La Liga Review: Match Day 4

Match day four drew to a close and the only three teams to never have been relegated played their 2500th game in the primera liga with all three of them picking up victories on the night.

After four games into the new season Real Madrid are the new leaders of the league after Valencia saw their perfect start to the season come to an end following their draw with Atletico Madrid.

Tuesday kicked off with Athletic Bilbao welcoming Mallorca to San Mames and Osasuna playing host to Real Sociedad.

Athletic Bilbao recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory over a colorless Mallorca.  David Lopez got Bilbao off a good start with a wonderous strike from the right of the box on 42 minutes, then Mikel San Jose made it 2-0 from the penalty spot on 61 minutes after Mallorca’s captain Nunes conceded a penalty for handling the ball following a long throw into the box, which Mikel slotted home coolly.  Second half substitute Iñigo Perez scored Bilbao’s third of the night in the 92nd minute after Llorente’s shot was blocked by Marti and he smashed the rebound pass a helpless Aouate.

Osasuna welcomed Real Sociedad to the Reyno de Navarro where the Pamplona faithful witnessed their team grind out a 3-1 result for their first victory of the season.  The evening started out badly for the home team despite being the better side as the visitors only looked content to soak up the pressure and hit Osasuna on the counter-attack.  In the 16th minute their game plan worked for them perfectly as a long ball was launched up field, following immense Osasuna pressure, that was nodded on for Tamudo who controlled the ball and hit it low pass an onrushing Ricardo to make it 1-0 to the visitors.  Osasuna never gave up and continued to pressure as the home fans cheered their team on and in the 38th minute the pressure finally paid off with “El Rifle” (Pandiani) piercing the net with a powerful header after he got on to a long throw into the box by Monreal.  Then on the 42nd minute ex-Castilla player Juanfran skinned two defenders on the right, burst into the box and lays off a pass to Camuñas who passes it into the net.  Osasuna began the second half the same as the first keeping up the pressure on the visitors.  Real Sociedad had very little chances in the match and as a result the visitors brought in the young French man Griezmann– after he had such an impressive display against Real Madrid I would have expected him to be in the team from the start, however he replaced Sutil and I must say he gave the Basque boys a lift as they started to hold on to the ball more, had more opportunities, causing the Osasuna defence some trouble winning free kicks which they didn’t put to effective use.  On 75 minutes, after just coming on another ex- Castilla man, Aranda made it 3-0 for the host.  A deserved victory for the home team.

The final match on Tuesday saw Real Madrid take on Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu.  Prior to the match Espanyol’s coach Mauricio Pochettino stated that Mourinho’s team lacked punch when compared to Pellegrini’s team last season.  While he may be right in a sense, he would rue the fact that he made those comments prior to the match as he saw his team sucker punched at the Bernabeu.  The match saw the return of another ex-Castilla player, Callejon who coincidentally, the first chance of the match fell to on 5 minutes when Verdu flicked a ball on from the right to Callejon who one times it but saw his volley shave the far post.  Two minutes later and the home team had their first opportunity after Marcelo found Ozil on the left who cut in and passed the ball into space for Di Maria on the right who then aims a curling shot for the top far corner that Kameni had to scramble to his right to push it over the bar.  By the 11th minute Real started to control the game more and another chance fell to them when the ball was passed into space down the left wing for Ronaldo to chase and he whipped in a great cross for Higuain to get onto but his effort was blocked and the rebound fell to Ozil who took a volley but his effort was also blocked.  Real’s persistence earned them a free kick about 20 yards, left of the box which Ronaldo stepped up to take, his shot however was blocked illegally by David Garcia who used his hand to block the strike for which the referee rightly awarded a penalty and Garcia a yellow card.  Ronaldo stepped up and buried the penalty.  By the 33rd minute, possession stood at 62% to 38% for Real, with the home team having 4 corners to 0.  At the start of the second half Real kept up the pressure on Espanyol for the first 5 minutes and created a few more good chances but after, Espanyol started to settle on the ball and create chances for themselves with their wide players, especially Callejon, giving the defence some trouble and on the 60th minute Callejon earned Pepe his second yellow and subsequent red card that saw the commanding centre back off for an early shower.  Espanyol’s man advantage would only last a minute because in the 61st minute the referee handed Galan a straight red card for a nasty challenge on Ronaldo.  The home team once again began to dominate the match and it took until the 79th minute for the hosts to hit the back of the net a second time for the night after a quick counter attack with Ronaldo bursting down the right and sending in a low curling pass for Higuain who went for the near post and put it pass Kameni.  Second half substitute Benzema made it 3-0 after a nice play by Lass.  Lass faked his defender and passed the ball off to Marcelo who saw Lass’ run into the box and played him in, Lass then cuts the ball back for Benzema at the edge of the box who with his back to goal pivots and flashes a shot low into the bottom corner to make it 3-0 on the night.  Espanyol’s Forlin was also red carded late on in the match to leave the visitors down to 9 men.

Wednesday began with Barcelona back in the Camp Nou playing hosts to Sporting Gijon, without Messi who had to watch his team mates from the stands following his ankle injury at the weekend.  It wasn’t a vintage Barcelona display but they dominated the game nevertheless as Sporting Gijon was happy enough to sit back and soak up all the pressure hoping that they could try and hit the home team on the counter.  It all seemed to be going great and the defence was standing resolute right up until 4 minutes into the second half when Villa scored his 2nd of the season against his boy hood club to give his new club a slim win.  Bojan had a terrible night, all his touches were bad and his passes went astray.

The big match of the day had to be Atletico Madrid’s visit to the Mestalla to take on league leaders Valencia.  Both teams had to do without the services of key players– Atletico had to manage without the services of Aguero who is still recovering from an ankle injury and Tomas Ujfalusi who is serving a two match ban after his challenge on Messi, while Valencia had to do without their captain David Navarro and the injured Vicente.  Atletico were looking to justify that loss to Barcelona on the weekend and they got things off to a great start when Simao finished off a cross from Antonio Lopez.  Valencia dominated the match creating chance after chance but the kid- David De Gea, who Casillas says reminds him of himself when he just started out, kept thwarting the home team making some spectacular saves.  It took the home side until the 83rd minute to get an equaliser after some determined play down the right wing by Pablo Hernandez winning the ball on the ground, poked it through to David Albeda who sent in a telling cross that Aduriz rose above Perea to send in a thumping header.  Valencia continued to press to get the winner but again De Gea kept stopping shot after shot and they had to settle for a draw in what was without a doubt an enthralling match.

The other matches that took place on Wednesday saw Real Zaragoza draw 0-0 with Hercules at La Romareda in what was a very dull encounter, while Almeria who are still seeking their first victory of the season fell at home to Levante 1-0 to a 39th minute strike from Ruben.

The final games of the match day took place on Thursday and saw Getafe slump at home to Malaga 2-0, the goals coming from Rondon in the 54th minute and Apoño from the penalty spot in the 60th minute after Rafa brought down Eliseu in the area earning himself a second yellow and subsequent red card.  Jesus Gamez also saw a red card after he picked up a second yellow following a trip on Manu.

Villarreal welcomed Deportivo to El Madrigal, where Nilmar scored the only goal of the game in the 34th minute after Angel came  running down the right, faked a cross but instead cuts it back to Nilmar who was waiting on the right edge of the box, hits it with his right foot toward the far corner and it went in off the post.  Deportivo looked unimaginative and created very little chances through out the match.  Rossi had an impressive game and his running and dribbling caused the Deportivo defence all sorts of problems.

The last game of the match day saw Racing fight back for a draw against Sevilla at the Sanchez Pizjuan after Negredo had given the home team the lead on 13 minutes from twelve paces out but Pinillos equalized in the 54th minute after a great quick play between Munitis and Adrian Gonzalez who finds Pinillos and he hit Sevilla where it hurt with a wonderful volley.  Boos could be heard around the stadium as the home fans made it known how they felt about the team’s recent performances.

As it stands Real Madrid are in first place by virtue of goal difference as they are tied on points with Valencia, Villarreal climbs to third with 9 points and a +5 goal difference while Barcelona is in 4th with 9 points and Sevilla rounds out the top 5 with 8 points.  Zaragoza are rock bottom after picking up only 2 points from their opening games and Almeria are in 19th because of goal difference as they too only have 2 points from the first four games while Levante climbed up to 18th after they picked up their first win over Almeria.

Highlights from Valencia vs Atletico Madrid match

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