Despite dropping points, Barcelona came away as the big winners in La Liga as all the challengers tumbled on the title path
Unzúe’s Celta tangled Barça in their football web (2-2)
In an excellent display of football for the neutrals, Barça and Celta tried their best to upstage each other in a fixture full of twists and turns. Matters could have been much worse for the Blaugranas, as they began by losing the game after an excellent counter-attack driven home by Iago Aspas, arguably one of the players with the most consistent form this season.
Leo Messi took matters into his own hands (or feet) and, two minutes later, leveled a game where once again goalkeeper Ter Stegan showed his brilliant form.
Luis Suarez took the proverbial bite on Celta’s defense early in the second act, but Maxi Gómez responded with the 2-2. Slight whistles bid farewell to the team as they walked off the pitch, not knowing at that point that the draw would ultimately be quite positive after their chasers stumbled.
Valencia blows it in a minefield game (1-0)
Pressure was piled on top of Valencia’s players on Sunday evening, as Barça’s draw gave them the unique chance of closing the distance to Barca to two points if they managed to win in Getafe.
However, the Coliseum wasn’t going to welcome them with hugs and kisses: the Bats found themselves in the middle of a war zone, both in the pitch conditions – tall grass, plenty of holes, very dry turf – and in the attitude of several Getafe players, with defender Damián Suárez leading the pack.
The first half was a quick, non-stop succession of nasty challenges, elbows to the head and slaps in the face in a display of ‘underground football’. Matters worsened after Arambarri was sent off after two bookings. With one player less on the pitch for over one hour, Suárez was particularly skilled at the job of slapping around Valencia players when the ref wasn’t seeing. Masterful work, indeed.
Valencia never fought back and were hapless as their top quality players were bullied around the pitch. Only Dani Parejo managed to create some sense of danger with a couple of free kicks, one of them hitting the woodwork. Therefore, Markel Bergara’s lucky strike from outside the box and plenty of time-wasting in the second half were enough for Valencia to yield and lose for the first time this season.
Real Madrid keeps disappointing (0-0)
Real Madrid’s inner turmoil has grown and developed into a fully-fledged crisis after yet another lackluster game in Bilbao, one of those matches that everybody defines as ‘championship games’. But the rain and the overall unpleasantness of facing Athletic Club got the best of Los Blancos, who showed in spades their inability to move matters in their favour when they feel the pressure of winning and reducing Barça’s points advantage.
An impressive display of helplessness by the current Champions Leagues holders, the game had lots of grunt work but little to no quality. On the bench, Zinedine Zidane watched unflinching as his players drowned both in mediocrity and Bilbao’s pouring rain. The only positive was the clean sheet. All in all, a disappointment for Madridistas.
Atlético fight tooth and nail to clinch to a clutch win (2-1)
Hands down the luckiest team in a weekend full of stumbles, Atlético Madrid turned around a seemingly impossible game after Willian José’s penalty opener in the first half. However, the fighter DNA within the Colchonero team’s blood resurfaced in the second period, a grittiness that resembled the side who won La Liga a few seasons ago.
Filipe Luis equalized and Antoine Griezmann, in a clutch play in the 88th minute, gave the three points to his team and took advantage of the other three La Liga’s contenders’ mistakes to reduce the distance with them.
Las Palmas live… after sacking Ayestarán (1-0)
With Pako Ayestarán and his all-time defeat record a distant memory, newcomer Paquito Ortiz sat on the bench while Las Palmas wait for their new manager Jorge Almirón to arrive from Argentina.
He will find a team with three points more, thanks to an amazing 1-0 win against Real Betis, managed by former Canary coach Quique Setién. Jonathan Calleri scored in the 19th minute and then Betis did everything they could to throw away any chance of leveling the game. Las Palmas climb to the 18th spot and are now only two points from avoiding relegation.