La Liga Week 6 Roundup: Barca Stumble While Madrid Gain Pace

Rael MasonCorrespondent IOctober 5, 2010

La Liga Week 6 Roundup: Barca Stumble While Madrid Gain Pace

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    Sinama-Pongolle's double secured a stunning comebackDenis Doyle/Getty Images

    Real Zaragoza 2-2 Sporting Gijon

    A second-half double from Florent Sinama-Pongolle saw 10-man Real Zaragoza come from 2-0 down and rescue a point at home to Sporting Gijon. The result made it six games without a victory for Zaragoza, a record that it is rumoured will cost manager José Aurelio Gay his job in the near future.

    Gijon had failed to score in either of their previous away games, but found the breakthrough in bizarre fashion in the 33rd minute. A right wing cross hit Zaragoza defender Ivan Obradovic and deflected towards goal, leaving home keeper Antonio Doblas stranded and giving Gijon the lead. It was a terrible first-half display from Zaragoza, but things got a lot worse soon after the break.

    A minute into the second half, Zaragoza’s Jiri Jarosik was dispossessed in his own third by David Barral, and in his attempts to win the ball back brought down Barral, who had advanced into the penalty area. Jarosik, by missing the ball, taking down Barral from behind, and being the last man, gave the referee very little option—he awarded both a penalty and a red card. The resultant penalty was smashed home in emphatic fashion by Diego Jimenez, doubling Gijon’s lead and giving the hosts a seemingly insurmountable task.

    Amazingly, the setbacks seemed to bring Zaragoza to life, as Sinama-Pongolle’s strikes in the 56th and 60th minutes produced a stunning comeback. The first was a superb strike, with the French striker receiving the ball from Gabi after a clever passing move and smashing a rocket from the right-hand edge of the box. The strike was simply unstoppable, beating two Gijon defenders and keeper Juan Pablo Colinas and going in off the underside of the crossbar.

    The second goal was a counterattack of the highest quality, with three quick passes taking Zaragoza from the edge of their own box to releasing Sinama-Pongolle down their left. The forward produced another finish of the highest quality, taking a couple of touches before firing a left-foot shot hard and low across Colinas and into the far corner.

    Zaragoza’s ability to produce two goals of such quality while a man down had every home fan believing an improbable victory may be on the cards, but after an amazing 15 minutes of action, the final half hour was less dramatic, as neither side could find a winner.

    The result, coupled with Deportivo’s heavy defeat, actually saw Zaragoza move up to 19th place, but three points from six games is a worrying return at this stage. Gijon moved up to 16th with five points, but both sides look set to struggle based on their opening results.

La Liga Week 6 Roundup: Barca Stumble While Madrid Gain Pace

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    Sociedad's Raul Tamudo is an Espanyol legendBagu Blanco/Getty Images

    Real Sociedad 1-0 Over Espanyol

    An outrageous 85th-minute own goal from Juan Forlin was enough to give Real Sociedad a 1-0 victory over visitors Espanyol. The win was Sociedad’s first three points since the opening day, and continues the visitor’s struggles on the road, with Espanyol yet to secure a point away from home this season.

    Both sides created a number of chances, with Pablo Osvaldo going close for the visitors and a superb volley from Sociedad striker Raúl Tamudo nearly beating Espanyol keeper Carlos Kameni at the near post. It would have been quite a story had Tamudo, an Espanyol legend and longtime captain, won the match against his old side, but the winner came in slightly different fashion with five minutes to go.

    A thunderous free-kick from Sociedad substitute Jeffrey Sarpong was headed for the top corner before Kameni tipped the ball onto the crossbar and down into the six-yard box. The despairing keeper could only look on in horror as the ball fell to Espanyol defender Forlin, who somehow sliced the ball back towards his own goal and in for a Sociedad winner.

    Although Espanyol twice came close to an equaliser in the closing stages, Sociedad hung on for a vital three points that moves them up to 13th place amidst a clutch of teams on seven points. For Espanyol, a record of no points and no goals in three away games is worrying, with only their great home form keeping them in 8th spot with nine points.

La Liga Week 6 Roundup: Barca Stumble While Madrid Gain Pace

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    Aduriz opened the scoring for Los CheManuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    Valencia 2-1 Over Athletic Bilbao

    Valencia continued their impressive start to the season with a 2-1 win at home to Athletic Bilbao, thanks to goals from Aritz Aduriz and Vicente. The win was Valencia’s fifth in six league games and keeps the Galician side top of La Liga.

    Boss Unai Emery continued with his rotation policy, making five changes from the side that performed so admirably in the midweek Champions League defeat to Manchester United. One of those changes was the recall of forward Aduriz to partner Roberto Soldado up front, and it was Aduriz who opened the scoring on 11 minutes.

    The goal owed much to a superb interchange of passes leading up to Aduriz’ finish, with Pablo Hernandez and Soldado linking up brilliantly on the Valencia right. Hernandez found Soldado out wide, who in turn played a return ball to the advancing winger, whose clever backheel released Soldado to head into the box, beat two defenders, and produce a cross that gave Aduriz a simple header.

    Hernandez went close himself in the 27th minute, his low near post shot deflected onto the crossbar and away by the outstretched foot of Bilbao keeper Gorka Iraizoz. Valencia continued to create the better chances, with Aduriz a threat throughout as he went close twice before halftime.

    Bilbao made more of an impact second half, creating a couple of openings and restricting Valencia to little in the way of key chances, but were unable to find a breakthrough. It wasn’t until the 91st minute that another goal came, with Valencia taking advantage of Bilbao’s desperation; hitting the visitors on the break as they committed men forward. It was Vicente who sealed the win, receiving the ball just inside the box, cutting inside a challenge and smashing a right-footed shot past the diving Iraizoz and a covering defender.

    The second goal proved to be vitally important, as soon after Bilbao did find the net through a superb curling free-kick from Igor Gabilondo. His left footed strike from 25 yards flew over the wall and gave Cesar no chance in the Valencia goal, finding the top corner with perfect precision.

    The win keeps Valencia in first place with 16 points from their six games, with a mouth-watering trip to the Nou Camp to face Barcelona next up on October 17th. For Bilbao, the defeat leaves them in 11th place with seven points, but defeats to Atletico Madrid, Barca and Valencia indicate that it will be a tall order to match last season’s eighth-place finish.

La Liga Week 6 Roundup: Barca Stumble While Madrid Gain Pace

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    Kalu Uche enjoyed an eventful afternoon for AlmeriaDenis Doyle/Getty Images

    Almeria 1-1 Malaga

    Early-season entertainers Malaga played out an eventful 1-1 draw at Almeria, with two goals, a missed penalty, and a red card providing plenty of drama. The dismissal of Eliseu, his second red card inside a week, added to Malaga’s task, while a missed penalty from Almeria’s Kalu Uche will leave the hosts ruing what could have been.

    Almeria began the brighter, but it was the woodwork that saw the most action in the first half. First Pablo Piatti nearly broke the deadlock as he hit the post in the 14th minute, and then Malaga’s Salomon Rondon hit the near post with a fierce strike at the other end. Next up was Uche, who met a right wing cross to fire across Malaga keeper Rubén, only to be denied by the upright.

    The 40th minute saw the game take a dramatic turn of a more unsavoury nature as Malaga’s Eliseu saw red for lashing out at Almeria’s Juan Ortiz. It was a moment of lunacy from Eliseu, who was only playing after appealing his controversial dismissal in last Monday’s game against Villarreal. This time Eliseu can have few complaints, as he appeared to punch the back of Ortiz's head, angry at what he perceived to be a foul by the Almeria player.

    Despite the setback, it was Malaga who took the lead in the 50th minute as Quincy Owusu-Abeiye latched onto a quick free-kick and fired in from the edge of the box. Almeria pushed for an equaliser, and had the perfect opportunity in the 64th minute when Patrick Mtiliga brought down Piatti, but Uche saw his penalty saved by Rubén.

    It was turning into a frustrating afternoon for Almeria, and Uche in particular, but the Nigerian striker kept working and was rewarded in the 76th minute. A clever passing move reached Uche inside the box, and the Nigerian produced a superb layoff for Hernán Bernardello and then got on the end of the return ball for an equaliser of great quality.

    Almeria sensed victory, but unfortunately for them, Leonardo Ulloa and Ortiz both missed decent chances to score a winner as Malaga held on for a point. The result sees Malaga move into the top half with seven points and maintain their record as the top scorers and highest conceders in the league, while Almeria drop to 14th place on six points.

La Liga Week 6 Roundup: Barca Stumble While Madrid Gain Pace

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    Getafe boss Michel is doing a great jobDenis Doyle/Getty Images

    Getafe 3-0 Over Hercules

    Getafe moved into the top six after an impressive home side over Hercules thanks to goals from Dani Parejo, Manu del Moral, and Miku. The home side had suffered defeat in Europe on Thursday, but bounced back to beat an Hercules side looking to build on last week’s win over Sevilla.

    This was a comprehensive win for Getafe, who dominated the game and took the lead in the 21st minute through Parejo, as the striker broke into the box and got on the end of Victor Sanchez’s floated cross to head the opener. Parejo turned provider just before halftime, as his through ball enabled Manu to beat the offside trap and fire past Hercules keeper Juan Calatayud.

    Hercules fought to get back into the game after the break, but were restricted to only one shot on target by a resolute Getafe defence, while at the other end it was substitute Miku who wrapped up the win in the 82nd minute. Getafe broke quickly, and it was Miku who got on the end of the move to beat the onrushing Calatayud to the ball and slot into the empty net.

    The win takes Getafe up to sixth place in La Liga on 10 points; an impressive haul suggests they may be capable of repeating last season’s top-six finish. For Hercules, the defeat sees them stay on seven points and drop to 12th place, with this result a reminder for the newly promoted side that life in La Liga is not quite as comfortable as the victories over Barca and Sevilla may have suggested.

La Liga Week 6 Roundup: Barca Stumble While Madrid Gain Pace

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    Pandiani (r) scored again for OsasunaDenis Doyle/Getty Images

    Osasuna 1-1 Levante

    Early-season strugglers Osasuna and Levante played out a 1-1 draw in a game that saw the hosts dominate and take the lead through Walter Pandiani, but Sergio Gonzalez equalised soon after.  The result does little for either side’s attempts to move away from the relegation zone, but Levante will be relieved to take a point from a game where they were outplayed throughout.

    Osasuna had the better of the chances in both halves, with Pandiani and Juanfran both going close on a couple of occasions, and it was the Uruguayan striker who put the home side ahead in the 72nd minute. Pandiani reacted first to get on the end of a loose ball and slotted a clever finish past Manuel in the Levante goal.

    The lead didn’t last long, as Sergio’s brilliant half-volley from 25 yards earned the visitors a point against the run of play. A high ball was chested down by Xisco, and Sergio met the ball perfectly to fire an equaliser of the highest order.

    The draw sees both sides stay on five points, with Osasuna in 15th and Levante in 17th.

La Liga Week 6 Roundup: Barca Stumble While Madrid Gain Pace

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    Diego Perotti was influential in Sevilla's winDenis Doyle/Getty Images

    Sevilla 3-1 Over Atletico Madrid

    Sevilla moved above Atletico Madrid after goals from Alvaro Negredo, Diego Perotti, and Fredi Kanoute secured a comfortable 3-1 victory for the Andalucians. This was Sevilla’s first La Liga game under the stewardship of new boss Gregorio Manzano, who will no doubt was delighted with his side’s performance.

    Sevilla were superior for much of the game and made the breakthrough just before the half hour through Negredo. The striker was played in by Perotti and produced a clever touch to move the ball onto his left foot before curling a brilliant shot into the top corner. Perotti scored the second sooner after, although it came with a slice of luck as the Argentine midfielder’s long-range volley took a big deflection off Atletico defender Luis Perea and wrong-footed David de Gea in the visitor’s goal.

    It was an impressive first half from Sevilla, who looked a changed side in the first league game under their new manager, and the victory was sealed in the 52nd minute through Kanoute. The ball was laid into his path by strike partner Negredo, and the veteran forward hit a fine first-time shot past de Gea from 20 yards.

    Atletico pulled a goal back six minutes later, as substitute Diego Costa beat Sevilla keeper Andrés Palop to the ball before firing a shot that Palop got a hand to but could only deflect onto the inside of the post and the ball trickled in. Atletico had a couple of chances in the final half hour, but Sevilla coasted to an impressive victory over their rivals for a top-four place.

    Sevilla leapfrog Atletico and move into fifth place on 11 points, while Atletico lose further ground on the top sides and drop to seventh place with 10 points from six games.

La Liga Week 6 Roundup: Barca Stumble While Madrid Gain Pace

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    Nilmar is La Liga's leading scorer so far this seasonRichard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Villarreal 2-0 Over Racing Santander

    A goal apiece from deadly duo Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar was enough to give Villarreal a 2-0 victory over Racing Santander and keep the pressure on Valencia at the top of La Liga. This was the fifth victory in six league games for Villarreal and maintains their 100 percent home record, much of which is down to Rossi and Nilmar, who have three goals apiece in the three games at El Madrigal.

    The game was virtually wrapped up inside the first quarter of an hour as Nilmar’s eighth-minute opener was followed up by a 13th-minute strike from Rossi to put Villarreal in complete control. Nilmar’s goal came after the Brazilian produced a clever pass to play in Rossi, and then smashed home the rebound after Rossi’s shot was saved by Racing keeper Toño.

    The second goal came five minutes later, as Rossi latched onto a through ball over the top of Racing’s defence, beating the onrushing Toño to the ball to sidefoot home. The goal was Rossi’s fourth in La Liga, leaving him trailing only strike partner Nilmar, who has five, in the race for the Pichichi.

    Villarreal are yet to concede a goal at home so far this season, and rarely looked under threat as they coasted to their fifth straight league win. The hosts could have gone further ahead as Nilmar hit the post later in the first half and had further chances after the break, but the early goals proved to be enough for a comfortable win.

    Their combination of solid defence, a lethal strike partnership and the midfield creativity of Santi Cazorla and Borja Valero (whose form has seen him receive a call-up to the Spanish national squad) looks like it could be the basis for a successful season for Villarreal. Whether they can maintain a title challenge remains to be seen, but they look well set to better last season’s seventh place and challenge for a place in the top four.

    Villarreal’s victory sees them remain in second place with 15 points, with the chance to top La Liga for the first time in their history should they beat Hercules and leaders Valencia drop points against Barca in the next round of fixtures. For Racing, another defeat sees them drop to 18th place with four points.

La Liga Week 6 Roundup: Barca Stumble While Madrid Gain Pace

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    Emilio Nsue scored Mallorca's equaliserDavid Ramos/Getty Images

    FC Barcelona 1-1 Mallorca

    Barcelona dropped further behind leaders Valencia as they drew 1-1 with Mallorca in another frustrating evening at Camp Nou. Despite Barca taking the lead through Lionel Messi, an equaliser from Emilio Nsue just before the break proved to be enough for Mallorca to claim a share of the points.

    Barca were missing influential trio Carles Puyol, Xavi, and David Villa, but welcomed back Messi for his first start since being injured against Atletico Madrid. The hosts began with plenty of attacking intent, creating a number of chances early on, with the inevitable breakthrough coming after 20 minutes.

    The opener was beautifully crafted, with Dani Alves’ pass from the right finding Pedro, whose clever flick to Leo Messi provided the time and space for Messi to produce a trademark finish, passing the ball into the bottom corner from 20 yards. The goal was Messi’s fifth in five starts this season, reinforcing his importance as the team’s primary goal threat.

    After the opening goal, Barca struggled to create any real chances of note. Despite dominating possession and territory, Barca lacked the cutting edge to add a second, something they were made to pay for in the 42nd minute when Nsue’s powerful header from a corner gave Mallorca an equaliser.

    The second half began in similar fashion, with Messi twice going close as Barca controlled play, but just after the hour, Mallorca fired a couple of warning shots of their own with both Nsue and Kevin Garcia going close from distance. While Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Pedro pressed and probed for the elusive second goal, Barca seemed to be sorely missing the passing range of creative maestro Xavi, as they continually struggled in the final third.

    A hamstring injury to Pedro saw the winger leave the game in the second half, with Pep Guardiola throwing on youngsters Thiago, Nolito, and Jeffren as he desperately sought to prevent Barca dropping further points at home. Unfortunately for the hosts, Mallorca’s defence was resolute throughout and survived without much trouble, with Bojan’s shot that clipped the outside of the post the closest either side came to a goal in the closing stages.

    Their inability to break down visiting teams at home is a worry for Barca, with the defeat to Hercules and this result meaning they have already dropped more home points than in the whole of last season. The result sees Barca drop below Real Madrid, as they now find themselves in fourth place on 13 points. An impressive point for Mallorca sees them move up to ninth place with eight points.

La Liga Week 6 Roundup: Barca Stumble While Madrid Gain Pace

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    Mesut Ozil scored his first goal for MadridDenis Doyle/Getty Images

    Real Madrid 6-1 Over Deportivo la Coruna

    Real Madrid went goal-crazy as they demolished struggling Deportivo, 6-1, to move into third place in La Liga. The victory saw Madrid double their La Liga goal tally thanks to Mesut Ozil, Angel di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, an own goal, and a brace from Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Jose Mourinho’s team have been widely criticised for their somewhat disjointed displays so far this season, but answered their critics with a devastating attacking performance. Madrid dominated from start to finish and went ahead as early as the fourth minute through Ronaldo. Mesut Ozil’s inswinging corner was met by a powerful header from Ronaldo that gave Depor keeper Manu no chance.

    Madrid doubled their lead in the 23rd minute as their new No. 23 scored his first goal for the club. After a superb passing move by the hosts, Ozil received the ball from Higuain on the edge of the box, jinked past two defenders, and curled a left-footed effort into the far corner. Ten minutes later it was 3-0, as a superb counterattack released Higuain down Madrid’s left, allowing the striker to produce an inch-perfect cross for fellow Argentine di Maria. The young winger met the ball with a fine near post header that flew past Manu and sent Madrid in 3-0 up at the break.

    Depor had a great chance to pull a goal back just after the break as Ricardo Carvalho’s slip let in Nouioui Lassad for a one-on-one with Iker Casillas. Luckily for the Portuguese defender, the Madrid keeper won the battle of wits with Lassad and saved Carvalho’s blushes. Madrid’s fourth goal came in the 53rd minute through Higuain, who volleyed home from di Maria’s cross after a good move involving Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos.

    In a weekend of bizarre own goals, Depor’s Ze Castro produced a memorable mistake as he curled the ball into his own net from 10 yards as he attempted to challenge Madrid’s Marcelo in the box. The calamitous error was another blow in a sorry night for Depor, but the visitors finally found slight consolation in the 78th minute when Adrian Lopez’s left wing cross was headed home by Juan Rodriguez.

    The goal was only the third of the season for goal-shy Deportivo, who look to be in trouble at both ends, a fact that was further evidenced when Ronaldo waltzed through the Depor defence and fired home a clinical left-foot shot for his second and Madrid’s sixth.

    The performance could prove crucial for Madrid’s confidence on a number of levels; all four of their attacking quartet scoring, the fluency with which they played their football, and moving above rivals Barcelona in the table. The win takes Madrid into third place on 14 points, while Deportivo fall to the bottom of the table with no victories and only three points from their six games. The pressure on manager Miguel Ángel Lotina must surely be reaching fever pitch, with their next game at home to fellow strugglers Osasuna a must-win for Depor.