Another match day has drawn to a close and we saw some entertaining games, some injuries to key players, a very disappointing display from Real Madrid that had Mourinho going berserk on the touchline, a lot of close results and Pep grabbing his first points from the Vicente Calderon.
Sunday begun with Hercules playing host to Valencia, Levante taking on Villarreal and Racing at home to Real Zaragoza.
Valencia managed to come away from the Jose Rico Perez Stadium with a 2-1 victory over Hercules, which in a sense one could say was undeserved, with goals from Mata and Pablo Hernandez. The game started off brilliantly for Valencia with Mata netting a goal in the 2nd minute of the match to put the away side up by a goal from a Pablo Hernandez corner and saw them dominate the game for the first 15 minutes until Hercules finally got over the shock of that early goal, began to settle themselves and create their chances. Drenthe really began to terrorize Miguel down the left wing and gave the Valencia defence all sorts of problems. Trezeguet in some sense had a good game for the home team with his running and positioning but at times seemed to rush his shots and ended up skying them or putting them just wide. Valencia’s shot stopper had a great game especially after David Navarro was shown his second yellow card only four minutes into the second half and put his team’s position under question for the remainder of the game. The second goal for Valencia came on the 23rd minute after a quick break and a nice pattern of play down the right wing between Miguel, Mata, Joaquin and Soldado who laid the ball off to Pablo on the left wing who cut in and fired a beautiful curler into the top corner of Calatayud’s net to give his team a 2-0 lead. After which the home side really dominated possession and created far more chances than the away side. All the pressure from Hercules resulted in a penalty after David Navarro was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area, it was a certain hand ball but a bit of a harsh call on the booking which subsequently helped in the dismissal of the captain in the 49th minute with his second booking after colliding with Abel Aguilar. Trezeguet stepped up to the spot and buried the penalty to bring Hercules back into the game. Valdez had another inspired night working his socks off and trying to play his team mates in, while creating chances for himself until the 68th minute when he had to be subbed out because of a groin injury. The second half started the same way the first ended with Hercules pressing for the equaliser and had numerous opportunities but some bad finishing and goalkeeping heroics from Cesar saw them thwarted in grabbing the equaliser and a subsequent third goal to grab the three points.
Levante playing hosts to Villarreal saw a much better display from Levante but Villarreal’s quality was more telling. Villarreal walked away from Cuitat de Valencia Stadium with a 2-1 victory with both goals coming from Nilmar in the first half. The first half saw few chances for both sides but the second half saw Levante come out looking much brighter and pressured Villarreal but poor finishing would be the achilles heel for them. They managed to grab a late goal in the 90th minute through Felipe Caicedo but his effort was only a consolation goal for the home team as they had very little time to pull an equaliser.
The third match that kicked off at the same time was an absolutely dull match with Racing playing host to Real Zaragoza, two teams that I believe will be fighting relegation for much of this season. The first half saw NO efforts on goal for either side but Racing nevertheless looked the more lively and dominated the possession having a whopping 61%. It took all of 76 minutes to see the first goal which came from the home side through commanding centre back Henrique who out jumped everybody on the corner to head it pass Franco. Ariel then doubled Racing’s lead in the 91st minute after getting on the end of a cross from Adrian Gonzalez.
The weekend almost had an upset with Real Madrid being completely outplayed by Real Sociedad in the Anoeta and by the half should have been up by at least two goals. Within 5 minutes Sociedad had the first good chance of the match with Xabi Prieto whipping in a nice cross from the right flank and the young Frenchman Grizman was free but couldn’t get his header on target, just one of the many chances he would rue that he didn’t put away. Grizman would be the man terrorizing the defence all night long, he was virtually unstoppable and had to be fouled to be stopped. Xabi Prieto also had a good game in midfield pulling the strings for his team. On 25 minutes a long ball out the back was headed on by Tamudo for the 19 year old Grizman into space but he toe poked it just wide of the upright. Six minutes later and Tamudo had yet another chance for the home team, a low ball across the box from Zurutuza that Carvalho had to get a toe on to push it just wide of the net. A few minutes later in the 33rd minute Grizman again beating Ramos cut in from the left and took a shot but it curled just wide of the post. Real Sociedad picked up the pace and continued to pressure Madrid for the remaining 15 minutes of the half. The midfield was careless, Khedira was sloppy and Xabi Alonso was non-existent. I think Khedira is the only ball winning midfielder at this level that has the capability of winning the ball and losing it in the same instant from a poor pass and this happened constantly through out the game, which still leads one to wonder why was he such a necessary signing for the club and why is he a first choice option over Lass or even Mahmadou? To illustrate the dominance of Real Sociedad over the away team, by the 37th minute the home team had six corners to the visitors’ zero. Real failed to control the game in the first 45 minutes and managed only 3 shots on goal that didn’t trouble Bravo in the least bit. Ronaldo once again show cased his unbelievable selfish nature and constantly tried to do things on his own ignoring his team mates opting to shoot when he had a man in space. The second half began the same way it did in the first and it took one individual moment from Di Maria to give the away team a goal, which was against the round of play. The 50th minute saw a beautiful strike from Angel after a brilliant individual play down the left flank, where he cut in on his weaker right foot and looped the ball over Bravo who was just off his line. Within 10 minutes the away team relinquished their lead after Grizman sent in a free kick from the right of the box where Tamudo was free behind Carvalho to head the ball into the net. Real Sociedad continued to mount the pressure onto the visitors but it was Real Madrid who took the lead after Cristiano Ronaldo’s free kick took a nasty deflection and nestled into the back of the net. Real Sociedad never gave up and kept pressuring but the second goal just kept eluding them. The home team’s dominance and Madrid’s poor defending had Mourinho going crazy on the sideline. The only two players in the Madrid squad that were vigilant and worked hard for the team were Pepe and Marcelo. Real Madrid were very fortunate to walk out with three points from the Anoeta after their display.
Sporting Gijon and Athletic Bilbao played to a 2-2 draw, the hosts taking the lead with two early goals from De Las Cuevas and Sangoy but Gurpegui pulled one back for Bilbao and in the second half the big man Llorente leveled for the Basque team. Espanyol without front man Osvaldo managed a 1-0 win over Almeria in Cornella El Pratt with the goal coming in the 48th minute from Callejon. Toothless Mallorca managed a comfortable 2-0 victory over weary Osasuna with Castro putting the home team up from the penalty spot after a hand ball in the box by Miguel Flaño and new signing De Guzman finished off an effort in the 90th minute to put the game to bed.
The big match up of the weekend saw Barcelona visiting Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon, a place that the visitors haven’t been able to win much less earn a point in the past 3 years after that 6-0 drubbing they gave the home team in the 2006/2007 campaign. Sergio Aguero and Tomas Ujfalusi were doubts going into the game for Atletico and was expected to miss the game but eventually started. The first 10 minutes of the match seemed cautious more than anything from both sides as Atletico had just come off a loss to lowly Greek side Aris in the Europa League and Barcelona was still licking their wounds from the defeat to Hercules last match day. However, Barcelona started to get stronger, controlled possession and carved out chances. The first threatening opportunity came in the 11th minute when Iniesta hit a long ball out of the midfield for Pedro whose first touch was a little to be desired that allowed Godin to clear easily. Three minutes later Raul Garcia with a poor pass allowed Maxwell to latch on to the ball and pass it off to Messi who, with a nice through pass released Villa who tried to slot the ball around De Gea but saw his strike hit the post and the rebound fell to Pedro who passed the ball off to Messi and need I say what happened next? By the 20th minute Barcelona began to dominate the possession and Atletico did all the chasing. On the 25th minute Raul Garcia got the opportunity to make amends to his poor pass that led to the away team’s early goal, an in-swinging corner from Simao that Valdes unwisely came to claim, missed and Garcia rose above everyone to head the ball in pulling his side level. Five minutes later and again Atletico came under pressure, this time a cross into the box from Dani Alves for Villa but Perea managed to get a foot to clear it. In the 33rd minute from a Messi corner, Pique stepped a way from his defender, chested down the ball and hit the ball pass De Gea for Barca’s second of the night. Godin has to take the blame for the second goal as he didn’t stick with his man and gave Pique all the space and time in the world to control the ball and take the subsequent strike that beat the keeper. Aguero was non-existent throughout the first half, hardly touching the ball. Forlan had a quiet game by his standards, Reyes was the brightest spark for the home team in the first half. The second half saw Reyes come out even brighter running down the right wing and causing all sorts of problems but it didn’t take long for Barcelona to get another chance on goal and in the 50th minute Xavi had a go from about 20 yards which forced De Gea into a magnificent save and from the resulting corner came a carbon copy of Xavi’s hit but this time by Pedro which De Gea once again saved fantastically. By the 52nd minute Diego Castro came on for a quiet Aguero, who one could assume wasn’t fully recovered from his recent injury. Atletico tried to gain some control of the match and had some fun down the right with Reyes and Ujfalusi causing some trouble for Maxwell and Puyol. Villa had two great chances in the space of a minute, one coming from a Perea mistake but Villa skied his effort and the other, he went for a strike from 2o yards that sent De Gea flying to his left to plam the shot away. Three minutes later in the 77th minute Messi again with a sublime pass released Villa who tried to round De Gea but the kid recovered and blocked the strike. De Gea certainly warrants a call up to the national team and more so deserves to be called up if he continues at this rate and at this stage of his career he is definitely more worthy of the 3rd spot than Victor Valdes. On the 80 minute mark Pique fouled Diego Castro just outside the box and from the free kick Simao passed the ball off to Reyes who one timed his shot but it hit the side netting. In the 92nd minute Ujfalusi was shown a straight red card for a bad challenge on Messi, who ended up being stretchered off the field– reports are that he will miss the next two games for his club with an ankle sprain.
In the other two games of the match day Sevilla got the upper hand with a 2-1 victory in the Andalusian derby over Malaga with goals coming from Alfaro and Caceres for the away side and Rondon getting the only goal for the home team. Malaga started out brightly and grabbed an early goal after Eliseu’s corner was met by the header of Stadsgaard, which Palop made a good instinctive save but Rondon latched onto the rebound and put it in the net. However, their lead would only last six minutes after Perotti beat Gamez down the left and whipped in a lovely ball to Alfaro who headed in the equaliser. Just before the half from a Guarente free kick Caceres rose above everybody to head in Sevilla’s second and eventual game winner.
The final match was the tale of two halves in truth as Getafe controlled the first half and rightly took the lead through an own goal from Diego Colotto after Colunga’s shot took a wicked deflection off the Deportivo centre back. In the second half Deportivo came out brightly and earned two penalties in 10 minutes, the first was debatable. Guadardo buried both penalties to put the home side 2-1 up but in the 69th minute Arizmendi cancelled Deportivo’s second goal with a lovely strike after running down the right and cutting in to curl one into the top corner. Both teams seemed to be pressing for the game winner and in the 74th minute Manu burst through the middle and blasted one toward the goal that banged off the crossbar– a lovely run from Manu and an even better strike that would have been worth all three points had it gone in. Getafe’s Codina had an inspired night pulling out save after save including some spectacular saves that prevented Deportivo from taking all three points. The match saw a key player injured for either side with Getafe’s Ustari having to be subbed out for Codina after an apparent groin injury in the first 15 minutes and then Deportivo’s Urretaviscaya came out for Desmartes.