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Published on May 1st, 2017 | by Paco Polit

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La Liga review: Last minute Madrid keeps title chase alive

Yet another late-in-the-day comeback for Real Madrid keeps Zidane’s men in the title driving seat as Barca pass one of their toughest remaining tests 

In a game which Barça was closely watching from afar, Real Madrid ultimately came on top of over a spirited Valencia (2-1) after Marcelo’s late finish (with his right foot!) which puts La Liga one more time in Real’s hands, even if they keep their tie with the Blaugranas in first place.

It was a tense match, played seriously by both sides and kicked off by a beautiful Cristiano Ronaldo opener, heading home a great Dani Carvajal cross from the right flank. Madrid’s early 1-0 had shaken off their insecurity after two consecutive chances by Santi Mina and Fabián Orellana, who missed the mark by a very few inches.

However, the game delved into the mud in the second half as the rain came down on El Bernabeu. Valencia found their potential within and slowly threw the game into a tight spot. Cristiano had the second one, but was denied by Diego Alves (who else?) after an scandalous penalty call by the ref. The minimal advantage remained until Dani Parejo, with a fantastic free kick, sent the ball into the far corner of the net and Madrid’s La Liga trophy into the rubbish bin in the 82nd minute.

But… a few plays were left in the game, and Real doesn’t need much more to unbalance things in their favor. Marcelo, always the agitator, dribbled outside the box and his curled strike sent El Bernabeu into frenzy. Zidane’s men struggled, they sure did, but they saved a proverbial match ball in the last second (again).

Barça quickly polishes off an error-strewn Espanyol

The Catalan derbi (0-3) offered up a poor show in the first half: RCD Espanyol was too busy defending with ten men behind the ball, and FC Barcelona just kept possession and passed the ball comfortably, looking to avoid mistakes while searching for a hole in their opponents well-knit defense. The result? A boring-as-hell first half with zero shots on target.

The second period, though, spiced things up considerably. And we should thank Jose Manuel Jurado, with an awful mistake on an easy pass backwards that allowed hungry Luis Suarez to snatch the ball, make a run on goal and finish with class, to Diego Lopez’s desperation. That strike was the key to Espanyol’s cage, and permitted Barça to play confidently the remaining minutes.

Lionel Messi, with a classic run through the midfield dribbling past defenders left and right, assisted Ivan Rakitic for the second one. And Suarez excelled once again at taking advantage of a defender’s mistake to cheekily put it in the back of the net. Barça remains on top of the standings one more week, alongside Real Madrid but with a better head-to-head record.

Las Palmas destroyed at home by a ruthless Atleti

Quique Setién’s final games as manager in Las Palmas are being tarnished heavily by the poor performance of the team both home and away, as shown this weekend in a devastating defeat (0-5) against Atlético de Madrid. Another day at the office for Cholo Simeone and his lads, who quickly settled affairs with three goals (Saul Ñíguez and two by Kevin Gameiro) in twenty minutes.

While Las Palmas haplessly tried to provide some sort of challenge (spoiler: they didn’t), Atleti overran the local side with impressive effectiveness and ambition. Thomas Partey and Fernando Torres capped off the thrashing while local fans booed a poor evening by their men.

Tony Adams spearheads Granada’s sink into La Segunda

Yeah, for sure, the former Liverpool legend has the smallest share of responsibility of Granada’s relegation, which was official this weekend after another defeat at Real Sociedad’s home (2-1).

However, his big claims three weeks ago have evaporated into the wind as his stats as a manager (three games, three losses) will not go down in history as successful ones. Granada got mathematically relegated in a season where its four managers used 33 different players on the pitch and only won four games. With those ingredients, it was a matter of time. And no legend was going to be able to save them.

Bonus: Levante’s amazing bounce back to La Liga

Last Saturday, little Levante UD celebrated its return amongst the greatest teams in Spain after a 1-0 win at home against Real Oviedo. However, this promotion is quite different to anything we have seen in the last few years: for starters, it is extremely unusual to see a team getting promoted before April ends.

Their season has been very impressive, with 23 wins, 8 draws and only 5 losses in 36 games. They have the best striker (Roger Martí, 21 goals) and goalkeeper (Raúl Fernández, 21 goals allowed). The gap at the top of the standings just got wider and wider as weeks went by, and that allowed Sergio Postigo’s header to make official one of the most deserved bounce-backs into La Primera in many decades. One year after getting relegated, Levante will play once again amongst the best. Congratulations, ‘Granotas’!

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About the Author

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Paco Polit is a Valencia-based journalist with over ten years experience reporting La Liga, covering both Valencia CF and Levante’s news, signings, ups and downs. Madrid and Barcelona are huge, indeed, but the Spanish La Liga is much, much more: regarded as the top football competition in the world, he enjoys explaining why to every reader from abroad.



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