The gameweek did not see the two of the top three title contenders in Spain drop points. Real Madrid annihilated a beleaguered Sociedad and Barcelona won comfortably away against Real Betis, despite an early injury to Lionel Messi. Atletico Madrid however allowed Real Madrid to close the gap between them after a draw against a resurgent Villarreal.
Ronaldo sinks Real Sociedad.
Constant comparison to Lionel Messi and derision at times have perhaps gotten into the Portuguese superstar’s head and he is now at his scintillating best. The former Manchester United now has 24 goals for Real Madrid in the 2013-14 season, in just 17 games – and 8 goals in the last 3 matches.
After two successive hattricks at the Bernabeu, Ronaldo took his tally to 16 in the domestic league and looks all set to grab the Pichichi. Not only did he score himself, he also set up under-fire striker Karim Benzema to score one. Real Madrid’s offensive trio against Sociedad comprised Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale. While Bale is the recent addition to Perez’s neo-Galactico project, Benzema and Ronaldo have played with each other for some time and while they understand each other’s game blissfully, the former Tottenham winger is not too behind.
Despite initial criticism, Bale has finally managed to get his footing at the Spanish capital. His recent performances, especially after the El Clasico, have been impressive and he assisted Khedira for Madrid’s fourth goal of the night against Sociedad.
Despite the devastating offense, Ancelotti will be wary about their defense, which looks almost impregnable on paper, but has been quite porous on the pitch. Pacey French winger, Antoine Griezmann, one of Sociedad’s main offensive threats, breached the fortress and found the back of the net.
Ronaldo deserves special mention for this match. His goal-scoring exploits are just not enough. He even got as close to hitting the post in the first 10 minutes. His best effort of the night was however the stunning 25-yard freekick which did not allow anybody to move. Not even an inch!
Messi-less Barcelona win comfortably
Lionel Messi has been plagued with injuries of late. While he took the pressure of playing continuously at an astronomically high level continuously for about 4 years, his body is perhaps not responding in a way he would have liked. Midway through the first half, the diminutive Argentine suffered a hamstring injury which might sideline him for some time – the only good thing is that Barcelona do not have a match next week, and Argentina have already qualified for the World Cup in Brazil, and Messi will not be risked or rushed to take the pitch.
Despite initial pressure, and a bright start from Betis, Barcelona got the lead from a goal by Neymar just after the half-hour mark. While it is usually believed that a team is the most vulnerable just after scoring, Pedro Rodriguez allayed all fears with a sensational solo-goal just two minutes later.
Result may say that Barcelona dominated, but it’s as far from the truth as it gets. Martino fielded an exceptional combination of players – Song replacing Busquets, Montoya as a left fullback, Bartra and Puyol in the centre of defense and Fabregas in midfield in place if Iniesta. While Bartra, Song and Fabregas had sensational outings, it was Victor Valdes’ exceptional performance that saved the Catalans the blushes. Valdes is in the form of his life and with every passing match he makes it difficult and even more difficult for Martino and fans to think of a team without him.
Within the first 20 minutes, the Spanish custodian made two exemplary saves to keep the visitors into the game – one from Jorge Milina and the other from Juan Carlos, which perhaps can be compared to Gordon Bank’s exceptional save off Pele.
What went against Pepe Mel’s side was the fact that they attacked a bit too much to leave Barcelona with a lot of open spaces to work with, which they eventually did. After initial couple of goals from Neymar and Pedro, Cesc Fabregas scored a brace to take the match away from Betis.
Bartra’s coming of age, Song’s resurgence and Pedro’s willingness to do the extra mile will be happy headaches for Martino, but what might just sour the victory is the injury to the little man – his third hamstring injury this season. Moreover the pitch was also below-par and that did not help either side.
Molina scored from the spot in the dying moments of the match to salvage some pride.
Atletico allow Real Madrid to catch up
While Madrid played a day before Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, the Rojiblancos did not do enough to maintain the distance against a resurgent Villarreal. Simeone’s side were always the second best in the match and Villarreal are showing some intent to get back to where they belong, following their sad demotion.
A couple of minutes into the game, Villarreal defender Mario Gaspar mistimed header landed in his own net and Atletico’s luck shone. However, fortune did not desert Villarreal and late into the game Alderweireld’s cross to Ikechukwu Uche found the foot of Atletico’s Juanfran and rolled into the net.
Elsewhere in Spain…
- Osasuna 0-1 Almeria
- Granada 3-1 Malaga
- Getafe 1-1 Elche
- Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Levante
- Celta Vigo 0-2 Rayo
- Espanyol 1-3 Sevilla
- Valencia 2-2 Valladolid
Race to Pichichi
- Cristiano Ronaldo – 16 goals
- Diego Costa – 13 goals
- Lionel Messi – 8 goals
- Antoine Griezmann – 8 goals
- Alexis Sanchez – 7 goals
- Ivan Rakitic – 7 goals
Goal Of The Week
Has to Cristiano Ronaldo’s rocket of a freekick against Real Sociedad. Nobody moved on the pitch while Ronaldo scored. Neither should you, when you watch.