelona went to the break with a 1-goal advantage away from home. Getafe were not discouraged by the Spaniard’s quick-fire hat-trick and looked strong at the start of the second half. 14 minutes into the half Getafe looked close to levelling the score when Diego Castro outsmarted Pique in the box, however, the curling effort went wide of Pinto’s right-hand post. Despite a determined performance from Getafe, Barcelona managed to outclass them in the second half as Fabregas volleyed home Pedro’s cross at the far post to move two goals clear 8 minutes after the hour-mark. The midfielder added another goal to seal the victory for Barcelona from the spot as Pedro was felled in the box by Borja. A game which looked to be a close one in the first half went entirely in Barcelona’s favour and the Catalans grabbed a comfortable victory.
With another victory in the bag, Barcelona ensured that they maintained their position at the top of the table before going into their winter break. Despite being level on points with Atletico, Barcelona’s higher goal-difference keeps them at the top of the table.
Super-sub Jese rescues Real Madrid
Real Madrid came into this game 8 points behind the top two and needed to win this game to close in on their two biggest domestic rivals. At the end of the year, Real Madrid are still playing catch-up with Atletico and Barcelona. Playing at the Mastella, Real Madrid were certainly not at their best and were lucky to have won the game.
It was Nico Estevez’s first league game in temporary charge of Valencia, following the exit of Miroslav Djukic on Monday, and it was not the kind of debut he would have wished for. Despite the consequences, Valencia put up a highly spirited performance and ensured that Ancelotti did not receive a moment’s peace for the entire game. The game started well for Real Madrid as a superb solo effort from Di Maria helped the visitors grab the lead 28 minutes into the game. Valencia were quick to react and Pablo Piatti levelled after six minutes as he headed home after good work down the left by Bernat. In what was an exciting first half, Ronaldo also added his name on the scoresheet as he headed a Di Maria set-piece delivery 40 minutes into the game. The Argentine made sure that Gareth Bale was not missed and put up an excellent show in the first half. However, the lead did not last as just a minute after the hour mark Dani Parejo’s corner-kick managed to find Mathieu who headed the ball home. Ramos failed to mark the defender as he headed home past a helpless Diego Lopez. Just as the game looked close to ending in a draw, Jese popped up with the winner eight minutes from time – his driven effort squirming through Vicente Guaita’s hands. A game which involved defensive blunders went in the favour of Real Madrid who seemed desperate for a win.
A game which looked it will go either way, went in the way of the away side as Los Blancos won the game and cut the chase for the top spot to 5 points. A positive end to the year as Real Madrid will look to outclass rivals- Atletico and Barcelona, in order to challenge for the domestic title.
Athletic Bilbao made their chances of Champions League qualification stronger after defeating Rayo Vallecano at San Mames much more convincingly than the 2-1 scoreline suggests. Miko San Jose and Mikel Rico scored a goal each for the Baques while Alberto Bueno registered a goal for Rayo Vallecano. Real Sociedad moved into the fifth spot on the league table as La Real grabbed a comfortable 3-1 win against Granada at Los Carmenes in a game which saw Carlos Vela scoring a brace and Antoine Griezmann registering his 11th league goal of the season. Piti scored for the home side with a 25-yard thunderbolt. Villarreal’s Champions League ambitions were dealt a blow as they were defeated 2-1 by Sevilla at El Madrigal. Sevilla move to the seventh place in the table, only two points behind the yellow submarine. Espanyol, Almeria and Malaga also registered wins against Valladolid, Real Betis and Elche respectively, while Celta Vigo and Osasuna played out a 1-1 draw.
Player of the week
The player of the week in the La Liga was without doubt, Pedro Rodriguez. The winger stunned the fans at Coliseum Alfonso Pérez when he struck a hat-trick in less than nine minutes to overturn a two-goal deficit.