Real Madrid leads the way as title-chasers slip up due to a sending off and a ghost goal that was never given. Here’s our Paco Polit with more from La Liga
Biggest ghost goal ever doesn’t exempt Barça from criticism
Luis Enrique’s men played quite horribly for over 75 minutes before realizing, holey moley, that they were 1-0 down at the Benito Villamarin and that the La Liga championship title fight could be over in a heartbeat. Real Betis impressed everyone with one of their best games so far, and possibly the three points would have been a fair reward for their effort.
However, it’s impossible to tackle this game’s analysis without pointing out the one-two punch delivered by the ref to Barça’s gut in the game’s final stretch: in the same play, a clear penalty committed on Neymar inside the box and, seconds later, a finish that was cleared by a Betis defender half a meter inside his own goal. Praise must go to Luis Enrique who had the right to lose his you-know-what on the sidelines but merely remarked after the game that refs need all the help they can get.
One of the worst calls we remember, indeed. Suarez, with a late leveler, saved one point for the Blaugranas (1-1). Goal-line technology, meanwhile, keeps being stuck on the sidelines by La Liga’s officials.
Pellegrino and Quique Flores stops two top-tier teams on their tracks
The Argentinian clash of managers between Alavés and Atletico Madrid ended without goals: though Mauricio Pellegrino’s Alavés played a beautiful first half, their toothless attack condemned them to some suffering in the second one, after Cholo Simeone’s boys woke up from their nap (0-0).
Pellegrino has assembled one of the most disciplined squads in La Liga, with order and solidarity driving all of their actions. Their reward, to this day, lies within a Copa del Rey semifinal they will soon play against Celta and the respect of fans everywhere.
Hours later, another two Argentinians (Pablo Piatti and Nico Pareja) lit the Espanyol-Sevilla game on fire very early after the latter was sent off in a harsh call by the ref inside the box. Sevilla, a deservedly title contender, had to battle with ten men for most of the game, and Quique Sanchez Flores’ Espanyol capitalized on the advantage to snatch a huge win at home (3-1).
Real Madrid goes back to basics
Stunned after their La Copa knockout, Real Madrid fans actually enjoyed a very good weekend. Sometimes, being the last title contender to play may provide a priceless advantage over the competition. Zinedine Zidane and his lads sat patiently and saw, throughout the weekend, how Barça, Atlético, Sevilla… all stumbled and bled points due to a series of unexpected results.
With this in mind, Real Madrid closed this Sunday with an easy win against Real Sociedad (3-0) with goals by Mateo Kovacic, Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata. The away team only stood their ground for the first half-hour. Once again, Karim Benzema was the main man in the spotlight: after another discrete performance, some Bernabeu fans booed the Frenchman when he left the pitch, subbed by Morata who would almost immediately succeed in scoring.
Eibar: the little team with the clearest ‘life goals’ of the lot
This side will never cease to amaze us. After promotion in 2014, Eibar had apparently topped anything they could have dreamt of: reaching La Liga for the first time in their life as a football club. But, this humble club had many aces up their sleeves, following a strict and no-nonsense policy of never spending more money than they earn.
Many low-profile transfers and loans followed, and they have been able to retain their spot amongst the top 20 Spanish teams in the country. Nowadays, once again with Jose Luis Mendilibar on the bench, they are on their way to securing their fourth consecutive year in the league. After their win against a hobbling Deportivo (3-1) and bagging some impressive 29 points in twenty games, they seem only a couple of wins away from achieving this season’s main goal: survival amongst La Liga’s greatest. Again.
The pit of La Liga seems already full to the brim
The points gap just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Three relegation spots loom on the horizon, and three teams seem determined to buy as many lottery tickets as needed in order to win that ‘price’. Granada, Osasuna (both with 10 points) and Sporting de Gijón (13 points) are arguably the worst teams in La Liga, and they have done just about everything to deserve that assessment.
Their squads are a mess, they’ve all had manager switches in the last couple of months and their performance on the pitch shows no signs of improvement. They’ve tanked hard since the league began and now, with over half of the competition over, only a miracle could save them. Will this year’s relegation be the ‘cheapest’ ever?