Barcelona end 2019 on top of La Liga

Arturo Vidal celebrates
Arturo Vidal scored in the last game of the year for Barcelona. Credits: Reuters

During the week, Barcelona and Real Madrid faced each other in an El Clasico that had been postponed. However, the result was a dull 0x0 and the scores continued the same.

In the weekend, nonetheless, Real Madrid slipped with another 0x0 draw, against Athletic Bilbao. Barcelona took the opportunity to end 2019 and the decade at the top of the table. How long will it last?

Barcelona 4 x 1 Alaves

Barcelona played host to Alaves safe in the knowledge that a win would see them end the year top of a Liga and they efficiently swept their visitors aside.

On 14, Antoine Griezmann wrapped his right foot around the ball to find the bottom corner from a Luis Suarez pull back and it remained 1-0 until the stroke of half time when Arturo Vidal bagged a second; Suarez was again the provider and Vidal smashed an effort across Fernando Pacheco and into the Alaves net.

After the break, on 56, Alaves pulled a goal back through a  Pere Pons’ header from 12 yards after an exquisitely timed run into the box but two goals in six minutes ended the contest.

First, on 69, Lionel Messi squared up three defenders and somehow found room for a 25-yard strike that beat Pacheco, then Suarez scored from the spot after a handball saw the ref award a penalty.

Real Madrid 0 x 0 Athletic Bilbao

After Barcelona’s victory, Real Madrid knew anything other than a win in the final match of the weekend against Athletic  Bilbao would give their rivals a small points advantage heading into the winter break.

Real played like a side that desperately wanted the win – and they would have deserved it too – but the woodwork, which was rattled three times, and Unai Simon in the Bilbao goal stood firm to hold them to a goalless draw.

Leganes 2 x 0 Espanyol

Leganes might be struggling but they’ve been on a decent little run with a win and draw from their last two league games whilst their visitors, Espanyol, had taken just one point from the last nine.

Just 11 minutes into the game things looked like going to form as Leganes went a goal up. Martin Braithwaite produced an outrageous turn to leave Bernardo chasing his shadow and coolly slotted past Diego Lopez.

The next goal didn’t come until 10 minutes into the second period but it was worth the wait as the move was Barcelona-esque. Kevin Rodrigues and Braithwaite – again with a clever touch – linked up and the former cut back to Youssef En-Nesyri.

The striker-fired in first time for 2-0 and the rest of the game passed without too many scares for the hosts. Javi Aguirre continues producing good results and Leganes gets away from the bottom place, but will still battle relegation through 2020.

Osasuna 3 x 4 Real Sociedad

Real Sociedad travelled to Osasuna and after just half an hour the home crowd was in stunned silence as their team was rampantly taken apart and found themselves trailing 0-3.

The opener came on 15 when Mikel Oyarzabal latched on to Martin Odegaard’s smart reverse ball and slipped a finish beyond Sergio Herrera.

Just three minutes later the lead was two with Portu punishing Pervis Estupinan’s lapse in concentration and then on 28 Odegaard netted with a direct free kick.

At 0-3 the game was as good as over but a goal either side of half time for the hosts livened things up.

In first-half injury time, Aridane Hernandez met a Roberto Torres free-kick to head in and then just three minutes after the break Chimy Avila made it 2-3 with a cheeky dink after neat footwork inside the Sociedad box.

Osasuna’s task became more difficult on 70 when Facundo Roncaglia saw red for swinging an elbow and then on 79 Alexander Isak was left in acres of space inside the Osasuna box allowing him to stroke in Sociedad’s fourth.

The 10 men of Osasuna still weren’t done though and a second Avila goal – this time a header set up by his own high volley – ensured the final six minutes were nervy ones for the away side.

Levante 3 x 1 Celta Vigo

For Celta Vigo, an away trip to Levante was hardly a straight forward fixture but an early goal – on 12 – scored by Iago Aspas, who sneaked in at the back stick to net from a corner. The match remained in Celta’s favor until the hour mark when Roger Marti pounced on a parry by Ruben Blanco.

With parity restored, Levante went for the kill and 10 minutes later it was Levante who went in front. Borja Mayoral worked hard and he picked out Roger for his second of the match and then; in injury time, Mayoral capped a superb substitute appearance with a goal of his own.

Eibar 3 x 0 Granada

This weekend’s action got underway with Eibar playing host to Granada and it proved a stroll in the park for the home side. Although Eibar would eventually run out comfortable winners it could have been a different story.

Carles Fernandez spurned a great opportunity to make it 0-1 after just five minutes, when he directed Roberto Soldado’s low cross wide at the back post.

Two goals in quick succession gave Eibar the advantage though. First, on 21, Sergi Enrich arrived in the box unmarked to turn home a looping cross and then on 26 Kike Garcia netted after it seemed Eibar had wasted a free kick.

Granada responded well but the bar and then the post kept them out and on 87 Takashi Inui made the points safe as he slammed in from a tight angle.

Mallorca 0 x 2 Sevilla

Mallorca might have won for Copa del Rey in midweek but their La Liga form is showing. Five games without a win after a home defeat at the hands of Sevilla on Saturday.

Sevilla, who are flying high in third, took the lead on 20 when Diego Carlos out jumped Mallorca keeper Manolo Reina to head home from a corner.

The hosts thought they’d levelled through form man Ante Budimir but a long VAR check ruled the strikeout for offside.

The decision was tight and, on 63, at the other end another debatable VAR call went against Mallorca; Iddrisu Baba was penalised for a foul on Joan Jordan and Ever Banega thumped the resultant penalty home for 0-2.

Real Betis 1 x 2 Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid has found goals hard to come by so far this season with one of the most toothless attacks in La Liga’s top half and it looked set to continue at Real Betis.

Alvaro Morata first had a glancing header disallowed for offside and then saw his right-footed effort tipped on to the upright by Joel Robles when he ought to have scored.

The visitors did find a breakthrough shortly after the restart though and it was Angel Correa, who had only been on the pitch for literal seconds, that scored. Alexandre Moreno gifted possession to Correa in a dangerous area and he raced clear, rounded Robles and slotted home.

Betis went close to undeservedly equalizing when Sergio Canales struck the foot of the post but on 84, Morata finally grabbed his goal to seemingly clinch things with a near-post flick from Correa’s cross.

Betis did pull a goal back deep in stoppage time through Marc Barta but it was far too little, too late.

Real Valladolid 1 x 1 Valencia

Real Valladolid and Valencia took on one another at the Jose Zorrilla stadium but there was little entertainment in the opening 45 minutes. After the break, however, things livened up and Valladolid thought they’d taken the lead as Enes Unal followed up Sandro’s 20 yard effort that was initially saved by Jaume Domenech.

The flag ruled the goal out and then Domenech looked set to frustrate the hosts attack until 83 when Sergi Guardiola stood over a dead ball at 20 yards; he bent a pacey strike over the wall towards Domenech’s left hand post and although the shot-stopper got to the ball it was already over the line to make it 1-0.

Unfortunately, for the home crowd at least, Valladolid couldn’t see things out; with 95 minutes on the clock Valencia, who had barely threatened all game, stole a point. Ferran Torres got to the byline on the right and delivered a teasing low cross, which Manu Vallejo touched in from two yards.

Villarreal 1 x 0 Getafe

Like last season, Getafe is fighting for a European spot but a trip to Villarreal is never an easy game. The match was a tight one but it was the home side who always looked most like winning and they took the lead on 51 through Moi Gomez.

10 minutes later and Getafe, who failed to register a shot on target throughout, were reduced to 10 men when Mathias Olivera – a half time sub – received his marching orders for collecting two yellow cards in as many minutes. From then on, it was game over.

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