Barcelona stumble against Espanyol and are level with Real Madrid

Wu Lei scored the equalizer against Barcelona.
Chinese striker Wu Lei scored the equalizer against Barcelona (2x2) Credits: Reuters

2019 ended with a stalemate El Clasico and Barcelona edging Real Madrid on points in the last matchday. However, the first weekend of 2020 brought new changes to the league as this time the ‘blaugrana’ drew their match and allowed Real Madrid to equal them on points again.

Meanwhile, Atletico had an impressive exhibition against Levante, with Oblak being the protagonist. Check it out.

Espanyol 2 x 2 Barcelona

They say the form book goes out of the window where rivalries are concerned. After bottom club Espanyol, who were under the watchful eye of their new manager Abelardo Fernandez for the first time, and league leaders Barcelona locked horns at the RCDE Stadium, it seems there is some truth in the saying.

The match had lacked quality in the opening 20 minutes but on 22 the home side took a surprise lead. Barcelona failed to pick up David Lopez and he flicked a header beyond Neto from Marc Roca’s deep free-kick.

Barca had been lackluster if the truth is known, but Luis Suarez showed good footwork before toe poking against the post before the break to remind Espanyol what they were up against. And in the second period, the Catalan giants upped their game to turn things around.

Just five minutes in Suarez turned Jordi Alba’s cross past Diego Lopez and on 59 Barcelona were in front. This time the goal coming courtesy of an Arturo Vidal header after an improvised cross from Suarez.

The away side began to take control but on 75 Frenkie de Jong received a second booking and late on the 10 men of Barca were pegged back to 2-2. With just two minutes left on the clock Matias Vargas played a ball through the Barca backline and Chinese wonderboy Wu Lei slipped a good finish beyond Neto.

Barcelona is back on level points with Real Madrid and the La Liga race is on fire.

Getafe 0 x 3 Real Madrid

Barcelona’s slip up at Espanyol gave Real Madrid the chance to move level on points at the top – although they didn’t know that at the time of kick-off – but a potential banana skin in Getafe stood in front of them. Zinedine Zidane’s side was not fully at it with Thibaut Courtois forced into action by Mauro Arambarri.

Then, on 34, Real was given a helping hand as David Soria misjudged a punch when challenging Raphael Varane and the ball ended up in his net to make it 0-1.

In first-half stoppage time Courtois was again called into action as Leandro Cabrera headed a deep free-kick across goal but the ex-Chelsea stopper was equal to it.

After the sides had swapped ends Real had their own dead ball situation in a similar position but they went one better than Getafe and Varane planted a powerful header past Soria.

With just seconds left on the clock Real made it 0-3; Luka Modric tapping into an empty net after Federico Valverde squared.

Real Madrid starts 2020 with a bang and are back on track with Barcelona.

Atletico Madrid 2 x 1 Levante

Atletico Madrid looked to keep the pressure on city rivals Real and Barcelona as they entertained Levante on Saturday evening but the main excitement was limited to a five minute period in the first half.

On 13, Atletico drew first blood; Thomas Partey sprayed a pass out wide to Kieran Trippier and his first-time cross was clinically swept in by Angel Correa.

Just three minutes later though the away side levelled. Jose Campana launched a free-kick into the Atletico box and Roger Marti watched it over his shoulder before volleying goalwards, the effort would perhaps have not beaten Jan Oblak but for a deflection but regardless the score was 1-1.

With Levante still in celebration mode, Atletico took about restoring their lead and on 18 they did exactly that with Felipe nodding home.

That proved to be the last goal of the contest but Levante nearly stole a late point but Oblak produced a terrific reflex save to tip Enis Bardhi’s far post header over the crossbar.

Real Valladolid 2 x 2 Leganes

It didn’t take long for La Liga to burst into life after a couple of weeks off as Valladolid hosted Leganes in the first match back. It was the lowly visitors who struck first and it took just four minutes.

A quick break upfield allowed Youssef En-Nesyri to cross for Martin Braithwaite who steered the ball past Jordi Masip for 0-1. Celebrations in the away end didn’t last too long though as on 8 Sergi Guardiola showed great strength before teeing up Enes Unal for a simple finish.

Five minutes later though and the visitors were ahead for a second time. Braithwaite, who was lively throughout, flicked on a cross and Roque Mesa arrived to score his first goal of the season.

Leganes looked good value for the win as the mad start to the match faded but Unal had other ideas and on 79 made it 2-2 with a superb header that gave Ivan Cuellar no chance.

Another valuable point for Leganes, who has not lost any of the last 4 games. New coach Javi Aguirre seems to have put the team on the right track.

Real Sociedad 1 x 2 Villarreal

Villarreal came into their match with Real Sociedad on a four-game unbeaten run with wins in their last three but it looked like the break had done them little favor as they fell behind on 22 to Willian Jose’s close-range finish.

The visitors had offered next to nothing in an attacking sense but they had an opportunity to tie things up on 58. Igor Zubeldia mistimed a tackle on Samuel Chukwueze and Manu Trigueros confidently converted the spot-kick.

Sociedad were inches from retaking the lead but Mikel Merino’s effort cannoned off the angle of bar and post. On 72 Villarreal managed to complete what had looked hugely unlikely just a short while earlier as Santi Cazorla found the bottom corner after bringing Mario’s ball under control.

Granada 1 x 0 Mallorca

Granada’s strong start to the season seemed a long time ago at the back end of 2019 but they got 2020 off to a winning start against Mallorca. Granada put together a flowing move on 24 with Victor Diaz playing down the line for Roberto Soldado who centred and Angel Montoro scored from close range for 1-0.

Granada played neat football throughout whilst Mallorca was a threat at the other end but quality in the final third was lacking ensuring Granada took maximum points.

Sevilla 1 x 1 Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao traveled to face Sevilla, who can be considered outsiders for the title and took an early lead thanks to a strike from the outside of Ander Capa’s right boot. Sevilla was someway of the pace in the opening 45 minutes as it remained 0-1 at the interval.

The second period saw Sevilla up their game though and they dominated proceedings. First, Munir poked an effort towards goal but Yeray made a terrific goal-line block.

Then, after Kenan Kodro had a goal ruled out for offside at the other end, Luuk de Jong struck the upright after a cut back from Jesus Navas but on the hour they managed to equalize.

Navas again showed his class with a dinked pass to Lucas Ocampus and his low cross was turned into his own goal by Unai Nunez. That is how it stayed.

Valencia 1 x 0 Eibar

Valencia welcomed an in form Eibar side to the Mestalla Stadium with their visitors unbeaten in the last three across all competitions. However, it was the hosts who were on top from the outset on Saturday.

Ferran Torres hit a powerful effort just past the upright early on and Maxi Gomez was inches from connecting with a low ball into the six-yard box. Finally, on 27, Gomez gave Valencia a deserved lead.

Daniel Wass whipped in the delivery from the right and Gomez headed past Marko Dmitrovic for 1-0.

Eibar responded well but the closest they came to a draw was when Jaume Domenech’s punch came back off Pedro Bigas’ head and hit the bar.

Alaves 1 x 1 Real Betis

Real Betis would have fancied their chances of continuing their climb towards the top half despite being away at Alaves but found themselves 1-0 down after 14 minutes.

Joselu and Lucas Perez exchanged passes and then the latter slid the ball on to Aleix Vidal whose low strike flicked off Alex Lopera’s studs and past Joel Robles.

Betis fought tooth and nail to get back on terms but their finishing left a lot to be desired and the poor finishing was highlighted further when Joaquin had a weak penalty saved by Fernando Pacheco after Nabil Fekir was tripped.

10 minutes after the half time break, Betis would finally beat Pacheco and it came from an unlikely source as Emerson nodded in. Any prospect of Betis grabbing the win drifted away on 78 when Zouhair Feddal saw red for hauling down Perez as the last man.

Celta Vigo 1 x 1 Osasuna

The last match of the La Liga weekend saw Celta Vigo and Osasuna go head to head. Celta were by far the dominant side with Sergio Herrera and the woodwork coming to Osasuna’s rescue on multiple occasions whilst the only effort the visitors had mustered was from a poor clearance by Ruben Blanco, the ball fell to Ruben Garcia but, thankfully for Blanco, his effort struck the post.

It was from a keeper error that the opening goal came too. This time, at the other end, Herrera rushed out of his goal to collect Joseph Aidoo’s through ball, but Santi Mina beat him to it and duly netted to give Celta the lead with just 15 minutes remaining.

Unfortunately, for the home side, the advantage only lasted eight minutes and Osasuna could – once again – thank Chimy Avila who stooped low to head in a wonder cross from Pervis Estupinan.

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