La Liga Review: Match Day 7

Round 7 is in the books and La Liga has a new leader.  Valencia failed to win at the Camp Nou, while Real Madrid took full advantage of Malaga’s poor form at home and Atletico came away with a win in the Madrid mini-derby.

We got the weekend off to a start with Atlético Madrid welcoming Getafe to the Vicente Calderón.  It was a good, quality match between both the Madrid-based teams.  The game started out with both teams offering end to end action but it was Atlético who would break the deadlock on 38 minutes when Simão scored a wondrous free kick  from about 25 yards out that hit the inside of the post and went in, nothing Codina could do to stop it.  After the goal, we saw Getafe doing much of the pressuring for the remainder of the first half but were unable to punish Atlético.  The second half saw Michel making a lot of weird changes, possibly because most of the men were only just coming back from injuries and hadn’t enough time to train this week.  However, his substitutions didn’t pay off and in the 73rd minute, Diego Costa finished off an easy goal as Valera broke into the box and cut the ball back to the middle to find Costa who hammers the ball into the roof of the net to hand Atlético a 2-0 win.

The biggest match of the weekend saw Valencia choke and handed Barcelona a victory, in an enthralling Saturday evening encounter.  In the opening exchanges Barcelona were very lackluster and Valencia took full advantage of the opportunity to put pressure on the home team and prevented them from getting into any sort of rhythm.  To depict Barcelona’s poor start to the match, within 24 minutes Valencia had the line share of possession, 46% – 54%, a statistic we don’t see too often and especially not in the Camp Nou.  Eventually, Valencia’s pressure would pay off and in the 38th minute Pablo would silence the Camp Nou by capping off an excellent attack instigated by the left back Mathieu, who came galloping down the left, cut inside the box and delivered a magnificent cut back to find Pablo and he made no mistake about putting it into the net.   Four minutes later and Valencia should have made it 2-0, Pablo had a wonderful opportunity after Soldado delivered a divine ball for the winger to put pass Valdes but instead he hit it directly at Valdes, who had no problem beating it away for his defence to make the clearance.  Valencia would go into the break with the lead, however, they would be kicking themselves for not finishing their chances in the first half because Barcelona came out blazing and within 2 minutes of the second half found the net through the inspired Iniesta who came running at the defence then played a quick one-two with Xavi, found himself into the box with space to blow the ball by an on rushing Cesar to pull level.  Barcelona would keep the pressure up on Valencia and it eventually paid off as Xavi sent in a beautiful cross that found the head of the Matador, Puyol who rose above everyone to thump home one of his signature headers in what became the eventual game winner.  Villa’s slow start to the campaign continued throughout this match and the Spaniard found himself 1v1 with the keeper on two occasions but failed to finish the opportunities.  He was eventually substituted in the 82nd minute for the returning Pedro.

Malaga taking on Real Madrid at La Rosaleda was the final match on Saturday and it was quite an entertaining match.  Real Madrid seem to be getting better and better with every match and followed up their 6-1 thrashing of Deportivo in round 6 with another 4 goals against the anchovies.  Malaga had been struggling at home for 6mths now and they were expecting that they could cause an upset and earn themselves a point or even a victory when they hosted the big bad wolves from the white house.  However, they were very wrong and were given a comprehensive beating by the visitors.  The match started off wonderful, as both teams were giving each other as much as the other could take.  However, Madrid would have the better of the exchanges in the opening minutes, with Higuaín hitting the upright 20 minutes in.  Six minutes later and Khedira would rattle the cross bar with a brilliant venomous strike that had Galatto beaten all ends up.  Higuaín would break the deadlock on 30 minutes after he received a delightful cross from Ronaldo that he volleyed into the net.  In the 42nd minute, Özil stole the ball from deep in midfield and raced into the box to deliver a low cross for Ronaldo to tap in.  Real Madrid was cruising at the half and came out with the same intensity they ended the first with.  Surely enough within 4 minutes after the start of the second Real Madrid were awarded a penalty after Edu Ramos carelessly brought down Özil.  Ronaldo stepped up to take the penalty and finished coolly, low and hard into the bottom right hand corner.  So, by this time Ronaldo was having a sublime game, scoring two goals and creating the other.  Malaga would pull one back, as I said in the preview to this match they were a team that was scoring plenty but they were also conceding as much as they were scoring.  Anyway, they pulled a goal back through Kris Stadsgaard who leaped above everyone to head home a corner from Luque, to make it 3-1.  Ronaldo and Higuaín would have the final say and in the 64th minute Ronaldo would lay a pass off for Pipita who made no mistake about the finish.  Ronaldo had a more than impressive game both scoring and providing in excess- he had a hand in every goal.  The young German Özil also had a fine game and has certainly put even more doubt on whether or not Kaká will stay at the club beyond next summer.

Racing picked up their second win of the season courtesy of Pedro Munitis’ 32nd minute goal to secure a 1-0 triumph over fellow struggling team, Almeria.  Both Deportivo and Osasuna’s struggles to find the back of the net continued as they played to a 0-0 draw.  A result which saw Osasuna fall into the drop zone.  Levante triumphed over Real Sociedad at Cuitat de Valencia 2-1 with the goals coming from Del Horno and Caicedo for Levante and Sarpong getting the consolation goal for the Basques.  Espanyol recorded their first victory on the road this season with a 1-0 win against Mallorca through a Luis García penalty in the 32nd minute.  Llorente continued his amazing form in Athletic Bilbao’s 2-1 victory over Real Zaragoza in San Mames; Iraola scored the other goal for Bilbao while Braulio got a 90th minute consolation goal for the away team.  A colorless Sevilla team was shocked by Sporting Gijón, falling 2-0 to the rojiblancos in El Molinón- Sangoy and Castro the scorers.

Villarreal has never won on match day 7 and neither have they ever led the table in La Liga after a complete round and they were looking to do just that when they visited Hércules in Alicante.  The match was high tempo, very entertaining and we saw a questionable performance from referee Muñíz Fernández.  Royston Drenthe terrorized the defence all game long and he had a hand in both Musacchio and Borja Valero being sent off for Villarreal.  Trezeguet was also sent off in the match moments before the half, picking up his second yellow for dissent.  Paraguayan striker Valdez got the home team off to a great start scoring in the 26th minute, latching on to a nice pass from Drenthe.  However, Capdevila would equalize quickly after he found himself free on the far post to tap the ball into an empty net.  Moments before being sent off, Trezeguet would give his side the lead and no guessing who turned up to deliver the magnificent cross that Trezeguet connected with- Royston Drenthe.  Villarreal would come out in the second half using their man advantage to pressure Hércules but the defence stood firm until the 63rd minute when Santi and Valero connected with the latter bulging the net to make it 2-2.  And, that is how the match would end and Villarreal’s poor performance on match day 7 in the league every season continued.  Additionally, they blew their chance of becoming league leaders at the end of the round and will remain second.

As the table stands: Real Madrid are 1st with 17 points while, in order; Villarreal, Barcelona and Valencia all have 16 points and Atlético rounds out the top 5 with 13 points.  Real Zaragoza’s loss this weekend has seen the team drop rock bottom on 3 points while Deportivo’s draw gave them the chance to climb into 19th place over Zaragoza with 4 points.  Osasuna’s failure to win saw them slip into the drop zone in 18th place with 6 points.

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