La Liga Round Up - 18/12 - Torres rolls back the years!
With Real Madrid emerging successful in Abu Dhabi, and becoming the first team to retain the Club World Cup in the process, it was an opportunity for the 3 other title challengers to extend their lead at the top or heap pressure on Zinedine Zidane’s men with points on the board rather than games in hand.
But unlike last week, and is as often in La Liga, things didn’t go according to plan, especially for 2nd place Valencia who surprisingly went down 2-1 away to Eibar in a game boss Marcelino described as “a game we didn’t deserve to lose”. Inui finished well at the near post for the hosts before Santi Mina equalized for Valencia. Late drama saw the impressive Eibar snatch the lead and all three points through Jordan, lifting his side to the lofty heights of 8th in the table.
For Valencia, it was a mixed bag in terms of personnel, welcoming backing star winger Guedes from injury but lost arguably the leagues most impressive left back Gaya with a hamstring injury.
Fernando Torres rolled back the years to score the only goal of the game against Alaves as Atletico Madrid, temporarily, crept to two points behind leaders Barcelona in what can be described as yet another typical Atleti performance. And pretty sure this paragraph can be copied and pasted for a few more games this season!
Barcelona hosted struggling Deportivo La Coruna in the late game Sunday evening. The hosts could have easily hit double figures, missing chance after chance but Luis Suarez and Paulinho helped themselves to a double each as Barca ran riot, but the story of the game, even though he didn’t get on the scoresheet, was inevitably Lionel Messi. The Argentinian genius hit the bar 3 times and missed a penalty, making it 14 times he’s rattled the woodwork so far this season, which is more than cross town rivals Espanyol have scored (13) and yet is still top scorer in La Liga.
A special mention has to go to “Don” Andres Iniesta who put in probably the finest 55 minutes from an individual in La Liga so far this season, an absolute joy to behold such passing, moving and bravery on the ball all over the park. Still a major influence on the club and should be cherished with not many years left.
There was yet more goal line technology drama and debate as Suarez audacious rabona follow up looked to have crossed the line but keeper Ruben showed cat like reflexes to keep the score at 2-0 going into the halftime break,
The biggest game of the weekend, on paper at least, came at San Mames with fierce rivals Athletic Bilbao hosting Real Sociedad but didn’t live up to the pre game billing as a game of few chances finished 0-0. Adnan Januzaj impressed for the visitors yet again but neither team could find the elusive winner were you got the sense 1 goal would have been enough to secure the bragging rights.
Wrapping up this weeks biggest talking points was Las Palmas late rescue mission at home to Espanyol, coming from 2-0 to score twice through Loic Remy and Jonathan Calleri with just 10 minutes remaining. As poor as they have been this season, the Canary Islanders have enough quality in the squad to be higher than their position suggests but in such a competitive league, points are all that matters. But a morale boosting comeback as this could be just the catalyst for an exciting second half of the season.
Looking ahead to the weekend, a massive win for Ernesto Valverde’s men, playing some sublime stuff and goals coming from other usual sources, coupled with Real Madrid in confident mood following another addition to the trophy cabinet, Saturday’s El Clasico can not come soon enough.