Double delight but a hard fight for the top two in La Liga as Sevilla’s season starts to slow down with Atletico Madrid agony
Madrid compensates its lack of flair with huge effectiveness
Real Madrid keeps cruising towards the La Liga trophy after pulling off one of the biggest results in the reminder of the season (1-2), in a high-octane clash of physical wills against an Athletic Club that never gave up. It wasn’t a placid evening for Zinedine Zidane’s side, as the Bilbao team ramped up the intensity of the plays and tried to choke Real in midfield while Raul García and an extraordinary Iñaki Williams looked for the opener.
Madrid, in usual Madrid style, answered back with a 0-1 lead after a deep pass by Casemiro and a nice assist by Cristiano Ronaldo. Karim Benzema finished with quite the quality strike. The blow didn’t scare off Athletic Club: after half-time, the team regrouped and reinvigorated its attack.
Aritz Aduriz found the goal in the 65th minute and sent the game into the flipped-coin zone. Would Real lose ground in the La Liga title race? Once again Casemiro poured rain on the home side’s parade with a classy finish inside the box. A huge win that may prove key in the championship race.
Barça toyed with Valencia until The Three Amigos delivered
Valencia CF could never shake off the feeling of being underpowered in yesterday’s visit to Camp Nou (4-2), in a showdown that proved two indisputable truths: that Barça will fight for La Liga till the last game and that Valencia is not ready for nigh-impossible feats as defeating against such a team outside their home turf. Quite a pity, actually, as Salvador Gonzalez ‘Voro’ and his men performed pretty well in the first half, even scoring the first goal after a great header by Mangala.
The center-back would be the protagonist once again minutes later, although for the wrong reasons: Luis Suarez leveled the game, and then the on-loan Manchester City defender fouled Suarez inside the box. Leo Messi scored the penalty while Mangala left the pitch after being sent-off.
The second half began with a bang, after Munir El Haddadi tied the match with a goal that he didn’t celebrate (he’s a Barça player, after all). However, Messi took matters into his own hands minutes later and made the 3-2 in a heartbeat. One-man down and tired, Valencia was a toy in Barça’s hands during the rest of the game, where The Three Amigos (Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and a monstrous Neymar Junior) kept generating play after play, poking the Los Che defense while the away team could only hide in its shell. André Gomes sealed the deal in the last minute.
Atlético wakes up Sevilla from the championship dream
It was extremely difficult from the outset, but it wasn’t till the final whistle that Jorge Sampaoli’s men realized that the dream may be over. In one of the toughest weeks since the manager took over last summer, Sevilla was knocked out of the UEFA Champions League and apparently also stripped off chances of winning La Liga after being beaten into submission by Atlético de Madrid (3-1) at the Vicente Calderón stadium.
Still dizzy after the Leicester debacle, Sevilla was a stumbling side during the first half and Atlético took advantage with high pressure and intensity. Diego Godin scored with a header and Antoine Griezmann put the second one in the back of the net after a free-kick. Koke put the lid on the game with a blunt 3-0. Only Joaquín Correa was able to give Sevilla some fighting spirit back with his late goal. Atlético’s win puts them only two points away from Sevilla’s third spot in the standings.
Another day in the office for Alaves: one goal, clean sheet, three points
A goal scored by Alavés is money in the bank. Period. Their ratio of goals per game is one of the lowest in La Liga (29 in 28 games, the fourth with less goals scored), but yet they sit comfortably in the tenth place and eight points away from the European spots after beating Real Sociedad (1-0). Deyverson Silva, after a three-month drought, scored late in the first half. The usual defending proficiency by Mauricio Pellegrino’s men and a poor Real Sociedad completed the remaining highlights of the game.
Sporting drags Granada down and gasps for air in a dramatic face-off
Desperation is the word for the final ten games for all the teams sitting in the bottom of the standings, especially for those deep inside the relegation spots. The drama was intense in a game of sheer survival between Sporting de Gijón and Granada, with a tremendous effort from the home team (3-1) that allows them to reach 21 points and climb one place, drag down their opponent one spot and place themselves only five points away from safety.
With Osasuna with one foot in La Segunda División (they lost once again in Real Betis’ turf 2-0), Sporting and Granada are the ones playing catch-up with the rest of the teams in the relegation race. It was a game full of tension and fear. In ten hectic minutes, Lacina Traoré, Jean-Sylvain Babin and Carlos Carmona allowed the local side to bounce back after Sverrir Ingi Ingason’s goal early in the second half.