Only in La Liga can storm force winds be considered a conspiracy against Real Madrid, but that’s just one of the tales from Spain from our Paco Polit
The day Florentino’s Real Madrid tried to defy the Beaufort scale
A particularly windy weekend in the north of Spain caused the postponement of two games and endless bickering coming from the Real Madrid board and loyal media. The showdown between Celta and Zinedine Zidane’s men was to be played in a Balaidos stadium where a storm with winds of up to 60 mph had ripped some of the venue’s metal plates off the roof. It was dangerous both for players and the fans in the stands, and that’s why the city hall and Galician government called off the match.
Celta complied (Coach Berizzo was keen on delaying the game a few days, as he had many injured players in his squad), but Madrid wasn’t happy. President Florentino Pérez flexed his media muscles and put all the pressure he could on playing the game at any cost, but ultimately security reasons and common sense prevailed. The other fixture (Deportivo-Betis) wasn’t played last Friday either.
Alcacer finally scored… and hell didn’t froze over
Paco Alcacer’s lack of scoring ability had become something sort of a running gag amongst media and the fans, turning the Barcelona striker into a punching bag throughout the season. The former Valencia man had already scored a goal in La Copa against Hercules, but he still needed to prove his skill with tougher opponents.
‘Paquito’ finally breathed into life this weekend after his one-touch finish against Athletic Club (3-0), in a game where once again Messi managed to surprise everyone with a sneaky free-kick that caught goalie Gorka Iraizoz off-guard.
Aleix Vidal, a man who has turned around coach Luis Enrique’s opinion and now seems unstoppable in the wing, sealed the deal late in the game. Nonetheless, the real protagonist in Camp Nou was Yeray Álvarez: the Athletic youngster, after overcoming a testicular cancer and forty days on the sidelines, was a starter once again for his team. The football world cheers after his comeback.
Just how much punishment can Valencia fans withstand?
I confess myself unable to find more negative words to describe Valencia’s performance last Saturday. We could choose between ‘disgraceful’ and ‘rubbish’, but it would come off as too soft with a team that once again shamed its fans on their own turf.
Eibar played happily and with confidence in front of a side that has lost its identity, its pride and any football left in their boots. Sergi Enrich rudely manhandled the Valencianista defence with skill and fighting spirit: his opener, with a magnificent header, was then followed by a deplorable call by the ref, who sent off Carlos Soler with a harsh red card in a play were both Soler and Escalante were pushing each other.
After scoring from the penalty spot, Eibar calmly put the game on simmer in the second-half to destroy Valencia with two more goals (0-4), sending the appalled fans fuming out to the streets where protests and chants against Peter Lim’s poor management are becoming a routine every couple of weeks. Valencia are only six points over the relegation spots, and danger looms on the horizon once again.
Villarreal’s keeper Sergio Asenjo was literally everywhere, every time
Sevilla and Villarreal offered fans some of the best goalless entertainment of the weekend, and most of the praise lies with the Groguet goalie Sergio Asenjo. His fantastic performance denied Sevilla over and over again, with a penalty save and an amazing cat-like block late in the game as his particular highlights.
Villarreal managed to keep a clean sheet against one of the most virtuous La Liga teams on the offense and even had the chance to win the game, but newcomer Adrián López missed the mark in a huge chance in the second-half.
Espanyol keeps picking up points (seemingly) effortlessly
Hard work, commitment and a clearly defined game plan. Quique Sánchez Flores won’t make the headlines regularly, but the Barcelona side is slowly but steadily become a very uncomfortable team to deal with. Espanyol subdued Malaga (0-1) and its three-win streak places the Periquitos in a privileged place in the middle of the standings, eying Europa League spots from close range.
The goal was scored by Pablo Piatti with a tremendous strike from outside the box: the Argentinian attacker is back to form after his injury, and has already amassed seven goals and seven assists this season. Meanwhile, Malaga continues to bleed heavily: ‘Gato’ Romero can’t find any answers and his side have strung together a sorry run of eight games without a win.