Gameweek 23 Spanish La Liga. An exciting week which saw Atletico failing to stay at the top and slipping to the third place behind Real Madrid and Barcelona despite the three being level on points.
Another exciting gameweek concluded in Spain as the 2013-14 La Liga season is turning out to be more and more entertaining than expected at the start of the season. The La Liga has so far been a rollercoaster ride for the top three who are level on points and are only separated on goal difference at the moment. The season is getting more unpredictable with each passing week. Gameweek 23 started with Atletico Madrid poised on the top of the table 3 points clear of Real Madrid and Barcelona. However, Atleti stumbled and lost against lowly Almeria while both, Real Madrid and Barcelona managed to win by convincing margins.
Jesé, Bale and Benzema run riot in Ronaldo’s absence
Real Madrid came into the game 3 points behind local rivals Atletico Madrid. Playing at home, Real Madrid had the chance to go top of the table and mount pressure on Barca and Atleti who played later. Real Madrid continued their superb form and increased their unbeaten streak to 13 games. Bale was back in the line-up after being rested in the mid-week Copa Del Rey game against Atletico. Jesé took Ronaldo’s position as the Portuguese is facing a three match suspension. Despite Villareal’s grit, Real Madrid were able to beat the Yellow Submarine 4-2.
This game was expected to be an interesting encounter as Villareal, who are looking for a Champions League spot had managed to hold Real Madrid to a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture. However, playing at home, Real Madrid managed a good win against one of the best teams in the league this season. It only took seven minutes for The Whites to grab an early lead as some poor defending from the visitors saw Bale steal the ball from Dorado and chip the ball easily over Sergio Asenjo. Madrid soon had to make a first-half substitution as Marcelo limped off with an apparent groin injury, to be replaced by Coentrao. At the 25-minute mark, Bale troubled the Villareal defence once more as he effortlessly ran past Costa on the right wing and crossed in for Benzema to tap the ball home at the near post. The 2-goal lead was however halved just 3 minutes before half-time as Mario found the net with an unstoppable shot at the far corner. 64 minutes into the game, Real Madrid scored their third and found themselves 2 goals ahead for the second time in the game. A calm and composed Jesé collected a superb through ball from Di Maria and guided it past Sergio Asenjo with the outside of his foot. However, Villareal showed signs of comeback as a sublime Dos Santos free-kick from 25 yards found the back of the net with just 20 minutes remaining. But after 76 minutes Benzema ensured the victory for Los Blacos as he drove home from the edge of the box off a Jesé pass.
Almeria stuns Atletico
Atletico came into the game trying to retain their top spot and go three points clear of Real Madrid after Los Blancos had won their game against Villareal earlier that evening. Atletico succumbed to the pressure and were stunned by Almeria who are strengthening their bid for survival. Atleti were without goalkeeper Courtois, left-back Luis Filipe and forward David Villa. In a game which looked winnable at the start for Atletico Madrid, Diego Simeone’s failed to create chances and conceded 2 goals in the closing stages of the match.
The game looked like it will be an easy one for Rojiblancos, who came into the game looking to stay three points clear on the top. Despite dominating the possession, Atletico failed to create any significant chances to grab the lead. Coming back from a disappointing 3-0 Copa Del Rey loss against local rivals Real Madrid, Atletico looked determined and came close to scoring at the 7-minute mark when 19-year old full-back, Javi Manquillo chipped an effort towards goal, but Angel Trujillo got back to clear it. Diego also came close to scoring as his 25-yard dipping effort was turned away past the post as Esteban got his fingertips to it. On the 28th-minute mark, Almeria were lucky to escape without conceding a penalty. In the early periods of the second-half, Diego again came close as he cut across the Almeria defence after coming in from the right and driving the ball low into the bottom-left corner which went just wide. Almeria substitute luckily missed a red card despite producing a dangerous two-footed stamp on Tiago’s right leg. Tiago had to be taken off on a stretcher after the incident. At the 80-minute mark, Verza finally found the back of the net to score the first goal of the game as he found the top corner as Aranzubia misjudged his cross. With just 4 minutes of time left, Verza scored his second as he confidently dispatched a penalty past Gabi, who was forced to go between the sticks after Aranzubia was harshly sent off for bringing down Zongo.
Messi magic puts Catalans back on top
Barcelona came into the game nursing the wounds of a 3-2 home loss at the hands of Valencia last week. With a 2-0 Copa Del Rey win against Real Sociedad, confidence was back with the Catalans. Facing Sevilla away from home is usually a tough task for all the teams and it was no different for Barcelona despite the contradicting 4-1 scoreline. The win puts Barcelona back on the top of the Liga table level on points but ahead on goal difference with Real Madrid and Atletico. Barcelona started the game with Dani Alves and Busquets on the bench as Montoya and Song took their places in the starting 11. The Catalans were without Neymar, Jordi Alba and Mascherano who are still recovering from injuries and suspension.
After Atletico’s shock defeat to Almeria, Barcelona needed this win to regain pole position in the La Liga race. However, it was Sevilla who managed to look the superior side in the early minutes of the game. Ablerto Moreno opened the scoring for Sevilla when his 15th-minute shot was deflected in by Marc Bartra. Ivan Rakitic combined well with Diego Figueiras to bring the ball into the area from the right flank. The ball then dropped to Vitolo, whose pass towards Moreno resulted in a fierce shot which struck Bartra on its way to find the back of the net. Sevilla then had a bunch of chances as Carlos Bacca and Rakitic came very close to doubling the lead. The hosts’ failure to capitalise stung them as after 34 minutes Alexis Sanchez headed a Lionel Messi free-kick to score a dubious goal as the Chilean appeared to be off-side. Barcelona came back in the game and grabbed the lead before the break as a tackling blunder from Diogo near half-line resulted in Pedro charging forward before cutting the ball back to Messi, who steered it into the bottom-right corner. Sevilla still had their share of chances to equalise as in the 51st-minute Vitolo found himself one-on-one with Valdes only to strike wide. Kevin Gameiro also had a chance but could not manage to score after pouncing on a rebound. Messi then sealed the win for Barcelona as he calmly scored his second goal after collecting an Andres Iniesta pass on the edge of the box. Sevilla tried to make a comeback into the game as Bacca held off Gerard Pique only to find the side-netting. Late in the game, Barcelona further extended their lead as substitute Fabregas dinked the ball over Beto to finish the game and grab the win for Barcelona with a convincing score-line of 4-1.
The La Liga also has seventeen other teams who played out their respective fixtures over the weekend. Real Sociedad played out a 0-0 draw against Levante and failed to capitalise over Villareal. La Real find themselves 3 points behind Yellow Submarine on the 6th spot. The Yellow Submarine had something to smile about as Bilbao only managed to earn a draw against Celta Vigo keeping Villareal only within 4 points of fourth place. Valencia convincingly earned the three points as they dismantled bottom placed Real Betis to win the game 5-0. Valladolid only drew against Elche to remain six points ahead of Betis. Just a point above Valladolid is Rayo Vallecano who grabbed a convincing 4-1 win against Malaga. Espanyol and Osasuna both won at home against Granada and Getafe respectively.
Golden boot contenders
- Cristiano Ronaldo – 22
- Diego Costa – 20
- Alexis Sanchez – 14
- Antoine Griezmann – 14
- Karim Benzema – 13