La Liga Week 7 Roundup: Barca Beats Valencia, Madrid Go Top
Barcelona 2 – 1 Valencia
A scintillating second half display saw Barcelona come from behind to beat La Liga leaders Valencia and moved above them into top spot, albeit for a couple of hours. The victory came courtesy of a goal from captain Carles Puyol after Andres Iniesta had cancelled out Pablo Hernandez’s opener.
Valencia began the brighter, and came close to taking the lead after seven minutes as Jeremy Mathieu’s fine ball across the face of goal was only inches away from the outstretched Roberto Soldado. The opening exchanges belonged almost exclusively to the visitors as they controlled possession and showed exactly why they entered the game top of the table.
Barca’s first real chance came after 19 minutes, as David Villa broke the offside trap to get on the end of Dani Alves clever pass. Villa cut the ball across goal from the right hand side looking to give Carles Puyol a tap in, but the ball was cleared. The hosts seemed to have hit their stride now, as three minutes later Xavi produced a clever nutmeg and a curling 20 yard effort that was well saved by Cesar in the Valencia goal.
Soon after, however, the visitors regained control of the game, and it wasn’t long before they opened the scoring. Valencia made their breakthrough in the 37th minute, as the impressive Mathieu broke down the left once again and cut back from the byline for Hernandez to side-foot home a deflected effort. Valencia very nearly doubled their lead as a swift counter attack released Soldado to square for Hernandez on the edge of the box, but with the goal at his mercy the Valencia winger shot straight at Valdes.
On the stroke of half-time Barca came close to an equaliser as Messi played in Alves, with the Brazilian’s low cross evading Cesar’s grasp and falling to Messi, but a great block from Bruno saved the day. Seconds later and Barca had a penalty claim as Villa’s header appeared to hit Hernandez’s arm, but the appeals were waved away and Valencia entered the break a goal to the good.
Just after half-time, Barca were level thanks to a combination of Xavi and Iniesta, with the two displaying their almost telepathic connection to produce a goal of the highest quality. Iniesta received a pass from Seydou Keita just into the Valencia half, carried the ball towards the edge of the area and produced a clever pass with the outside of his foot that found Xavi. As four Valencia defenders watched on, Iniesta continued his run and got on the end of a fine return pass from Xavi and sidefooted past Cesar with consummate ease.
Barca created a host of chances being created soon after the equaliser. First, a Maxwell cross was met by Keita, but the midfielder lost his footing at the vital moment and failed to get a full connection. Next up was David Villa, whose dangerous cross was turned over his own bar by Jordi Alba. Soon after, Alves played the ball inside to Messi, who returned the favour with a first time pass with the outside of his foot which released Alves into the box. Alves’ dinked a cross to the far post, where it was met by a powerful header from Villa that was clawed away superbly by the outstretched Cesar.
It seemed only a matter of time before Barca found another goal, a goal which inevitably came in the 63rd minute. Receiving the ball out wide, Xavi swung a pinpoint cross in from the right, where it was met by a bullet header from Puyol, the Barca captain giving Cesar no chance as he found the top corner in emphatic fashion.
Barca were now rampant, and a dazzling run from Messi saw him jink one way and then the other as he left the Valencia defence for dead, but saw his near post shot saved by Cesar. Another chance came soon after as Villa was put through on goal by a fine Iniesta through ball, but the forward chose to try and take the ball round Cesar, with the Valencia keeper equal to Villa as he won the ball with an outstretched glove.
Messi also saw a late effort ruled out for offside, while at the other end Victor Valdes was a virtual passenger for the entire second half. The result saw Barca move above Valencia courtesy of goals scored, although their place at the top of La Liga was soon taken by Real Madrid. Both Barca and Valencia now have 16 points from their seven games.
Malaga 1 – 4 Real Madrid
Real Madrid smashed four past Malaga to take advantage of Valencia’s loss and move to the top of La Liga. The victory came courtesy of two goals apiece from Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain and made it ten goals in two games for Madrid.
Jose Mourinho’s side had been widely criticised for their lack of attacking verve early on this season, but have looked a different side in the last two games. The understanding and interplay between the attacking quartet of Ronaldo, Higuain, Angel di Maria and Mesut Özil improves with every game and was on full show against Malaga.
Madrid travelled to Malaga after two goalless draws from three La Liga away games thus far, to face a side who had yet to take a point at home, although much of that can be put down to the fact that Malaga had already hosted Valencia, Sevilla and Villarreal.
Unfortunately for the home side, Madrid showed no signs of the problems that had afflicted them in previous away games, as they controlled early proceeding and twice hit the woodwork before Higuain’s opener. First Higuain hit the foot of the post from the edge of the area, and then Sami Khedira crashed a stunning long-range shot against the crossbar.
In the 30th minute, Madrid found their breakthrough, as Ronaldo cut in from the left and curled a fine cross toward the far post where it was expertly guided home by Higuain from a tight angle. Just before half-time it was Ronaldo’s turn to get on the score sheet, as Özil’s run and pass left the Portuguese star with a simple tap-in.
Three minutes after the break, Madrid had a penalty as Özil’s dazzling footwork drew a foul and gave Ronaldo the chance to double his tally from the sport. Ronaldo made no mistake, burying the penalty and putting the game out of sight. Malaga did get one back only five minutes later as defender Kris Stadsgaard headed home from a corner, but it wasn’t long before Madrid had their fourth.
This time it was Higuain’s opportunity to score a brace, as Ronaldo dribbled forward and clipped a pass to Higuain, allowing the forward to smash home clinically from just inside the box. The final 25 minutes were played out without much drama, allowing Madrid to see out the victory and move to the top of the table in impressive fashion.
The victory takes Madrid to the top of La Liga with 17 points from their seven games, leapfrogging both Villarreal and Valencia who dropped points this weekend. Malaga sit in 14th place with seven points, with their record of 16 goals conceded a real worry at this stage.
Atletico Madrid 2 – 0 Getafe
Atletico Madrid got back to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Getafe in this Madrid derby at the Vicente Calderon. A first half own goal form Getafe keeper Jordi Codina and a second half strike from Diego Costa sealed victory.
Atletico entered the game without first choice strike pairing Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero, with Aguero out injured and Forlan on the bench as he recovers full fitness, with Costa employed as a lone forward in the absence of the star duo.
The two teams had been level on points heading into the game, with Atletico on a run of one win in four La Liga games, while Getafe had won their last two. For much of the opening half hour, Getafe looked set to continue their good form and Atletico’s woes as they took the game to the hosts and created a number of chances.
After firing a couple of warning shots just past Atletico keeper David de Gea’s far post, it seemed only a matter of time before Getafe would find the net, until a moment of both brilliance and good fortune turned the game in Atletico’s favour. The brilliance came courtesy of a 38th minute free-kick from Simao, who produced a curling effort from 25 yards that hit the inside of the post. Fortunately for Atletico, the ball rebounded against the back of Getafe’s Codina and into the net, giving the home side a half-time lead.
Getafe didn’t deserve to be behind, and they continued to threaten as Francisco Casquero and Adrian Colunga both went close from distance, while at the other end Jose Reyes curled narrowly wide from the edge of the area. Soon after they had their second goal, as a fine passing move saw Juan Valera get on the end of a Reyes through ball and cut back from the byline for Costa to sidefoot home.
There was still time for substitute Forlan to curl just over from a free-kick, as Atletico saw the game out to secure an important victory. The win sees Atletico move into fifth place on 13 points from their seven games, while Getafe remain on 10 points and drop to ninth place.
Deportivo La Coruna-Osasuna
Deportivo La Coruna 0 - 0 Osasuna
A goalless draw between Deportivo and ten-man Osasuna at the Riazor saw both sides finish the day in the La Liga relegation zone. The 35th minute dismissal of Javier Camuñas left Osasuna shorthanded for most of the match, but the hosts failed to find a breakthrough and remain winless so far this season.
Goals have been difficult to come by for Depor so far this season, with only one goal in open play, a goal which came in a 6-1 defeat to Real Madrid. For Osasuna, a trip to La Liga’s bottom club offered the chance to claim a first away win since January, and they had the better of the early exchanges in this one.
First, Dejan Lekic went close with a low shot on the turn, and then a horrendous error from Depor keeper Daniel Aranzubia almost gifted a goal to Krisztian Vadocz. The keeper completely missed a looping cross in his six yard box, and the ball dropped to Vadocz, but the Osasuna man could only direct the ball against the post.
Not long after the visitors task got a lot tougher, as Camuñas saw red for dissent after complaining vociferously when he thought he had been fouled, which left his team a man down for much of the game. Even after the dismissal, Osasuna should have taken the lead, as Vadocz got on the end of a through ball and rounded Aranzubia, only to see his goal wrongly ruled out for offside.
After the break, Depor had the better of the chances, most notably when a long range effort from Yves Hadley Desmarets was well saved, but the game finished goalless and left Depor still searching for their first win of the season.
Depor’s point takes them off bottom spot and up to 19th with four points, while Osasuna drop to 18th place on six points.
Levante 2 - 1 Real Sociedad
Second half goals from Asier del Horno and Felipe Caicedo gave Levante their first home win since their promotion back to La Liga this summer. Two goals in five minutes just after the hour mark put Levante in control, while Jeffrey Sarpong’s 79th minute goal proved to be in vain for the visitors.
This meeting between to promoted sides was difficult to call going in; Levante had yet to win at home, while Sociedad hadn’t won on their travels. It was Levante who took control early on as they had much the better of the first half, though they couldn’t find the breakthrough. Sergio Gonzalez striking a post was the closest the home side came to scoring as the two sides went in level at the break.
The second 45 minutes were somewhat different, with on-loan fullback del Horno breaking the deadlock, heading home from Sergio’s corner on the hour mark. A few minutes later they doubled their lead as fellow loanee Caicedo poked a shot past Sociedad keeper Claudio Bravo after being put through on goal.
In the 79th minute, Levante reminded everyone of the defensive frailties that saw them conceded ten goals in their opening three games as they left Sarpong all alone in the box to score a simple header. Despite riding their luck in the closing stages, Levante held on for all three points and extended their unbeaten run to four matches.
Levante continue their rise up the table, moving into 13th place on eight points and leapfrogging their opponents in the process, while Sociedad’s defeat sees them stay on seven points and drop to 15th.
Mallorca 0 - 1 Espanyol
A Luis Garcia penalty gave 10-man Espanyol a 1-0 victory at Mallorca to secure their first away points and take the Catalan side into the top six. The penalty came in the 32nd minute, three minutes before striker Pablo Osvaldo saw red, but the visitors held on to inflict Mallorca’s first home defeat of the season.
Espanyol had been in horrible form away from home, losing all three of their previous encounters, while Mallorca had secured seven points from their three home games, so it was somewhat of a surprise to see the visitors take the lead.
The goal came after a dismal opening half hour, so it was perhaps fitting that a penalty led to the breakthrough. Luis Garcia tricked his way past Mallorca full-back Kevin Garcia, and as the defender sought to win the ball back, he bundled the Espanyol forward over just inside the box.
Espanyol’s Garcia stepped up to give his side the lead with a fine finish from the spot, but Espanyol found themselves up against it as the referee adjudged Osvaldo to have elbowed his opponent in an aerial challenge and showed the player a straight red.
Mallorca were almost back on level terms soon after, as Espanyol’s keeper Crisitan Alvarez spilled a low cross towards his own goal, with Alvarez relieved to see the ball bounce narrowly wide.
The second half was less problematic than expected, with Espanyol probably the better of the two sides, creating the better of the chances and well worth their victory in the end.
The win moves Espanyol up to sixth with 12 points from seven games, while Mallorca’s defeat sees them drop to 11th as they remain on eight points.
Racing Santander 1 - 0 Almeria
Pedro Munitis scored the only goal of the game to give Racing a victory that lifts them out of the relegation zone. The victory also sees the home side move above Almeria, thanks to a solitary goal in the 33rd minute.
Both teams are likely to be in and around the bottom six all season, with goals at a premium—they had eight between them heading into this game. Despite that lack of goals, both sides produced chances in this game, particularly the home side, who had 26 shots at goal overall.
Racing had the better of the opening half, with Kennedy Bakircioglu, Markus Rosenberg and Henrique all going close before Munitis’s goal. When the goal did come, it owed much to the qualities of the wily veteran, as Munitis carried the ball forward an unleashed effort from 25 yards for his first goal in 18 months.
The goal gave Almeria keeper Diego Alves no chance, but Alves was forced back into action soon afterwards as he leapt across goal to keep out Rosenberg once more.
Almeria’s best chance came late in the first half when Albert Crusat’s curling effort was denied by a fingertip save from Racing keeper Toño. After the break, it was all Racing, with Alves producing further impressive saves from Bakircioglu and Rosenberg, and then Rosenberg was also denied by the crossbar, his header come back off the woodwork as he continues his search for a first goal for his new club.
Thankfully for Racing, their host of missed chances didn’t come back to haunt them, as they saw out the match to secure their second victory of the season and move into 16th on seven points, while Almeria drop to 17th on six points.
Athletic Bilbao-Real Zaragoza
Athletic Bilbao 2 - 1 Real Zaragoza
First half goals from Andoni Iraola and Fernando Llorente gave Atheltic a victory over their visitors in a game that also saw Zaragoza’s Adam Pinter sent off.
San Mames is never an easy place to go, and Bilbao took control of the match early on as Iraola stretched to beat his opponent to the ball and smashed in a low shot from the edge of the area. Midway through the first half, the lead was doubled as Llorente nodded in his fourth league goal of the season after a clever turn and cross from Susaeta.
Bilbao’s star forward has been linked to both Barcelona and Real Madrid in recent days after his three goals in Spain’s last two Euro 2012 qualifiers, but for now he seems happy to concentrate on scoring goals for the Basque side.
Bilbao continued to dominate, with Susaeta going close himself, and soon after they saw a goal ruled out for offside, meaning they went in just the two goals up at the break. Things got even trickier for Zaragoza in the 53rd minute, as defender Adam Pinter received a second yellow after catching Llorente in the face, at which point it appeared their chances had completely gone.
They did get a goal back in the closing stages through Nobrega Braulio, but the game finished in another defeat for Zaragoza who remain winless and are now bottom of the table with only three points.
Athletic’s victory was a vital three points after recent losses to Barca and Valencia, and the win sees them move back up to eighth place on 10 points.
Sporting Gijon 2 - 0 Sevilla
Life under new boss Gregorio Manzano took a turn for the worse this weekend, as Sevilla went down 2-0 at lowly Gijon thanks to goals from Gaston Sangoy and Diego Castro. Manzano had opened his Sevilla tenure with a 3-1 win over Atletico Madrid, but this time around they were in trouble as early as the sixth minute when Sangoy opened the scoring.
The forward got on the end of a high cross to loop a header over Sevilla keeper Andres Palop and give the home side the lead. Sevilla welcomed Luis Fabiano back to the starting lineup, but they looked fairly toothless in attack, with Alejandro Alfaro’s speculative long range effort just before the break the best they had to offer.
In a game fairly sparse on clear cut chances, it was Gijon who got the second goal in the 51st minute after a moment of brilliance from Castro. A left wing cross from Gonzalez Carmelo saw Castro turn his body cleverly and meet the ball with the inside of his left heel and into the goal, the ball bouncing in off of the inside of the far post.
Sevilla can have few complaints; in fact, it was Gijon who had the best chances in the closing stages, with substitutes Nacho Novo and Mate Bilic both heavily involved. Novo saw an effort ruled out for offside after he helped the ball on with a clever backheel, while Bilic forced a fine stop from Palop who clawed the forward’s header away from the top corner.
Sevilla fall further behind the leading pack as they drop to seventh place on 11 points, while Gijon’s second win of the season see them move up to 12th on eight points.
Hercules 2 - 2 Villarreal
Villarreal missed the opportunity to go top of La Liga for the first time in their history after a draw at Hercules ended their run of five straight league wins. The visitors were probably happy to leave with a point, as they twice had to come from behind, with Joan Capdevila and Borja Valero cancelling out goals from Nelson Valdez and David Trezeguet respectively.
It was a stunning encounter that also featured three red cards, amongst them both Trezeguet and Valero, with Villarreal’s Mateo Mussachio also sent off as the visitors finished the game with nine men.
Villarreal had the first real chance, as top scorer Nilmar turned cleverly and smashed a shot against the crossbar when he probably should have scored, but it was Hercules who took the lead in the 26th minute. Paraguayan forward Valdez, scorer of both goals in Hercules' victory over Barca, sprung the offside trap to get on the end of a free-kick and curl home a simple finish past Villarreal keeper Diego Lopez.
Three minutes later, the visitors were on level terms, as Santi Cazorla latched onto a clever pass towards the byline and fired the ball across goal, giving fullback Capdevila an easy tap-in at the far post. Soon after, Villarreal were very nearly ahead as Giuseppe Rossi forced a superb stop from keeper Juan Calatayud, with the Hercules stopper tipping Rossi’s brilliant long range effort onto the post.
Both sides were in full flow now, and it was the home side who scored next in the 40th minute, with the goal owing much to the work of Royston Drenthe. The Dutch midfielder, on loan at Hercules from Real Madrid, chased down a pass on the right hand side, cut back onto his favoured left foot, and clipped a cross into the box towards Trezeguet. The French striker got the ball under control at the second attempt, and then smashed home an unstoppable shot from eight yards.
Only four minutes later however, Trezeguet turned from hero to villain as he received two yellow cards in a matter of seconds. Both cautions were for dissent, unforgivable from such an experienced player, particularly as they came after the award of a free-kick to Hercules.
The home side now faced a tough task in the second half: holding on with ten men against one of La Liga’s top sides. Their resistance was broken in the 63rd minute, as Valero smashed across the keeper after receiving the ball on the right hand side of the box. It looked only a matter of time before the visitors would score again, but they couldn't find that elusive third goal and, after 81 minutes, lost their man advantage as well.
The dismissal was highly controversial, as Valero received a second yellow card for handball in the centre circle when it appeared he was simply shielding his face, and things soon got worse for Villarreal. They had a second man sent off when Mussachio was shown a straight red for swinging an arm at Drenthe as the two chased a ball over the top of Villarreal’s defence.
Villarreal now had to revert from pushing for a winner to looking to hold on, which they did comfortably enough in the final few minutes as this end-to-end thriller finished as a draw.
The point takes Villarreal back into second, above Barcelona and Valencia on goal difference, with all three on 16 points. For Hercules, the point takes them back into the top half, as they sit in 10th place at the head of a group of teams on eight points.