The weekend kicked off with Atheltic Bilbao welcoming Almería to the Cathedral. Ten minutes in and a deep cross in from the right by Iraola finds the golden boy of San Mames who one times the shot to put the hosts up 1-0 and that was all the home team would need to take all three points from the encounter despite playing much of the match with 9 men as both Koikili and Castillo were dismissed.
Bilbao’s match was immediately followed by Osasuna making a trip to Madrid to take on Atlético Madrid, who themselves were looking to rebound from their loss last weekend against their cross town rivals. And win they did thanks to the attacking duo of Forlán and Agüero. Forlán got the home team off to a great start in the 26th minute when he pounced on a vicious strike by Agüero that Ricardo seemingly couldn’t handle and spilled it into the path of the Uruguayan who tapped it in easily. Minutes before the 2nd half Agüero made it 2-0 after a lovely chipped ball from the left by Forlán found the the leap of the young Argentine who headed in with ease. The great Ray Hudson during his commentary on the match said: “It’s cruel words, and maybe we’ve just caught Osasuna on an off night, but they have been butt-ugly here right from the get go.” and he was indeed right and it would get even worse for the visitors in the 60th minute when Monreal handled the ball in an attempt to block a cross from Reyes and was subsequently shown his 2nd yellow card of the match. Atlético went on to score a third through the Uruguayan hit man for his second of the night and it was a beautiful goal possibly the best on the night but Messi’s 1st goal on the night for Barcelona is definitely right up there with it. Forlán had cut inside from the left and hit a magnificent dipping shot that beat Ricardo all ends up.
The biggest match of the weekend saw Barcelona welcome Villarreal to the Camp Nou, a place that surprisingly in Villarreal’s last three visits were undefeated against their host. The visitors were hoping to remain undefeated at the Camp Nou for a little while longer and in the process over take Barcelona in the standings and pull level on points with Real Madrid but it wasn’t to be their night as long as the little Argentine wizard had something to say and say he did. Villa got things off to a start for the home team when Iniesta found him from deep and the striker took off down the left, cut in and evaded Marchena’s desperate lunge to find himself one-on-one with Diego López who stood no chance. However, the home team’s lead wouldn’t last for too long as 4 minutes later Nilmar would get himself on the score sheet with a brilliant individual effort which saw him blaze by Puyol, Alves and Abidal to put away his effort and pull his side level. Familar for Villarreal in the Camp Nou right? It was. But, the Messiah, who was being marked so well in the first half eventually broke free in the 2nd and had his chance in the 58th minute which he took so well. Classic build up by the blaugrana which started of course with the ever so influential man Xavi playing a quick pass from a free kick to Messi who played a quick one-two with Pedro and if the build up wasn’t good enough the finish was even better with the little man chipping the ball brilliantly over Diego López from a rather tight angle to put Barcelona in front. Seven minutes from time and the Argentine wizard would strike once more when he pounced on Pedro’s deflected shot to poke it pass the Villarreal goalkeeper. Villarreal were begging for an offside on that goal which probably should have been called but considering that before Nilmar’s strike in the 1st half Barcelona had a completely legitimate goal ruled out for offside and so they could consider it pay back in a way. That would end Saturday’s La Liga action.
On Sunday five matches kicked off simultaneously with Zaragoza welcoming Sevilla to La Romareda where last week the home team secured their first win of the season and was hoping to continue that. However, Gay and his Zaragoza team absolutely sold themselves out for this match. Firstly, Gay went with an absolutely defensive line up fielding a 5-4-1 formation with two defensive midfielders, hardly any creativity there. Of course, with the line up sent out for the home team not much action took place and the only goal of the first half came through Fabiano on 29 minutes. At the start of the half, Gay decided to make some positive changes injecting two attacking players in Marco Pérez and Bertolo for a defensive midfielder and a defender. It would all pay off for the host as they came out pressuring the visitors and it took them all of eight minutes to pull level courtesy of substitute Bertolo who headed home from a corner. Zaragoza continued to pressure and it looked all set for them to get a second when Navarro was shown a red card for bundling over Braulio who had been racing toward goal. However, it wasn’t to be and Sevilla’s 2nd half substitute Negredo pounced on a sloppy mistake by Jarošík to steal the ball and bury his 5th goal of the campaign and subsequently the game winner. Sevilla ended their 3 game away losing streak.
Elsewhere, Deportivo and Mallorca played to a 0-0 draw and so did Racing and Espanyol. Pellegrini marked his league debut with a win as he guided his Málaga team to a 1-0 win over fellow relegation candidates Levante with the goal coming through Eliseu in the 63rd minute. Coincidentally, this was Málaga’s first home win in league since February. Hércules managed to turn things around in Alicante when Real Sociedad took the lead within 15 minutes through the young French man Griezmann and it was Trezeguet and Drenthe that led the host in their comeback both getting on the score sheet.
Mourinho could only sit in the stands and watch on as his team had to battle a physical Gijón team to collect all three points in what was a very fiery affair which saw Preciado’s men really give the visitors all they could handle in all hopes that they could put the Portuguese boss and his team to shame for what he had said prior to the build up for this game. Both teams had some good opportunities with Higuaín having the best opportunity in the first half seeing his effort clank off the upright and bounced into the grateful hands of Juan Pablo. In the 55th minute Di María sent in a beautiful looped ball for Higuaín who leaped and headed it pass Juan Pablo but the lines man incorrectly raised his flag for offside as Pipita was leveled with the defence when the ball was sent in. In an attempt to really put some added pressure on the visitors Karanka sent in Benzema to replace Di María and the French man was instrumental in getting the game winner. In the 82nd mintute Ramos sent in a delightful cross for Benzema who headed it on goal which Juan Pablo saved but spilled and Higuaín was on hand to tap it home and send the onlooking Real Madrid fans into rapture. Real Madrid have been undefeated in Gijón since the 94/95 season and remained as such with Higuaín’s late game winner, which saw the visitors climb back to 1st in the standings with a one point edge over arch-rivals Barcelona.
The final game in the weekend saw Valencia get back to winning ways securing a 2-0 win against Getafe with the goals coming from Tino Costa on 8 minutes and David Navarro sealing the game in the 63rd minute. The loss sees Getafe slump to their 3rd consecutive league defeat.
Real Madrid continue to sit atop the table on 29 points holding a one point edge over arch-rivals Barcelona (28). Villarreal remains in 3rd place 6 points adrift Real Madrid and Valencia climbed back into 4th after their win on 20 points with Sevilla rounding out the top 5 on 20 points. The middle and the bottom is congested with 14th to 20th separated by 5 points. Zaragoza fell rock bottom after their loss, while Málaga’s win saw them climbed 4 places up to 16th. Almería and Levante were both sucked back into the drop zone following their losses and find themselves 18th and 19th respectively.
Goals from the weekend