Another wild weekend in La Liga with Barcelona balancing on a tight-rope, Real Madrid being Real Madrid and Real Sociedad getting robbed
Barça disappoints but agonizingly seizes the win
FC Barcelona’s toughest week in months ended with a late win against a combative Leganés. It was a game that was previewed as the perfect opportunity for the Blaugranas to make amends with their fans but that ultimately provided more proof that Luis Enrique’s side navigates in a sea of mediocrity.
Leo Messi scored early and it seemed we were off into an unfair match, but soon Leganes showed that they weren’t ready to yield just yet. Slowly but steadily, the game became a tight one; with twenty minutes to go, Unai López got the leveler.
Luis Enrique, confused, tried to mix things up subbing Andre Gomes (who got a wild booing from the Camp Nou crowd) and desperately putting himself in the hands of an Andres Iniesta with serious pace issues. It was Neymar, though, who got fouled inside the box. Messi, ceremoniously, put the penalty in the back of the net. He wasn’t too keen on celebrating, though. With this level of performance, bouncing back from the defeat against PSG is just too far-fetched.
Bale returns in top shape for another day at the office on Madrid’s turf
A game without too much to read into, as it usually happens when Espanyol visits Real Madrid at home. The Periquito side didn’t bother Zidane’s team and the three points were secured by Isco’s assists and some great finishes inside the box. Alvaro Morata hit the target after the half-hour mark and Gareth Bale, in the game that meant his return after a three-month injury in his right ankle, managed to score the second and cap off the game in its final stretch.
Other highlights included a pretty amazing dribble by Cristiano (again, he isn’t at the top of his game right now but is increasingly becoming a more cooperative player) and Mateo Kovacic’s notable performance in the midfield.
Sevilla and Atletico keep up the pace
It may seem easy to be hot on the trail of two of Europe’s biggest teams, but obviously it isn’t. That’s why we should give high praise to Sevilla and Atlético’s weekly efforts that manage to keep this year’s fight for La Liga a four-sided battle royale and not only a face-to-face between two.
Sevilla had to fight till the end against a very rowdy Eibar, a side that never gives up and who only tapped out after Vitolo’s 91st-minute strike. Earlier, Pablo Sarabia’s opener meant some kind of pay-off to Jorge Sampoli’s men in a vibrant first half. Their win keeps them very close, only three points away from Real Madrid.
Meanwhile, Atlético made short work of a struggling Sporting de Gijón, who seems doomed with fifteen games to go. The match was very tight for over an hour, but Kevin Gameiro manhandled the home team in a nasty manner: a hat-trick in a measly five minutes was more than enough to crush their hopes and keep El Molinon’s inhabitants in the relegation spots.
Samu Castillejo’s late shocker after Real Sociedad’s ninety-minute spank
Football is wonderful. Unfair, unexplainable, but wonderful nonetheless. Villarreal got owned for a full ninety minutes, slapped around like a rag doll by a Real Sociedad who was insultingly superior in all areas. Eusebio Sacristan’s men dominated confidently, had many shots throughout the game and could’ve easily won with a hefty advantage.
But they didn’t. Instead, Samu Castillejo surprised everyone coming off the bench. A great cross from the left by Jaume Costa found the former Málaga midfielder, who managed to finish clinically to earn his team some much-needed three points after last Thursday’s debacle against AC Roma. The local side, meanwhile, left the pitch puzzled and unable to understand how such a well-played game had earned them nothing.
Valencia regains some credit against a poor but unlucky Athletic Club
Former delegate now-turned-manager Voro González keeps fiddling and juggling his starters in the search of a reliable team, able to deliver in both boxes and keep some sort of order and competitive spirit throughout the ninety minutes.
And, after Valencia’s impressive effort against Athletic Club, he seems one step close to achieving his goal. A new midfield blending Enzo Perez’s power, Dani Parejo’s passing ability and Fabian Orellana’s sneaky assists to the three attackers brought some new level of menace to Los Che. Luis Nani and Simone Zaza sent the game into a comfortable 2-0 that didn’t change in the second half.
Ernesto Valverde, looking to rest some of his top players due to his upcoming Europa League second-leg game versus Apoel FC, crashed into a wall of misfortune when Aritz Aduriz had to walk off the pitch, injured, and no subs were available. With one man less, Athletic Club could only threaten Valencia with a one-on-one that Iñaki Williams slammed into Diego Alves’ chest. All-in-all, a good evening for a Mestalla crowd that can once again take a deep breath and smile.