Monday, September 12, 2011

La Liga: Week 3 review

Ironically, after two weeks of talking about the bipolar league and the supposed huge difference of the two giants with "the rest", La Liga lived its first shock this weekend. A Spanish newspaper claimed that the so-called "FIFA virus" has a kind of balancing effect in La Liga. Perhaps it is pure speculation, but Barcelona dropped points in San Sebastián against Real Sociedad and Real Madrid had to sweat more than they normally do in order to defeat Getafe at home. Let's analyze the week.

The weekend started with a Real Sociedad-Barcelona. Even though it was true that Barcelona lost in Anoeta last year, the context was very different this time. Last year, Barcelona visited San Sebastián with La Liga in their pockets and the result was meaningless. This time, this visit was earlier in the season. Guardiola surprised with a lineup with lots of changes, including the missing of Messi in the initial lineup, but the team did not seem affected by this fact. Barcelona started like a hurricane and, after 15 minutes, the Catalans were 0-2 up in the scoreboard. Everything started to get wrong when Alexis Sánchez got injured after an ugly tackle, which will make him be out of the team during the next two months. But the disaster happened after the half time. Barcelona "went to sleep" and Real Sociedad only needed 7 minutes to tie the game again. Despite having all the second half to win the game, Barcelona even struggled to get the point. Impossible to know if it was relax or lack of motivation or the unrecognizable lineup or tiredness for the already mentioned "FIFA virus" or everything at the same time, but Barcelona dropped points early in the season again, as it seems a common trend in recent years.

Disappointing Barcelona

Real Madrid started their game knowing the result of Barcelona and, in fact, they were plugged since the very first moment. Benzema advanced his team in the scoreboard, but this initial goal was not an open door for an easy beating. Quite the opposite, Real Madrid lost the control of the midfield and Getafe took advantage of it to tie the game. In the second half, Real Madrid recovered the domination and, after a huge error of the referee, who awarded a penalty for the madridistas in a foul that clearly was out of the box, Ronaldo scored the second for Real Madrid. This goal gave Real Madrid the calm they needed and Benzema seemed to sentence the game with the their goal. But Getafe did not surrender and Miku scored his second goal of the afternoon. It is not that Getafe threatened much Casillas' goal, but the result was tight enough to leave the game open, until Higuain scored the fourth for Real Madrid in the last minutes. Real Madrid survived to this game, without showing an impressive image, but achieving three important points that allow them to stay on top.

The remaining Saturday games were quite entertaining. In Vila-real, the home team received the visit of Sevilla. The sevillistas started really strong and showing a very good image. In the 23', Perotti was denied a goal after Villarreal's goalie, Diego López, tackled him down inside the box. Red and penalty for Sevilla, which was not converted in the first attempt by Negredo. However, the same Negredo got the bounced ball to score the first for Sevilla. But far from disappearing, Villarreal found strengths in the minority to play a fantastic and serious game. Rossi tied the game in another penalty and, already in the second half, Marco Ruben advanced the Yellow Submarine. The home team only lacked oxygen in the last minutes of the game, but Sevilla could only draw in the last minutes. Bittersweet result for both teams considering all the circumstances.

Soldado, captain and leader

In Mestalla, the game of the week was Valencia-Atlético Madrid, one of the classics in La Liga. The game was dinamic, intense and beautiful to watch, with both teams that never rejected to look for the victory. The match was an interesting come and go that was won by Valencia for two reasons: first of all, Valencia looked more solid in the movements and tactical approach, while Atlético showed they still are a team under construction, with lots of new players in the lineup. Another reason was Guaita, the valencianista goalkeeper was excellent, stopping every chance of their rivals. And, of course, it is a must to name Roberto Soldado, new captain and leader, the new bat of Valencia, who executed Atlético. Valencia already won 2 games this season, while Atlético, despite the good image, still looks for their first victory.

Already on Sunday morning, Betis made their debut at home against Mallorca. As it happened in their first Liga game, Betis was the best and most ambitious team and football was fair with them, since the beticos were finally able to open Aouate's goal when the game was dying. But the short 1-0 should not fool anyone. Betis was superior and the scoreboard was not more comfortable thanks to a great Auoate, who did not hide the bad game of his team.

Roberto stopped an important penalty to win one point

The games on Sunday afternoon were clashes among teams that are supposed to fight to stay in Primera next year and they clearly showed why. In Santander, the 0-0 reflects the reality, a game where the Racing was completely unable to threaten its rival and a Levante that completely refused to look for the victory. In the last minutes, when Racing were having their best minutes, Diop (Racing) was sent off and, despite the last impulse of a Levante with superiority on the pitch, the result did not change. At the same time, in Vallecas, Rayo made their debut at home in Primera. The vallecanos tried it all and their coach Sandoval was brave in the plan. The good attitude of Rayo was opposed to the mean plans of Aguirre's Zaragoza. Rayo even enjoyed a penalty to win the game, but Roberto stopped it. Also remarkable the error of the referee that disallowed a legal goal by Rayo in the last minutes, which would have given the home team the victory. In Pamplona, Osasuna confirmed the good image shown in the Calderón 15 days ago and were very superior against a Sporting that will need to improve soon. Two early goals allowed the osasunistas have a calm game. Only at the end, Barral scored the final 2-1 in a huge error of Osasuna's goalie Andrés, but the result was fair with the image shown by both teams.

The final game on Sunday was played in Cornellà-El Prat, another classic in La Liga: Espanyol-Athletic. The expectations on Bielsa's Athletic are becoming doubts, because this is what his team showed yesterday night. Espanyol won, because they were superior in the boxes, where the games are won. The easy summary: Sergio García toyed with Athletic's defense with 2 goals of a smart striker and Cristian Álvarez was a nightmare for the forwards of Athletic during all the game. Athletic showed good concepts for moments and there will be time to improve, but the second goal of Espanyol showed lack of concentration in the defense of Athletic, an unforgivable error, which costed them the 3 points.

Sergio Garcia celebrates 

Tonight, only a few minutes ago, the Sheikh's Málaga had the chance to improve the bad image shown in Sevilla... and surely they did. The malaguistas showed no mercy of the newly promoted Granada and crushed them in a fantastic game. Cazorla was not only the engine, but also the executor, scoring two goals, along with the pair also scored by Joaquín. Granada was not a rival for a growing Málaga, who will have to confirm this improvements in following weeks against bigger bulls. Granada better finds for fast solutions for the poor image shown so far or their stage in Primera will be very short.

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