Another brilliant weekend of Spanish football wrapped up and both Barcelona and Real Madrid continue to leave the pack behind as both teams secured victory.
The weekend began with the new look Málaga welcoming Athletic Bilbao to La Rosaleda. It was a game that saw 4 of Pellegrini’s 5 winter acquisitions make their league debut- Demichelis, Camacho, Maresca and Asenjo were all in the starting line up for the anchovies. It was a game where we had to wait until the final 10 minutes to see goals, when Demichelis rose above everyone to power home a lovely headed ball from a corner, giving the home team a 1-0 lead. However, that goal would be cancelled out by Javi Martínez who got on to the end of a free-kick and headed home in the 90th minute.
Sevilla continued to pick up wins at the turn of the new year sealing a come from behind victory in the Anoeta. Rivas would get the home side off to a start in the 23rd minute when he struck a lovely curled ball into the corner of the net for the first in what was a five goal thriller. However, 2 minutes later Kanouté would strike back for the visitors when Fabiano nodded a ball across to the Malian who volleyed it into the net. A minute from the end of the first half, Real Sociedad would take the lead after a long ball out the back was chased down by Llorente who beat Escudé to the ball, saw that Palop was off his line and hit it first time toward the net giving the hosts a 2-1 lead to take into the break. The score would hold until the 63rd minute when Fabiano added a 2nd for the visitors coming off yet another corner that found Negredo who knocked the ball back across the face of goal for the Brazilian to tap in easily. Two minutes later and Kanouté would net the game winner for the visitors when Negredo again with an assist, finding an open Kanouté with a wonderful pass which the Malian picked out the inside of the near post to make it 3-2, earning their third straight victory in the Anoeta.
The final game on Saturday saw a resurgent Deportivo team take on a rampant Barcelona and uncontrollable the blaugrana would be. However, it was Deportivo that had the first real threat of the game in the 21st minute when young Domínguez headed the ball towards goal which eventually fell to Adrián who according to Ray Hudson “…spins on an absolute sitter and…turns like milk in the end…becomes a sour finish” and five minutes later he would pay dearly for missing that effort as Villa netted his 12th to open the scoring in the Riazor, after being picked out sublimely by the Argentine wizard, slotting the ball under the onrushing Aranzubia. The score would stay 1-0 until the 52nd minute when, who else but the Argentine would bend a divine free kick around the wall from 30 yards out finding nothing but net with Aranzubia rooted to the spot and could only watch as the ball flew past him. In the 80th minute, Deportivo would concede yet another goal this time through an individual effort by Iniesta who collected the ball and dribbled across the box, finding an opening and whipped in a low shot toward the bottom far corner for Barca’s 3rd. Pedro would round out the thrashing a minute later with his team’s 4th after he latched on to a loose ball and lifted it over the rushing Aranzubia. Messi now has 70 goals in his last 64 appearances for the blaugrana– incredible statistics from an incredible player.
On Sunday four matches would kick-off at the same time with Mallorca continuing to demonstrate that the Iberostar Stadium is a fortress when they defeated a struggling Almería 4-1. Ramis would get the Islanders off to a start in the 12th minute which was then doubled by Víctor in the 37th minute. The score would remain that way until the 66th minute when Crusat pulled one back for the visitors. However, Nsue would make it 3-1 for the hosts and a minute from time Pereira would score the 4th and final goal of the game for the Islanders. Osasuna and Getafe played to a scoreless draw. While, Espanyol thumped Zaragoza in the Cornella El Pratt recording their biggest margin of victory at home this season, 4-0. Osvaldo would the get host team off to a flier in the 8th minute followed by a Luis García penalty to make it 2-0 on the night. Vázquez would make it 3-0 for the periquitos in the 34th minute and former Real Zaragoza player Sergio García would heap further misery onto the shoulders of the aforementioned team, netting the 4th goal of the night three minutes from time. Racing Santander and Sporting Gijón played to a 1-1 draw with Sporting grabbing a late equalizer in stoppage time through Castro. Arnolin gave Racing the lead with an own goal in the 30th minute.
The game that followed the first four games on the day was second place Real Madrid welcoming third place Villarreal to the Santiago Bernabéu, where the yellow submarines have never gained a single point. It would be a thrilling game loaded with goals and some lovely display of attacking football by both teams. Villarreal would stun the Bernabéu fans in the 7th minute when Cani scored the opener after a lovely little play between Cazorla and Rossi with the latter flicking the ball through to Cani who slipped the ball into the far corner past the outstretch hands of Casillas. However, two minutes later Cristiano Ronaldo would find the back of the net after another brilliant build up, with Benzema slotting Özil through on the right, who then whipped in a low cross for Ronaldo to slot home to an empty net. However, that scoreline wouldn’t remain for too long as Villarreal hit Real Madrid on another counter-attack which saw Cazorla slip Rubén through on goal and the youngster coolly chipped the ball over Casillas as he rushed out to close him down. In the 22nd minute Villarreal had a goal wiped off the board after Cazorla was deemed to be offside but replays later showed that the ball may have come off Lass before Cazorla made contact. And, it would later come back to haunt them as Ronaldo at the end of the first half pulled Real Madrid back level after heading in a Xabi Alonso free kick that found him in the six yard box. Real Madrid were not very impressive in the first half and their lack of defensive effort was showing as Villarreal on numerous occasions cut them open easily. However, they would come out blazing in the 2nd half putting the away team’s defence to the sword. Garrido would begin to get nervous and as such made some defensive changes bringing in Mario, Musacchio and Oriol for the injured Ángel, Rubén and Cani (who was later sent to the stands for a rant on the side lines). While, Mourinho decided to make an attacking change in the 70th minute with Kaká coming on for Albiol. It took until the 79th minute for the home team to finally take the lead for the first time in this match through Ronaldo, who managed is 4th hat-trick of the new season after a series of efforts on goal- and Ronaldo finally managed to find the bottom corner of the net. Three minutes later, substitute Kaká would score his 9th La Liga goal (four of which are against Villarreal), when he arrived in the box to get a foot on to a through ball by Ronaldo, which was enough to take it past Diego López to seal a 4-2 come from behind victory over the yellow submarines, who once again left the Bernabéu without a point. A wonderful effort by Ronaldo scoring a hat-trick and providing an assist. He now has 63 goals in 62 appearances for Real Madrid.
The Valencian Derby would follow the conclusion of Real Madrid’s game with Valencia paying a visit to the Cuitat de Valencia to take on Levante. Levante were hoping to provide another upset- maybe not as big as their mid-week success over Real Madrid but a victory over local rivals would have been just as good a feeling. Valencia were awarded a penalty in the 26th minute which may have been outside of the area but upon replay it showed Maduro was cut off by Robusté just inside the box. However, Mata’s powerful effort would clip the top of the bar and go out for a goal kick- the Levante fans probably thought it was justice served. The game would be a close one between the two and Mata would once again hit the bar in the 73rd minute. However, the former Castilla man would eventually find the back of the net late on in the 83rd minute to break the hearts of the Levante fans, slotting the ball coolly into the bottom corner.
The weekend is over and we have seen 29 goals and counting as the round still has one more game to be played on Monday when Atlético Madrid visits Alicante to take on Hércules.