All the same at the top of La Liga table. With 10 days remaining before El Clasico, Barcelona and Real Madrid both won their respective fixtures to make the match between both become more and more defining.
Messi showed his 6th Ballon D’Or to a crowded Camp Nou and with an exhibition D’Or, scored 3 and assisted once. Meanwhile, Real Madrid finished their game with 10 men but were able to win over Espanyol.
Barcelona 5 x 2 Mallorca
Lionel Messi picked up a record sixth Ballon D’Or in the week and Saturday’s home game with Mallorca served as the perfect opportunity to showcase exactly why he’s a worthy winner.
The hosts took a lead on just 7 when Antoine Griezmann raced clear of the Mallorca defense, who was caught with a high line, and dinked the finish over Manolo Reina. It all started at Ter Stegen feet.
10 minutes later it was 2-0 and Reina had no chance to keep it out; Messi received a square pass 20 yards from goal, he spans with one touch, rolled it out of his feet with another and bent a curling strike into Reina’s top corner.
Messi hat-trick and Suarez ‘Puskas’ goal
After Luis Suarez saw an effort hit the post and rebound across goal, on 35, Mallorca pulled a goal back through Ante Budimir’s deflected strike. If that goal gave the away side hope, then it proved a false dawn as it spurred Barca to up their game and within eight minutes it was 4-1.
First, on 41, Messi netted an almost carbon copy of his first. Then, two minutes later Suarez bagged with the most outrageous of backheels.
The second period was a much tighter affair and when Mallorca scored their second of the match it was only owing to a mistake by Marc Andre Ter Stegen, who got caught under Fran Gamez’s cross, and Budimir had an easy brace. Barcelona did have the final word on the afternoon though as Messi secured his hat-trick with seven minutes remaining.
Real Madrid 2 x 0 Espanyol
Real Madrid faced off with relegation candidates Espanyol early on Saturday knowing a victory would pile pressure on their title rivals, Barcelona, who played later in the day.
It took a while for Real to find a breakthrough, but it eventually came on 37 when Rafael Varane confidently found the bottom corner of Diego Lopez’s net. Karim Benzema wasted two good chances in the second half but did finally grab his goal, which came on 79, as he swept beyond Lopez after neat work from Federico Valverde.
The home side was coasting towards another three points but a late red card for Ferland Mendy took a little of the shine off an otherwise good day at the office.
Real Betis 3 x 2 Athletic Bilbao
The Real Betis resurgence continued on Sunday with a home victory over Athletic Bilbao. The hosts raced into a three-goal lead thanks to an 18-minute hat-trick from Joaquin.
He is now the oldest player to score a treble in La Liga history. Joaquin lashed past Unai Simon on 2 and then shaped up to curl into the same corner just nine minutes later.
On 20, his scoring was complete; Loren Moron slipped a through the pass into his path taking the Bilbao backline out of the equation and Joaquin passed into the corner for a remarkable hat-trick.
Inaki Williams netted a spot-kick on 44 to keep the game alive after a bizarre handball by Alexandre Moreno and, after a quiet half an hour, on 75, Yuri Berchiche fires through a crowd of bodies from distance to make it 3-2 and that’s how it stayed.
Levante 2 x 4 Valencia
Levante played host to Valencia over the weekend and a win would have put the home side level on points with their opponents in mid-table. That’s exactly how it looked like things were going after 20 minutes as Roger Marti bagged an early brace to make it 2-0.
First, he squeezed home a strike that Jasper Cillessen should have kept out on his near post and then after Daniel Parejo had brought down Ruben Rochina, he stroked home a penalty.
On the stroke of half time though, Roger’s own goal changed the Valencia team talk and two goals in two minutes from Kevin Gameiro made it 2-3. Gameiro added the final touch on 57 after Rodrigo seized on a defense howler and, on 59, he lashed an angled drive past Aitor Fernandez after unselfish approach play by Ferran Torres.
Levante would have harnessed hopes of getting back on terms, but Eliseo was red-carded on 73 for a rather innocuous-looking second caution and then with two minutes remaining Torres made the points safe after latching onto a delightful reverse through ball from Rodrigo.
Leganes 3 x 2 Celta Vigo
Leganes entertained Celta Vigo on Sunday in a match that may be key come the end of the season given both teams are languishing in the relegation spots. It was the hosts, who were bottom at the start of play, who looked set to breeze to a much needed three points.
On 15, after Leganes had already struck the woodwork, Oscar gave them the lead with a delightful free-kick that was bent around the Celta wall and into the top corner ensuring Ruben Blanco had no chance. Then on 39, Oscar made it 2-0. This time from open play he lashed an unstoppable drive from a good 35 yards to Blanco’s left.
Things continued to get better and better for Leganes after the break. Kevin Rodrigues hit a daisy-cutter from 20 yards that found the net via Blanco’s left post.
The game should have been safe but nine minutes later, Celta was offered a lifeline Nestor Araujo headed in following a free-kick. Celta were reduced to 10 men on 71.
Gabriel Fernandez saw red, but with nine minutes remaining the away team did find a second goal. Iago Aspas jinking through the defense before poking a finish past Ivan Cuellar.
A tense end to the game, however, Leganes held firm to move off the bottom.
Granada 3 x 0 Alaves
Granada has been on the slide lately since a blistering start to the campaign but a home match with Alaves looked a decent fixture to get things back on track.
The first half offered little but the second came to life early on as Granada took the lead three minutes in. Jose Diaz crossed from the right and Carlos Fernandez dived in to head home for 1-0. 10 minutes later and Granada doubled their lead through a Roberto Soldado penalty that was awarded for a handball by Manu Garcia.
It was already an uphill battle for Alaves but on 67 it became near on impossible as substitute Mubarak Wakaso saw red for two yellow card offenses. Fast forward another 10 minutes and Fernando Pacheco was picking the ball out of his net for the third time.
On this occasion Yangel Herrera wanted it more than Pere Pons and, after poking it past his man, fiercely hit a shot into the corner. The away side still managed to make the day worse for themselves though as in injury time Victor Laguardia saw a straight red for a completely unnecessary stamp on Fernandez.
Eibar 0 x 1 Getafe
Coming into the match the two sides couldn’t have a more contrasting form with Eibar without a win in four whilst Getafe were unbeaten by the same amount. Despite the form book though, the hosts were holding resolute whilst posing the occasional threat at the other end.
Getafe had already rattled the woodwork when Jaime Mata found the net only to have his calmly curled finish chalked out for offside but the hosts too had a goal ruled out – for handball – which denied Kiki Garcia. Then came the winner; Denis Suarez zipped a through ball into the path of Angel who skipped around Eibar keeper Marko Dmitrovic and made it 0-1.
A fightback looked less and less likely as time went on and in the seventh minute of injury time, Fabian Orellana was ordered to leave the field for an off the ball incident.
Osasuna 1 x 1 Sevilla
The curtain came down on the weekend’s action as Osasuna and Sevilla took to the field. Osasuna nearly got off to the perfect start, but Chimy Avila’s header struck the bar. Then, on 11, the home defense was undone by a route one ball forwards, Sevilla forward Munir collected and beat Juan Perez to make it 0-1.
Osasuna kept plugging away though and on the half time whistle restored parity through Avila who clattered an effort into Tomas Vaslic’s goal.
The second period saw Osasuna go close to taking the advantage for the first time but the upright denied them and on 61 the dynamic of the game changed as Oier has dismissed for leaving his mark on Oliver.
From then on, it was all Sevilla and a combination of saves and wasted chance made the result stay the same.
Villarreal 0 x 0 Atletico Madrid
The opening game of the weekend saw Villarreal entertain Atletico Madrid with neither side in anything like top form and that was clear to see. Both sides had opportunities but were profligate in front of goal with Joao Felix going closest when he hit the foot of the post after 12 minutes.
Other than a share of the spoils the most noteworthy finding is that if Atletico harness hopes of Champions League qualification then they need to improve in the final third.
Real Valladolid 0 x 0 Real Sociedad
Real Valladolid and Real Sociedad played out a goalless draw on Sunday lunchtime, which means it’s been three games since Valladolid found the net. Pablo Hervias went close to breaking that poor run in the first half, but his free-kick thumped the crossbar with Alex Remiro beaten.
At the other end, Willian Jose blazed over when the Valladolid goal was gaping. The home side then celebrated thinking they’d finally netted but Sandro’s near-post finish was ruled out for offside.