Before we get into the weekend’s action let’s clear one – or two – things up; the disgusting scenes witnessed on Saturday have no place in soccer.
The Valencia versus Barcelona tie could have huge ramifications on the title race and yet nobody will talk about the soccer because of a minority of hooligans clashing outside the Mestalla Stadium.
The other incident was the racial abuse suffered by Athletic Bilbao’s Inaki Williams at the hand of a small section of Espanyol fans who clearly suffer from Neanderthal views.
Now our views on those incidents are clear, let’s get to the action. Check out how the table unfolds after matchday 21.
Valencia 2 x 0 Barcelona
Barca might have traveled to Valencia with two wins from two under Quique Setie. However, performances have hardly been convincing as they’ve only just scraped their way past Granada and third-tier Ibiza.
The league leaders were slow from the off again with Gerard Pique hacking down Jose Gaya in the box on 10 but Marc Andre Ter Stegen was able to stop Maxi Gomez’s penalty, which was a good height for the Barca stopper.
Ter Stegen remained busy though and was forced to parry Gomez’s hit onto the bar before scampering across his goal to turn Kevin Gameiro’s scuffed follow up wide. Barcelona meanwhile had offered nothing.
Immediately after the restart, Valencia took the lead their performance had warranted; Gomez lashed a strike towards goal and a deflection of Jordi Alba gave Ter Stegen no chance.
If there was a debate on who the first goal belonged to then on 77 Gomez ensured he’d add at least one to his tally. Gomez collected a pass from Ferran Torres and beautifully bent a finish into the bottom corner from 16 yards for 2-0.
All Barca could muster in return was to force Jaume Domenech into a couple of routine stops.
Real Valladolid 0-1 Real Madrid
Real Madrid travelled to face Valladolid in the final game of the weekend with a spring in their step after Barca’s surprise defeat.
They had the ball in the net early on when Casemiro nodded a Toni Kroos free-kick across Jordi Masip and in but the Brazilian had strayed inches offside.
Real were rarely troubled by their hosts but were not at their best either, however, on 78 they found a way to win the match.
Toni Kroos saw a poor corner cleared back to him on the right flank and his second delivery found the head of Nacho and he directed the ball into the bottom corner for 1-0.
The victory against the club owned by former legend Ronaldo Nazario puts them 3 points clear at the top of La Liga table. Zidane continues proving he is a worthy manager as the Galacticos keep dodging bullets.
Osasuna 2 x 0 Levante
Friday night saw Osasuna host Levante as they aimed to follow up their midweek Copa del Rey victory. The hosts started in the ascendancy but Roberto Torres’ effort that struck the bar on 7 was the closest they came to opening the scoring in the first 45.
Things took a turn for the worse in the second period as on 58 their player of the season so far, Chimy Avila, was stretchered off after awkwardly planting his foot. With nine minutes left on the clock, Osasuna did find a way through the Levante backline.
Jose Campana needlessly blocked off Darko Brasanac from a corner and ex-Levante man Ruben Garcia converted from the spot. A few minutes later, the home side doubled their lead with Inigo Perez slammed home from Marc Cardona’s cut back.
Osasuna will be delighted to have recorded their first home win in six weeks but will be praying that Avila isn’t out for too long.
Alaves 1 x 2 Villarreal
Alaves could have moved to within two points of fellow mid-table side Villarreal when the pair faced off on Saturday but it was Yellow Submarine who opened the scoring on 10 through Carlos Bacca.
Raul Albiol sprayed a long diagonal out of defense, Moi Gomez collected and centered for Bacca who beat Fernando Pacheco for 1-0.
Villarreal had the better of the game but on 80 Joselu dispatched a smart finish past Sergio Asenjo to make it 1-1. It looked like Alaves might have rescued a point but on 89 the away side stole all three points.
Teenage forward Fernando Nino, who had only been on the field 60 seconds, sent a rasping drive into the roof of the net for a remarkable debut.
Sevilla 2 x 0 Granada
Sevilla knew a win against Granada would move them closer to Barcelona after their slip up earlier in the day. The hosts wasted no time in taking control of the game either; they’d already rattled the woodwork and on 11 took a deserved lead when Luuk De Jong headed into the top corner after a fine cross from Jesus Navas.
On 34, Sevilla made it 2-0 thanks to a coolly taken finish by Nolito who just flicked the ball into Rui Silva’s bottom corner. Granada upped their performance after the break but was restricted to chances from dead-ball situations and Sevilla came away comfortable winners.
Espanyol 1 x 1 Athletic Bilbao
Espanyol came into Saturday’s match against Athletic Bilbao propping up the division and things didn’t look good for the hosts when Bilbao took an early lead. On 12, Bilbao played a training ground short corner around what appeared to be mannequins in Espanyol shirts before Asier Villalibre found the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
The visitors were within inches of doubling the advantage when Yuri Berchiche’s cross took a wicked deflection but thankfully for Espanyol the ball struck the post and then Diego Lopez before being cleared. It meant the hosts remained in the game and on 64 they made it 1-1 when Raul de Tomas instinctively hooked home.
Both sides had opportunities to win the game with Lopez tipping over a powerful long rang effort from Yeray Alvarez whilst Wu Lei headed wide at the back stick for Espanyol when he should have hit the target.
Getafe 1 x 0 Real Betis
Getafe and Real Betis locked horns with both harnessing ambitions of European soccer next season but the first half lacked finesse with the best efforts both being struck down the throat of the respective keepers.
Allan Nyom with a thunderous strike from 20 yards for Getafe whilst Sergio Canales really should have made David Soria work harder to deny him when through on goal.
After that, Betis were agonizingly close to getting in front but nobody could apply the clinical touch to a goalmouth melee and the post saved Getafe.
The match looked destined to end 0-0 but with 89 minutes on the clock, Alexandre Moreno conceded a penalty for the use of a hand and Angel beat Joel Robles from the spot. If that wasn’t bad enough for Betis, a minute later they were reduced to 10 men as Feddal was sent off.
With this victory, Getafe climbs to 4th in the league, while Betis is 12th.
Atletico Madrid 0 x 0 Leganes
After Espanyol battled to a draw with Athletic Bilbao, Leganes knew a loss away at Atletico Madrid would see them end the weekend bottom. It was the basement side doing all the pushing early on though with Jan Oblak forced into action to deny Kevin Rodriguez and Martin Braithwaite.
At the other end, Atletico failed to trouble Ivan Cuellar in the Leganes goal but the keeper did receive his marching orders in injury time after his time-wasting tactics cost him a second yellow.
Atletico failed to win again and saw the top 3 get further away, as Sevilla and Getafe both climbed to the Champions League spots.
Celta Vigo 0 x 0 Eibar
Both Celta Vigo and Eibar are in danger of relegation this season so nobody was expecting Sunday’s match to be a classic – nor was it. Celta were the better side but Marko Dmitrovic wasn’t really stretched and the two times he wasn’t there to deny the hosts he was rescued by the post.
Then, Pedro Bigas, who produced probably the best skill of the match, blocked the attempt with an unorthodox flick of the heel.
Real Sociedad 3 x 0 Mallorca
By the time Mallorca kicked off their away match at Real Sociedad they knew the three sides below them in the table had all gained points. The Barralet did well in the first 45 to keep things tight and it seemed they too had a chance in the game.
However, straight after the restart Sociedad took the lead when Alexander Isak slammed home from six yards following a knock back from Portu from a deep cross.
12 minutes later, Mallorca was left bemoaning bad luck as a rather harmless drive from Ander Barrenetxea clipped Fran Gamez and ricocheted into the far corner giving Manolo Reina no chance.
With nine minutes left on the clock, Sociedad capped an emphatic second half when Portu turned in from close range after Reina could only parry Mikel Oyarzabal’s 20-yard effort.
Alex Remiro was called into action late in the game to deal with a couple of Mallorca set pieces but it was far too little, far too late from the away team.