Blimey. Just when it looked like Real Madrid had lost its grip on the league title, Barcelona blew a huge chance to have destiny in its own hands
Powerful Atleti showed the usual personality at Bernabeu
A derby in Madrid can always have unexpected results. With the La Liga title on the line, Real battled a spirited Atlético with the usual brawny antics in the first half and some huge plays in the second, including Pepe’s strong opener and Antoine Griezmann’s late equalizer (1-1).
Both keepers stole the spotlight throughout the game, with Jan Oblak consistently denying Real Madrid strikers with some magnificent saves. Karim Benzemá and Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t believe their misfortune after being stripped of the glory by epic stops. In the other box, Griezmann tested Keylor Navas’ reflexes with a tricky shot from outside the box, repelled by the Costa Rican goalie.
With the second half underway, Portuguese defender Pepe snuck home a precise header to send the Bernabeu stadium into a frenzy. La Liga was just a few steps away, as winning the derby was considered a key achievement towards the championship. But Atleti, under Simeone’s command, must never be considered dead. A couple of subs later, the ‘colchonero’ side prowled the forward line and, with five minutes to go, Griezmann set La Liga ablaze with a late leveler that (apparently) shortened the gap between Madrid and Barça…
The flop of the season happened in Malaga
… until Barça themselves fumbled a huge chance of depending on themselves to win the title. An unexpected defeat (2-0) in La Rosaleda that arguably buried any chances of winning this season’s trophy, given that ‘El Clásico’ is only a couple of weeks away and a draw could be enough for Real.
FC Barcelona’s game in Málaga was both appalling and tragic in its execution by a side that has made fans to expect nothing short of excellence. The starting lineup selected by Luis Enrique was far from great, with poor performances again by André Gomes and Jeremy Mathieu that regularly fire-up the Culé fans for their lacking display on the pitch.
A quick recap of the game: Barça made too many mistakes, Barça-loaned player Sandro messed up with Mathieu’s offside positioning in the 1-0 and, after a harsh red card shown to Neymar in the second half, Luis Enrique’s team desperately sought a draw that never came. Jony Rodríguez sent the stadium into a wild celebration with his 90th minute closer. Unfortunately for its fans, Barça is getting used to choking in key moments this season.
Third in a row for a football-nurturing Valencia CF
MIracleman Voro González (you know, the delegate-made-coach) bagged his third win in a row for Valencia for the first time in almost a year, in a game were his players offered quite the performance (1-3) against a doomed Granada CF. Again commanded by a huge Carlos Soler in the midfield, Valencia’s rousing tactical and technical display in the first half was astounding, capped by two great strikes by Italian ‘bomber’ Simone Zaza.
While hapless Granada fought against itself and its angry fans in the stands, Valencia began passing the ball… and never stopped until the 0-3 was scored. Almost two minutes of passes between *all* eleven of the away side’s players, including its goalie, finished by a clinical touch by Santi Mina. Beautiful indeed. Granada’s late goal (after a huge mistake by Diego Alves) only managed to make scorer Ezequiel Ponce the villain of the morning, after telling the local team’s fans to shut up while he celebrated (it’s becoming quite a trend of late, actually).
Sergio León seizes Osasuna’s first win at home
Day 31 and Osasuna hadn’t yet savored the glow of winning at El Sadar. Unacceptable indeed, but Sergio León was about to change that with another exciting performance that makes him one of the top prospects next season, once the poor Rojillo side is inevitably relegated (they’re bottom of the league with 17 points, ten away from avoiding the plunge into La Segunda). Any team that wants to bid for him must be quick, though: his buyout clause will be a measly 2.5 million euros if it is paid before July 20th.
For the time being, Osasuna will keep on fighting every game, as León and his teammates showed against Leganés (2-1) after bouncing back from an early goal by Dimitrios Siovas. León roared after getting fouled in the box and scored the equalizer in the first half. Then, in an epic play deep in the second half, he outmaneuvered the defender and launched a missile that homed in on Leganes’ goal. Truly spectacular.
Eibar peeks once again into European spots
What an amazing year for Eibar fans! Jose Luis Mendilibar’s humble squad of fighters and football day laborers once again succeeded in extracting the three points from a tricky venue (Balaidos) and has positioned itself as a big candidate to earn one of the Europa League spots for next season.
With 50 points under its belt and seven games to go, the Basque side struck Celta early in both halves (Kike García and Pedro Leon) to capture the figurative flag and leave Vigo with a priceless win (0-2) and their bag of hope full to the brim. With such a resilient team, dreaming is more than allowed in Ipurua.